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Human Rights Groups Urge UN to Act on DRC Resource Exploitation - 2003-10-28

This week, the U.N. Security Council is scheduled to take up the latest report on alleged exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo by multi-national corporations. A coalition of more than one dozen human rights groups has already called on the international organization to action on the issue.

The U.N.'s panel of experts has investigated the illicit exploitation of diamonds, gold and other natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo for three years.

Now, in the words of its final report submitted to the Security Council, the investigators charge that "illegal exploitation remains one the main sources of funding for groups involved in perpetuating conflict."

The panel investigated more than 100 corporations, ranging from diamond giant De Beers to small companies and individuals based in Africa, Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

It broke down its findings according to those that did or did not cooperate with its inquiry. The experts also referred to the alleged role of influential figures in Zimbabwe, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Security Council is scheduled to take up the issue on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a coalition of human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, is urging the international organization to insist that member states hold companies and individuals accountable.

Oxfam's Nicola Reindorp says the Security Council has postponed dealing with the problem for too long. "This is why we are calling on them now, at the moment when the mandate of the panel is set to expire. This is the moment for them to pass their own test to complement the investment they have made in the peace process and tackle this question of the illicit exploitation of resources, which we know is one of the major motives of ongoing violence and loss of life," she said.

The U.N. panel of experts has come under fire from some U.N. members, who criticized its organization and the way it presented previous reports. But human rights monitoring groups say they have corroborated the panel's chief findings.

The U.N. investigators have recommended further disclosure from all companies doing business in the DRC and the imposition of financial restrictions on companies that violate international guidelines.