The African Commission on Human and People's Rights has urged the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to re-open the criminal investigation into the role an Australian company, Anvil Mining, played in a massacre of 70 people in 2004.
In the landmark ruling, the African Commission found the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo responsible for the 2004 massacre in the southeast of the country, but it also highlighted Anvil Mining's role in supplying logistical support to the military.
Anvil Mining operated a copper and silver mine at Dikulushi, 50 kilometres from Kilwa. Following an uprising in October 2004, in which a small group of rebels attempted to take control of the town, the company supplied trucks, planes and provisions to the Congolese military (FARDC), who went on to indiscriminately shell civilians and carry out summary executions and torture of civilians. The company’s role came to international attention when it was exposed by Four Corners in 2005.
In its decision, which found the soldiers had committed grave human rights violations and recommended $2.5 million compensation be paid to victims, the African Commission also urged the Government to “take all due measures to prosecute and punish agents of the state and Anvil Mining Company staff.”
Keren Adams, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, welcomed the Commission’s call for a re-examination of Anvil’s role in the massacre.
“The Anvil case remains one of Australia’s most troubling examples of corporate impunity. The company's version of events has just never stacked up and directly contradicts the accounts of key eye-witnesses on the ground," said Ms Adams.
A criminal investigation into the company by the Australian Federal Police was opened in 2005 but was dropped after a deeply questionable military trial in the DRC failed to find anyone accountable. Civil proceedings in Western Australia were also withdrawn after key witnesses in the DRC were threatened. Ms Adams said the Commission’s decision should prompt consideration of new prosecutions not just by the DRC, but here in Australia.
"Anvil has never had to properly answer for its role in what happened at Kilwa. We are talking about one of the worst corporate-facilitated massacres of recent times, but 13 years on, not a single person from the company has been held accountable”.
Ms Adams also emphasised the need for better regulation of Australian companies operating overseas, to ensure abuses like the Kilwa massacre cannot happen again.
“We currently have over 150 mining companies operating in Africa and yet there is very little regulation or oversight of their activities and it is extremely difficult for victims to hold them to account when human rights violations occur,” said Ms Adams.
In 2010, the Dikulushi mine was sold to another Australian mining company Mawson West, which subsequently ceased production in 2015 when it became commercially unviable. Anvil Mining was bought out by Hong Kong-based Minmetals Resources Limited in 2012 but still has offices in Melbourne.
The complaint on behalf of 8 of the victims was brought to the African Commission in November 2010 by UK-based Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), Congo-based Action Against Impunity and Human Rights (ACIDH) and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), based in Banjul, Gambia.