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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the UN Security Council report alleging exploitation of natural resources from Congo by other countries involved in the current conflict. [126701]

The UN Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo made a first report in October 2002. The panel's mandate was extended with our support earlier this year. The Panel will present their interim report to the Security Council on 24 July. We are still assessing the interim report, which was recently published on the UN website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to ensure that British-based industrial users of coltan from the Democratic Republic of Congo are not purchasing smuggled coltan. [126702]

We recognise that the exploitation of natural resources contributes to the underlying economic causes of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As permanent members of the UN Security Council, the UK supported Resolution 1457 (2003) which reiterates the Security Council's commitment to take appropriate action to help put an end to the illegal exploitation of the resources of the DRC. We continue to uphold EU sanctions (an arms embargo and visa restrictions) and support related action in the UN. There are currently no restrictions on the import of coltan into the UK. However, in the case of undeclared imports of coltan into the UK, HM Customs have powers to seize the goods as with other illegal exports.The UK is exploring how to improve governance of natural resource extraction, including through the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative backed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact of (a) smuggling and (b) sale of coltan from Congo by armed forces from (i) Rwanda, (ii) Uganda and (iii) Burundi on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [126704]

The UN Expert Panel report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), published in October 2002, provides extensive details of the widespread exploitation of the DRC's natural resources, including coltan. The report states that elite networks linked to the governments/militaries of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda are the main players in the smuggling and/or sale of coltan; Burundi's role is small in comparison. Such exploitation continues today, with the active co-operation of the various rebel groups operating in the eastern part of DRC. The human rights of many citizens of the DRC have already been severely eroded by many years of violent civil war and the ensuing chaos. The trade in coltan has played a part in this conflict.