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Ending Grand Theft on a Global Scale: Prosecuting the War Crime of Pillage

In Enough Project Policy Analyst Holly Dranginis’ latest report, Grand Theft Global: Prosecuting the War Crime of Natural Resource Pillage in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dranginis provides an inside look at why the widespread theft of minerals in Congo has gone on unpunished, and how policymakers and legal practitioners can help advance cases.  Grand Theft Global is the result of research in Congo, The Hague, and Washington, DC, including dozens of interviews with Congolese attorneys, international prosecutors, and local communities affected by pillage and the violence it enables.

Underneath the forests, hills, and rivers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo lie billions of dollars in mineral wealth, with millions of that being traded illegally through sophisticated criminal networks. Every year, those resources are stolen and traded for lucrative profits by some of the world’s worst criminals and their allies, including rebel leaders and state army commanders. This large-scale theft enables violent war crimes and crimes against humanity, and it constitutes a war crime in its own right, called pillage. Yet, it’s not being prosecuted by courts in the Congo or on the world stage. Notorious groups like the FDLR, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Seleka have been linked to natural resource theft in the central African region. They steal and trade elephant ivory, charcoal, gold, and other minerals to buy guns, munitions, and supplies. Without prosecutions, warlords, middlemen, and corporations cashing in on Congo’s stolen resources have been free to operate and profit in a climate of impunity.

Pillage is a crime that crosses borders and involves diverse demographics, connecting some of the world’s most vulnerable populations with corporations and top government officials. It begins with battle: armed groups terrorize and slaughter civilians, often in order to secure mines to fuel their armies. The militias trade minerals in black and grey markets through middlemen, intermediaries, and even governments before those materials reach the global market, in the form of consumer electronics and jewlery. Many of these enablers make tremendous profits by playing their part in the trade, and turn a blind eye to its violent origins.

For the complete article, please see Enough Project.