World Forest Body Ends Danzer Contracts on ex-Congo Unit Abuses

The Forest Stewardship Council ended its contracts with Danzer Group after accusations that the Swiss wood-processing company’s former subsidiary engaged in human-rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Siforco logging operation previously owned by Danzer was involved in “unacceptable activities” in May 2011 when company officials allegedly gave financial and logistical help to Congolese police and military in an attack on a forest village, the Bonn, Germany-based council said in a statement on its website today. The contract termination, known as “disassociation,” is the most severe sanction the FSC can impose on a company, it said.

“We respect the FSC decision to suspend the cooperation for a transitional period,” Danzer Chief Executive Officer Hans-Joachim Danzer said in a statement on the Baar, Switzerland-based company’s website. Danzer and the FSC have agreed on steps the company will take to resume full membership, he said.

The FSC provides certification for companies managing forestry projects that are “environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable,” according to its website. Danzer has worked with the FSC since 2007, it said. The disassociation affects Danzer’s subsidiary Industrie Forestiere de Ouesso, or IFO, which runs the largest FSC-certified forestry project in the Congo Basin in neighboring Republic of Congo, the council said.

‘Substantial Consequences’

The decision “imposes substantial financial consequences on our company,” Danzer said, according to the FSC statement. IFO’s concessions in Congo Republic total 1.16 million hectares (2.9 million acres), according to Danzer.

Siforco officials didn’t know Congolese police intended to attack the village of Yalisika when they were “forced” to provide a company vehicle to use as transport, Danzer said in April. The police went to the village to recover equipment and material stolen from Siforco, it said.

While in Yalisika, security forces allegedly raped and injured villagers and destroyed property, according to activist groups including London-based Global Witness and Amsterdam-based Greenpeace. Siforco provided medical support and compensation for the victims after the attack, Danzer says.

Danzer sold Siforco to Congo-based Blattner Group in February, 2012. The group “will not be granted a new Trademark Licensing Agreement, effectively blocking FSC certification, until the Danzer Group has performed fully on its obligations towards the Yalisika community and until independent monitoring verifies that Siforco is not involved in illegal logging activities,” the FSC said.

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