An anti-corruption charity has brought the British government to court claiming it has failed to bring dealers in conflict minerals to account.
Campaign group Global Witness is seeking a judicial review over what it describes as the government's unlawful refusal to put forward companies and individuals trading in Congolese conflict minerals for targeted UN sanctions.
Global Witness alleges that a number of British companies known to have been trading in minerals sourced from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) should have been put forward to the UN Sanctions Committee.
UN security council resolution 1857, passed in 2008, calls for a travel ban and asset freeze to be imposed on all individuals and entities supporting illegal armed groups in the eastern DRC through the illicit trade of natural resources. It was backed up and strengthened by resolution 1896, passed in 2009.
Global Witness campaigns director Gavin Hayman said: "It is a sad day when we have to sue the UK government, but we hope that this case will mark a turning point. The issues at stake have global significance for how wars are financed.
"These companies have profited from a brutal conflict, and should face UN sanctions - but sanctions are useless without a fair and clear government procedure for considering whether individuals or entities should be listed."
Global Witness and the UN group of experts have obtained evidence to show that British companies have supported armed groups by purchasing minerals from areas under their control in the DRC.
Despite this, the British government has never put any of them forward for sanctions.
The charity is seeking a mandatory order requiring the new coalition government to revisit their predecessors' decision and put forward British national and companies violating the terms of the UN resolutions for sanctions.
Mr Hayman said: "The link between natural resources and conflict in the Congo is well known. Armed groups controlling the trade in minerals like tin and tungsten use the money to buy guns and fund their violent campaign against civilians.
"The UN resolutions recognised that companies sourcing directly or indirectly from the region are part of the problem. But in spite of our frequent appeals, the UK government has steadfastly refused to act, which left us no choice but to take them to court."
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