This is in defiance of United Nations sanctions introduced in 2008 and 2009, it said, accusing Britain of sitting by and letting it happen.
Global Witness says groups controlling the trade in minerals such as tin and tungsten use the money to buy arms to fund campaigns against civilians. It says it is applying to the High Court in London for an order requiring the government to put forward for sanctions British firms violating the UN resolutions.
“We approached the UK government in early 2009 once sanctions were passed where you could list entities supporting armed groups for sanctions,” says Seema Joshi legal adviser at Global Witness. “We decided to take advantage of that. We requested they put forward certain names.”
She says Global Witness and UK government representatives met several times last year. By November, no action had been taken and the same companies were mentioned again by a group of UN experts.
“Further evidence again came up during that period, which showed that these companies were breaking sanctions,” says Joshi. “In eastern Congo there are still high levels of violence. By the UK government not taking action it’s allowing the funding of armed groups in these areas and allowing the conflict to perpetuate.”
Britain's Foreign Office released a statement saying it expects all British companies operating in the minerals sector in the DRC to follow high standards of due diligence.
"We will continue to take reports that they are not doing so seriously, and will assess in each case whether there are grounds to consider recommending to UN partners that sanctions measures be imposed or supporting proposals for listings made by other states," it said.