Violent Groups Earning Millions from Theft in War, Getting Away with It
January 21, 2015 — From the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to Al-Shabaab, violent armed groups are generating hundreds of millions of dollars and financing their activities through illicit trafficking of minerals and other natural resources, warns a new report by the Enough Project. “Grand Theft Global: Prosecuting the War Crime of Natural Resource Pillage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” details how prosecuting commanders, trafficking kingpins and transnational facilitators for the war crime of pillage (“theft during war”) could break new ground to help end the world’s worst resource-driven violence.
The report, authored by Enough’s Holly Dranginis, is based on extensive research and interviews in eastern Congo and The Hague, and identifies that dozens of armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are profiting from pillage and getting away with it.
Holly Dranginis, report author and Enough Project Policy Analyst, said: “Natural resource pillage is a crime of deception. It’s a crime that impoverishes and humiliates communities. And, in its practice, it can involve brutal, systematic violence. This is armed robbery on a grand scale, and often serves as both the purpose of perpetrators’ atrocity crimes as well as the funding that sustains them.”
John Prendergast, Enough Project Founding Director, said: “Central Africa is the deadliest region on the planet, with diverse conflicts that share a common fuel – stolen natural resources. Prosecuting the individuals orchestrating that theft and the entities that protect and benefit from it is fundamental to disrupting the flow of smuggled materials out of this region and into the international market. Removing the fuel will help extinguish the flames of deadly violence and associated atrocities.”
Fidel Bafilemba, Enough Project field researcher, based in Goma, DRC, said: “Senior commanders behind mafia networks within the armies of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC must be brought to account for the longtime war crimes and crimes against humanity their personal economic empires have been built upon, or lack of justice will ever shadow peace and reconciliation in the Great Lakes Region.”
Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy for Congo, the Great Lakes Region, and the LRA at the Enough Project, said: “International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda can make a concrete impact on the war crime of pillage by reviving the ICC’s financial crimes unit. Prosecutions are a direct way to help disrupt conflict financing and improve accountability for economic crimes like trafficking and money laundering and the atrocities they fuel. It is time to use the momentum of the trial against Bosco Ntaganda and defection of Dominic Ongwen to investigate the way armed groups make their money.”
Dranginis added: “Pillage is punishable as a war crime in most domestic jurisdictions and at the International Criminal Court. Pillage as a war crime provides an applicable standard of justice for diverse entities, from terrorist networks to corporations. Theft in war is pervasive worldwide, and involves strange bedfellows. Prosecuting the most powerful actors in those networks will expose unusual, essential alliances and restore rule of law in areas normally governed by the rule of the gun.”
About the Enough Project:
For media use, short version: “The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group.”
The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress aiming to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, South Sudan, eastern Congo, Central African Republic, and areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough conducts intensive field research, develops practical policies to address these crises, and shares sensible tools to empower citizens and groups working for change.
To learn more: www.enoughproject.org.