From 1998 to 2010, Anvil Mining Limited, a Canadian corporation, ran a copper and silver mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In October 2004, the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) committed widespread atrocities in crushing a small-scale uprising in Kilwa, a port town critical to Anvil's operations. After first shelling the town, Congolese soldiers carried out extra-judicial executions, torture, rapes, illegal detentions and looting. The United Nations concluded that over 70 people were killed. Anvil, whose Dikulushi mine was located 50km away, admitted providing logistical support to the FARDC in the form of vehicles and airplane transportation.
On November 8, 2010, an association of citizens from the DRC filed a petition for certification of a class action in Montreal against Anvil for the company's alleged role in the Kilwa massacre.
The petition alleges that in October 2004 Anvil provided trucks, drivers and other logistical support to the Congolese military. Anvil's vehicles allegedly transported Congolese soldiers as well as civilians who were taken outside the town and executed by the military. The petition also alleges that Anvil allowed soldiers to use planes leased by the company to reach Kilwa from Lubumbashi, the capital of the province of the Katanga region.
The plaintiff in the case, the Canadian Association against Impunity, is made up of Congolese citizens affected by the events that unfolded in Kilwa in October 2004. Representatives of the CCIJ and partner organizations in the DRC and UK act as Board members of the association.
The legal action in Canada followed the repeated failure of Congo's judicial system to deliver justice. In 2006, a military prosecutor indicted nine Congolese soldiers and three former Anvil employees, including a Canadian citizen, for war crimes. Following numerous irregularities during the trial, the military tribunal acquitted all the defendants. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time, Louise Arbour, now a member of CCIJ's Honorary Council, stated: "I am concerned at the court's conclusions that the events in Kilwa were the accidental results of fighting, despite the presence at the trial of substantial eye-witness testimony and material evidence pointing the commission of serious and deliberate human rights violations." Subsequent attempts to appeal the decision of the military trial court have been refused. A monumental 2010 United Nations report cited the Anvil case as a prime example of how justice is often not done in the DRC.
Anvil is incorporated in the Northwest Territories and is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company has offices in Montreal, Australia and the DRC.
In April 2011, Superior Court Judge Benoît Emery rejected Anvil's arguments and ruled that the case was properly bought in Québec and that neither the DRC nor Australia were better forums than Québec. Anvil appealed that judgment. On January 24, 2012, the Court of Appeal overturned the Superior Court’s judgment, stating that there were insufficient connections to Québec because Anvil Mining’s Montreal office was not involved in decisions leading to its alleged role in the massacre. The court also believed the victims could have sought justice in the DRC or Australia, where Anvil Mining had its head office. The claimants strongly disagreed with these assertions and asked the Supreme Court of Canada to review the case but on November 1, 2012, the Supreme Court refused to grant the claimants leave to appeal the case. CCIJ will now be consulting with our partners to discuss what other efforts can be made to seek redress.
The claimants are represented by the Montreal law firm Trudel and Johnston, which specializes in class actions. CCIJ continues to work closely with them as well as partner organizations Global Witness, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), Action Contre l'Impunité pour les Droits Humains (ACIDH), Association Africaine de défense des droits de l'Homme (ASADHO) and L’Entraide missionnaire.
Court of Appeal
Supreme Court of Canada
**All photos courtesy of Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID).