News / Europe

Global Witness to Sue British Government Over 'Conflict Minerals'

Lobby group Global Witness is taking the British government to court for failing to go after people it says are violating United Nations resolutions on Congolese "conflict minerals."

The group says a number of British firms are trading minerals like tin and tungsten, mined by rebel groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Global Witness said Monday that it is suing the government for not referring the companies and individuals to a U.N. sanctions committee.

The minerals are used in electronic products such as cell phones.  Congolese rebels have earned large profits from selling the minerals, which has helped fund and prolong civil unrest in the region.

The U.N. Security Council has called for travel and financial sanctions on entities found to be dealing in the minerals.  It has encouraged countries to put forwad people and firms subject to possible sanctions.

The British government said Monday it had no immediate response.

Last week, the United States enacted a new law requiring American companies to track the use of minerals from rebel groups.

For now, U.S. companies are not required to halt the use of conflict minerals.  But rights groups hope consumers will avoid buying devices from companies whose minerals help fund violence.

Companies say they are working to ensure they are not using conflict minerals.  But they also say it is difficult to know where the minerals are coming from, because the raw material is melted down and combined with minerals from elsewhere.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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