Will Canadian courts try Canadian mining corporations for human rights crimes in Congo?
KPFA Weekend News, 02.04.2012
KPFA Weekend News Host: The Canadian Association Against Impunity, a coalition of NGOs, announced this week that it will take its class action lawsuit against Anvil Mining all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court. The Association charges that Anvil, a multinational copper mining corporation based in Australia, with offices in Quebec, and mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, provided logistical support to Congolese army soldiers who raped, brutalized, and murdered Congolese in Kilwa, a fishing village on Lake Mweru on the eastern border of Congo's Katanga Province in 2004. KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke to Matt Eisenbrandt, one of the attorneys representing relatives of the Congolese victims.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Matt Eisenbrandt, can you tell us what happened in Kilwa in 2004?
Matt Eisenbrandt: Kilwa is a port town in Katanga Province, and it's the main town that Anvil used to get its material from its mine out to the rest of the world. In 2004, there was an uprising of a very small group inKilwa, a ragtag group, who were not well trained or well armed. Many of them were apparently wandering around in sandals, and there really was not a great threat from this group. Nonetheless, the Congolese military was called in, but to get there, they would have had to march from a base that was some distance away, and, to facilitate their arrival inKilwa, Anvil provided its own trucks and its own drivers to bring the soldiers down to the town. Those are the allegations that we've made in the case. In addition, Anvil began to evacuate its own people from the mine, its own personnel, and flew them out in an airplane. And when those planes were returning, they were going to be empty, and so Anvil agreed to transport
Congolese soldiers in those airplanes.
So, Anvil provided that logistical support, as we allege in the case, and the Congolese soldiers, led by a very notorious colonel, went into the town of Kilwa and conducted house to house sweeps, ended up murdering many civilians. There are estimates that between 70 and 100 civilians were killed. There were rapes reported, there were mass graves dug, and there were prisoners taken away and tortured. So this was all done by the Congolese military with the logistical help of Anvil Mining and it was essentially a very small uprising that was easily contained and these abuses against civilians had really nothing to do with it.
KPFA/Ann: Global Witness reported that you won in Superior Court, that the Quebec Court of Appeals overturned the Superior Court's decision, and that you will now appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court. Could you explain what's at stake legally, and what's at stake for Congolese people and other victims of multinational mining aggression?
Matt: Well, this case is important on two fronts. Obviously it's important for the specific families, but also more generally, in terms of accountability for human rights abuses committed in Congo in conjunction with the mining industry. We think that not only did the Court of Appeals decide incorrectly, but in fact that this is a vital case in defining whether survivors of human rights abuses are going to have access to Canadian courts or whether Canada is going to completely shut them out and allow mining companies that may be complicit in human rights abuses to go completely unpunished.