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Congo massacre survivors seek leave to appeal case at Supreme Court

If human rights groups and survivors of a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo have their way, the Supreme Court of Canada will grant them a day in court to consider claims that the Canadian mining firm Anvil Mining provided logistical support to Congolese troops who massacred over 100 unarmed civilians in Katanga province in 2004.

On March 26 the Canadian Association Against Impunity (CAAI), a coalition of human rights groups, filed court papers seeking leave to appeal a January decision by a Quebec court at the Supreme Court of Canada. The decision the activists and massacre survivors would like to see the Supreme Court reverse held that Canadian courts had no jurisdiction in the matter, which has already been considered by courts in the DRC and in Australia, where Anvil Mining also conducts business.

In November 2010 families of the Congolese victims, through the CAAI, filed a class action against Anvil Mining, accusing the company of providing 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 provided logistical support, but claims it was requisitioned by the authorities and denies any wrongdoing.

In January this year, 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.

Anvil, recently acquired by Minmetals Resources Ltd., has consistently denied any culpability in the 2004 massacre.

"All our attempts to seek justice have been fruitless," said Adèle Mwayuma (whose two sons were executed during the massacre) in a release circulated by the CAAI. "Canada is my only hope for holding someone responsible for the murder of my children."

"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.

"My father has not lived to see justice delivered," said Dickay Kunda (whose father, a policeman, was badly beaten and tortured while in military custody), in the same CAAI release previously quoted. His 22-year-old sister Dorcas also died after being raped by soldiers. "But after more than seven years, we now look to the Supreme Court of Canada for justice," he added.

In November 2010, Matt Eisenbrandt, legal coordinator of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, one of the NGOs associated with the class action filing, told The Tyee "this case is now in Canada because Anvil is a Canadian company, and must be held accountable for any role it played in what were clear and egregious violations of human rights."

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy beats for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net.


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