* Global Witness says UK companies trading conflict minerals
* Says firms should be referred by gov’t for UN sanctions
By Katrina Manson
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 26 (Reuters) - Lobby group Global Witness said on Monday it is taking the U.K. government to court for failing to refer companies trading in Congo ‘conflict minerals’ for U.N. sanctions.
The move comes amid global efforts to halt the lucrative trade in rebel-controlled minerals like tin, gold, and coltan in the central African state where some 5 million people have died since the start of a 1998-2003 civil war.
“British companies have supported armed groups by purchasing minerals from areas under their control in the DRC. Despite this, the UK government has never put any of them forward for sanctions,” Global Witness said in a release.
The British embassy in Kinshasa told Reuters the U.K. government had no immediate response.
The lawsuit would bring to bear United Nations resolutions calling for travel bans and asset freezes on those supporting illegal armed groups in Congo and encouraging member states to put individuals and entities forward for the sanctions.
The United States adopted legislation last week requiring U.S. companies involved in Congo to certify they are not buying conflict minerals and a U.N. panel of experts is also developing new guidelines to ensure minerals can be traced.
Editing by Richard Valdmanis