17th December, 2019
Congo DR families that have had their children killed or seriously hurt while mining for cobalt in the central African nation have sued major US technology firms, demanding compensation over child abuse.
International Rights Advocates, suing on their behalf, listed more than a dozen victims in its 79-page lawsuit, filed Sunday in U.S. district court. Apple, Google parent company Alphabet, Microsoft, Dell and Tesla were named as defendants, according to a report by UPI.
The families are seeking damages from the companies, which they accuse of aiding British mining company Glencore in using forced child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo to mine the material. The suit says the companies are “knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children” at Congolese cobalt mines.
Cobalt is a key element in the manufacture of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are used in common electronic products like electric vehicles, smartphones and computerized devices. It is in abundant supply in the DRC, particularly in its Katanga region.
The lawsuit charges the companies with violating the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act by not intervening to prevent abuses.
“We will do everything possible to get justice quickly for the children we represent,” Terry Collingsworth, IRA executive director and lead counsel, said in a statement. “In my 35 years as a human rights lawyer, I’ve never seen such extreme abuse of innocent children on a large scale. This astounding cruelty and greed need to stop.”
Congolese families said children were killed in the collapse of one cobalt mine tunnel and other mishaps paralyzed and maimed child workers.
Although it’s not a defendant in the U.S. lawsuit, Glencore said it “does not tolerate any form of child, forced or compulsory labor.”