Congolese families take Canadian mining company to the Supreme Court

The Canadian Association Against Impunity (CAAI), which represents several human rights groups and non-governmental organizations, filed today a last-minute plea at the Supreme Court against Canadian miner Anvil Mining Limited (TSX:AVM), on behalf of the victims of a 2004 massacre in Congo.

The groups claim that Anvil 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.

The families are appealing the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a case, which, they say, included not only murders, but also wide support from Anvil in the form of planes, trucks and drivers instrumental.

“The appeal will decide whether victims will be able to hold Canadian companies accountable in Canadian courts, for their involvement in serious human rights violations committed abroad,” said the coalition in a statement e-mailed to international media.

In November 2010, families of the Congolese victims, through the CAAI, filed a class action against Anvil Mining accusing it of having provided logistical support to the Congolese army who raped, murdered and brutalized the people of the town of Kilwa in the DRC. According to the United Nations, an estimated 100 civilians died as a direct result of the military action, including some who were executed and thrown in mass graves.

Anvil Mining has admitted the provision of logistical support but claims it was demanded to do so by the authorities and denies any wrongdoing.

In January, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned an earlier decision of the Quebec Superior Court that found that Quebec had jurisdiction to hear the case, and that the victims would fail to get justice elsewhere – either in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in Australia, where Anvil Mining previously had its head office.

“All our attempts to seek justice have been fruitless”, said Adèle Mwayuma, whose two sons were executed during the massacre. “Canada is my only hope for holding someone responsible for the murder of my children,” she continued.

“We truly believe that Canada is our last resort and are asking the Supreme Court to give us the opportunity to challenge the Quebec Court of Appeal’s disregard of the abundant evidence proving that access to justice in other countries has proved impossible,” said CAAI president Patricia Feeney.

Anvil was acquired earlier in March for $1.3 billion by Chinese company Minmetals Resources Ltd., headquartered in Australia.