Industry Associations Ask Court to Set Aside Rule that Requires Companies to Disclose Links Armed Groups in the Congo
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(Washington, DC) – Amnesty International USA announced today that it has moved to intervene to defend new regulations that require corporations to investigate and disclose whether their sourcing practices finance armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The conflict mineral disclosure requirements, announced by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in August of this year, are a vital tool to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Congo. In October, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable filed suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to invalidate the SEC’s regulations and the provisions of the law that authorizes them.
"The Democratic Republic is facing escalating conflict, killings and displacement," said Suzanne Nossel executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Strict legal requirements are needed to prevent corporate interests and profit-seeking from fueling human rights abuses. By seeking to invalidate current regulations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate groups would reverse progress toward justice and accountability and line the pockets of armed groups that are committing unspeakable atrocities. U.S. corporations cannot be given a free pass to traffic in minerals used to fund rampant human rights abuses including torture, rape and murder."
For the last decade, the DRC has been in the grip of armed conflict that has claimed millions of lives and left millions more displaced. Armed groups commit horrific atrocities, including rape, sexual slavery, and torture. An important source of funding for these groups is the minerals trade, which supplies tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold that end up in popular consumer products. Recognizing this fact, Congress enacted legislation in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to require companies to begin reporting their sourcing practices to the SEC.
As part of Amnesty’s commitment to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law in the Congo, the organization, which is represented by Public Citizen Litigation Group, has filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit so that it can help defend the regulations.
The regulations announced by the SEC in August of this year require certain companies that file reports with the SEC to determine whether minerals in their consumer products come from the DRC or surrounding countries. If so, the companies must attempt to verify that the minerals do not finance or benefit armed groups in those countries, and they must admit publicly the fact that they are unable to do so. In their request to the court, the industry groups ask that the regulations be modified or set aside "in whole or in part."
The reporting requirements are a vital tool to end the conflict in the Congo. The corporate disclosures will bring much-needed transparency to companies' sourcing of conflict minerals and provide critical information to investors and consumers who wish to make socially responsible choices.
"Amnesty International USA has spent years working to expose and eliminate links between these minerals and violence in the region," said Nossel. "Through the voice of our strong membership base, we defended the regulations from corporate attempts to water down and stall the implementation of Section 1502. We will continue to stand with our civil society partners, including Global Witness and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, in defending against attacks by corporate industry groups who seek to champion a legacy of profit over people."
The case is National Association of Manufacturers, et al. v. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, No. 12-1422 (D.C. Cir.).
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.