Africa

Canada mining firm sued over role in DR Congo conflict

The mine
Image caption Dikulushi mine is rich in copper and silver

Relatives of victims and survivors of a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo have filed a class action suit against the Canadian company Anvil Mining.

More than 70 civilians were allegedly killed by Congolese troops when they recaptured the town of Kilwa in 2004.

Anvil Mining is accused of providing logistical support to the military.

The company says it has not yet reviewed the allegations in detail, but it intends to defend itself.

The suit was brought in a Montreal court by the Canadian Association Against Impunity (CAAI) - a group which brings together survivors and relatives of victims and British, Canadian and Congolese non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which are supporting them.

Fighting for justice

Emmanuel Umpula Nkumba, from the Congolese advocacy group ACIDH, said: "We must continue to fight against impunity. The victims' families have never lost hope of seeing justice being done."

Matt Eisenbrandt is the legal co-ordinator of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, part of the association.

He told the BBC's Network Africa the case was being brought in Montreal because Anvil Mining is a Canadian corporation.

"There were attempts at holding people and the corporation responsible in Congo which met with a lot of problems and justice wasn't achieved there," he said. "So the victims have had to turn to Canada to seek justice."

Three Anvil employees were charged with complicity in war crimes in DR Congo but they were acquitted in June 2007, after a military trial which the United Nations said failed to meet international standards of fairness.

The company, which was Australian-owned at the time of the incident, has not denied that it supplied trucks and other logistical support to help Congolese troops get to Kilwa, where they recaptured the town from a rebel group in October 2004.

It argued that the firm had no option but to agree to the government's requisition request.

The CAAI, in its lawsuit, also alleges that Anvil's vehicles transported civilians "who were allegedly taken outside the town and executed by the military".

A UN report suggests that during the military operation, at least 73 civilians were killed.

Benchmark for conduct

The British group Raid (Rights and Accountability in Development) has amassed the testimony of many eyewitnesses and survivors.

Raid Executive Director Patricia Feeney, who is also president of the CAAI, said the allegations contained in the lawsuit were the most serious against a multinational company that Raid had come across in the last 10 years of working in southern and central Africa.

She said it was a case that would not go away until the circumstances of the killings had been examined.

"It is important to set a benchmark for multinational companies operating in developing countries, particularly countries in conflict zones," she told the BBC.

"They have an obligation to observe the same standards of conduct and respect for international rights as they would in their own jurisdiction."

In response to the suit, Anvil Mining said that over the years there had been numerous investigations and court proceedings but "no findings adverse to Anvil or any of its employees have arisen in respect of the Kilwa incident".

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