Human-rights groups are turning to Canada’s Supreme Court to sue Anvil Mining Limited, a Canadian mining company, on behalf of the victims of a massacre in Congo.
The Canadian Association Against Impunity (CAAI), a coalition of human rights groups and non-governmental organizations, filed a last-ditch plea to the Supreme Court of Canada on March 26, the Canadian Press reported.
If the Canadian Supreme Court decides to hear the case, advocates say the ruling could have major implications on whether Canadian mining companies can be accountable for their involvement in human rights violations committed outside of Canada.
The CAAI allege that Anvil Mining provided logistical support to the Congolese military who raped and murdered people as it crushed a rebel uprising in 2004, killing as many as 100 people in the port city of Kilwa.
That support allegedly included planes, trucks and drivers instrumental in ending the conflict. The port was key to the operation of a copper mine, the exit point for $500,000 worth of copper and silver every day.
Nearly eight years later, victims’ relatives say they have no choice but to turn to Canadian courts.
Anvil Mining, which had offices in Montreal but has since been acquired by another mining company, has denied any culpability in the Kilwa incidents and said logistical support was requested by authorities.
What options a mining company has should the legal military in a country like the DRC insist on taking over its equipment and supplies to help in a military operation is perhaps a debatable point here.
Anvil has repeatedly contended that the Kilwa rebellion has been subject to numerous investigations and court hearings and no adverse findings to the company or its employees have occurred.
In January, Quebec's Court of Appeal overturned a 2011 lower-court ruling that had paved the way for it to be heard in Canada.
The appeal court ruled that Anvil's Montreal office was not involved in any of the decision-making that led to a massacre, making it inappropriate to hear the case in Quebec.
It also ruled that victims could have sought justice in Congo or Australia, where the company also operated.
Last April, a lower-court judge had rejected the notion that the links between Quebec and Anvil were insufficient.
The attempt at civil action in Canada followed a military trial, held in Congo in 2007, where nine soldiers and three former employees of Anvil were acquitted of charges, leaving no opportunity for civil recourse.
A 2010 United Nations report said the trial had the potential to set “an important precedent in terms of corporate accountability” but “failed to meet international standards of fairness.”
“The Kilwa case demonstrated the difficulty in proving the legal responsibility of private companies in the perpetration of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law,” the report said.