SIFORCO lawsuit (re Dem. Rep. Congo, filed in Dem. Rep. Congo)
Snapshot: In March 2012, NGOs filed complaints against Danzer's former subsidiary SIFORCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, alleging that SIFORCO aided and abetted human rights abuses by Congolese police and military during an attack on the village of Bongulu. In 2019, a military court sanctioned officers and imposed a fine on the government, but found the company not guilty.
In April 2013, NGOs filed a criminal complaint against a senior manager of Danzer Group in Germany. In March 2015, the public prosecutor’s office discontinued the investigations.
On 2 May 2011, the village of Bongulu in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was allegedly attacked by Congolese police and military. During the attack several human rights abuses took place, such as rape and arbitrary arrests of villagers. Senior staff of Danzer Group, a Swiss and German timber manufacturer, allegedly aided and abetted these abuses by failing to prevent these crimes from being committed. In addition, Congolese security forces reportedly received financial and logistical help from Danzer’s former subsidiary, SIFORCO (now part of Blattner). Danzer and SIFORCO deny the accusations. They insist that they did not facilitate violence against local communities in DRC and that the events of 2 May happened outside their control and responsibility.
Proceedings in Dem. Rep. of Congo
In March 2012, a group of Bongulu villagers represented by Avocats sans Frontières (ASF, or Lawyers Without Borders) filed a complaint in DRC against 60 Congolese military and police officers allegedly involved in the attack. The plaintiffs also claim there is evidence that some SIFORCO employees participated in its planning and preparation. In July 2012, ASF filed a complaint in DRC court against SIFORCO for civil responsibility and against two SIFORCO employees for criminal responsibility for alleged complicity in the incident. In 2013 the DRC Military Prosecutor's office conducted investigations, on a team with the joint participation of the UN. On 14 December 2015, a military court ruled that the accused were guilty of "torture" and issued a prison sentence. Siforco was found not guilty. The appeals trial started on 29 April 2019 before the Mbandaka military court. The military court confirmed the penalties against the 5 defendants and also imposed a fine on the Congolese Governement. Siforco was acquitted as not guilty.