New U.S. Customs Withhold Release Order is New Tool in the Fight Against Conflict Gold, the Biggest Funder of Armed Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
October 1, 2019 (Washington, DC) — A new U.S. Customs and Border Protection action taken today will now require companies importing gold from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) into the United States to prove that the gold was not made with forced labor.
Sasha Lezhnev, Deputy Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “The U.S. Customs action sends a strong signal to U.S. tech, financial, and other companies – either do their homework on gold from Congo and countries it is smuggled or refined in, or risk having their shipments stopped at the border. At this point, U.S. companies should be sourcing only from refiners that have passed conflict-free audits. Enhanced due diligence is the name of the game in drawing the line between gold that funds horrific human rights abuses and legitimate, conflict-free gold from Congo that can and should be imported.”
According to the United Nations, conflict gold provides the largest source of revenue to armed actors in the conflicts in eastern Congo, where an estimated 3.3 to 7.6 million people have died. An estimated $300 to $600 million worth of gold is smuggled out of Congo annually.
U.S. Customs now has the ability to hold shipments of gold into the United States suspected to be produced in eastern Congo using forced labor. The associated Withhold Release Order (WRO) gives importing companies 90 days to provide proof that no forced labor was used to produce the gold in a shipment that has been put on hold. If the company does not provide it, the gold would have to be exported to another country, or the importer could abandon the gold. Gold from other countries that act as conduits for smuggled gold from Congo are included in this action.
Withhold Release Orders were also issued for diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields, Garments produced by Heitan Taida Apparel Co. in Xiinjian, China, Disposable Rubber Gloves produced by WRP Asia Pacific Sdn. Bhd in Malaysia, and Bone Black produced by Bonechar Carvao Ativado Do Brasil Ltd in Brazil, all of which are at high risk of having been produced with forced labor.
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The Enough Project works to support peace, democratic governance, and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones. Together with its investigative partner, The Sentry, Enough aims to counter violent kleptocratic regimes, armed groups, and their multinational commercial partners who are looting Africa’s vast natural resources and other forms of wealth for their own enrichment. By helping to create consequences for corrupt actors, human rights abusers, dictators, and war profiteers, Enough seeks to build leverage and accountability in support of African social movements pressing for fundamental change. Enough conducts in-depth research on violent kleptocratic systems, mobilizes and educates activists, and engages governments and the private sector on policy and legal solutions. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.