On 4 August, a Colombian paramilitary organization issued death threats against anyone standing in the way of London-listed mining companies AngloGold Ashanti, Glencore Xstrata and other named and unnamed extractives companies.
On 17 August, London Mining Network joined the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, War on Want, World Development Movement and ABColombia Group in sending an open letter to AngloGold Ashanti and Glencore Xstrata.
The text of the letters was as follows.
Dear sirs,
We are writing to you today on behalf of the International Caravana of Jurists UK Lawyers’ Group, ABColombia, the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, War on Want, the World Development Movement and the London Mining Network. As your company Anglo Gold Ashanti is listed on the London Stock Exchange, we would like to draw your attention as British organisations to the following.
We are extremely concerned at recent death threats sent on August 4, 2013, by the Colombian paramilitary group “Los Rastrojos”, to a number of organisations and individuals in Colombia, including trade unionists, human rights lawyers and members of the Polo Democrático political party, in which your company is mentioned.
The threat states that these human rights defenders and members of a political party are military targets, because they allegedly have links with the guerrilla and are hampering the work of mining companies in Colombia, including your company Anglo Gold Ashanti. We are concerned that these threats may translate into action, as in Colombia, human rights defenders, including trade unionists and lawyers, and members of the political opposition are frequently attacked and often killed, as a result of threats such as this one. According to figures from the Attorney General’s Office, over 400 lawyers have been killed in Colombia since 2002, and according to the Trades union confederation CUT, over 2,500 Colombian trade unionists have been killed in the last twenty years.
We note your code of business principles and ethics; however, we are concerned that in the complex political context in Colombia, this may not be enough to prevent human rights violations related to the implementation of your operations.
You will be aware of the emphasis on the responsibilities of corporations to respect human rights in the “Ruggie Principles” (the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights) as endorsed by the UN. Principle 11 states: “Business enterprises should respect human rights”. This is a positive duty which the commentary explains “This means that they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved”. Principle 13 goes on to say: “The responsibility to respect human rights requires that business enterprises:…(b) Seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts”.
We therefore believe that it is of fundamental importance that you unreservedly ensure that your mining operations do not place Colombians at risk of attack or otherwise violate their human rights, either directly or indirectly. These human rights are clearly enshrined in the body of treaties and procedures of International Human Rights Law, established by the United Nations and the Inter American Human Rights System.
Because of the extremely serious nature of this threat in which your company’s name has been used, we consider it essential that, in order to respect the Ruggie Guidelines and in an effort to reduce the risks this threat has generated, you urgently make a public declaration repudiating and rejecting these threats against human rights lawyers, trade unionists and members of the political opposition.
In these circumstances it is important to make clear to the general public the concrete steps that your company is taking in Colombia to ensure that your operations fully respect human rights, including the rights affected by this threat, namely access to justice as upheld by human rights lawyers, labour rights as upheld by trade unionists, and the right to form a political party.
Given the gravity of the circumstances, we would appreciate a response from you within the next four weeks. We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Yours sincerely,
Professor Sara Chandler, Chair, Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group
Dr Andy Higginbottom, Secretary, Colombia Solidarity Campaign
Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network
Louise Winstanley, Programme and Advocacy Manager, ABColombia
Patrick Kane, Senior Programmes Officer, Resources and Conflict – War on Want
Kirsty Wright, World Development Movement