African Union Urges Congo to Prosecute Anvil Over Mine Deaths

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By William Clowes

  • Commission asks government compensate victims of attack
  • More than 70 people died when military put down rebellion

The African Union’s human rights body urged the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government to prosecute officials of an Australian mining company over their alleged role in a military crackdown in 2004 that left more than 70 people dead.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights also asked the state to compensate victims of the assault, in which 28 people were allegedly summarily executed, according to a decision adopted by the Banjul, Gambia-based organization last year and approved in January by the African Union’s executive council. The decision was communicated to non-governmental organizations that brought the complaint in a June 13 letter. The commission hasn’t made the decision public.
The commission found Congo’s military responsible for human-rights violations including extra-judicial executions and torture in the offensive on the southeastern town of Kilwa, where the military put down a rebellion. It criticized Australia-based Anvil Mining Ltd., which at the time operated a copper and silver mine near the southeastern town of Kilwa, for providing logistical support to the Congolese armed forces.

“Anvil’s involvement in the Kilwa incident was entirely innocent and its conduct appropriate in the circumstances, having provided logistics to the FARDC under force of law,” Bill Turner, Anvil Mining’s CEO in 2004, said in an emailed response to Bloomberg. The FARDC is the acronym for Congo’s army.

Australia-based Mawson West Ltd. acquired Anvil Mining’s 90 percent interest in Anvil Mining Congo, the owner of the Dikulushi mine, in April 2010. In January 2015, Mawson West shuttered the mine, citing falling commodity prices and lower-than-expected production. A spokesman for Switzerland-based commodity trader Trafigura Group, which owns Mawson West, declined to comment.
‘Prosecute, Sanction’

The award of $2.5 million to eight victims from Kwila is the highest made by the commission, according to an Aug. 4 statement by U.K.-based Rights and Accountability in Development, one of three NGOs that introduced the complaint on behalf of the victims in November 2010.

The commission recommended Congo’s government “take all diligent measures to prosecute and sanction agents of the state and personnel of Anvil Mining involved in the violations,” according to the decision.

The commission’s decision, which isn’t legally binding, requests that the Congolese government notify the body within 180 days of what it has done to implement its recommendations. An official from the commission’s secretariat said that the decision has been transmitted to Congo’s Foreign Ministry.

Congo’s Communications Minister Lambert Mende, Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu and Human Rights Minister Marie-Ange Mushobekwa said they hadn’t been notified about the decision, when Bloomberg called them for comment.

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