EU: ban the import of blood timber NOW!

A heavy tractor dragging a tree trunk out of the forest Illegal logging funds civil wars in Africa.

Lush rainforest covers much of the Central African Republic. Yet civil war and illegal logging are taking their toll, with brutal militias funding their operations by collecting protection money from criminal loggers. Most of the illicit timber is destined for Europe. Call on the EU to ban imports of blood timber from CAR.

Call to action

To: the EU Commission and the German federal government

Europe is funding brutal militias in the Central African Republic by importing illegal tropical timber. The EU must ban timber imports from the CAR immediately.

Read letter

The Central African Republic (CAR) is situated on the edge of the Congo Basin, one of the world’s largest rainforest areas. A failed state by anyone’s definition, the country currently lacks any real governance or functioning institutions. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and 5,000 have lost their lives in the CAR’s civil war since 2013. 

According to a report by Global Witness, European businesses are funding the conflict by importing timber from the CAR. The report states that timber companies paid €3.4 million to militias in 2014 and €127,000 in 2014. The armed groups, which have tortured, raped and killed thousands of innocent civilians in CAR’s southwestern forests in particular, continue to demand money at checkpoints and for armed escorts.

Unscrupulous timber exporters are clearly not going to let murder and mayhem stand between them and a business opportunity: In an interview secretly filmed by Global Witness, a representative of the French timber company Tropica Bois explained: “It’s Africa. [War] is so common we don’t really pay attention … It’s not a war where they attack white people.”

An estimated 59 percent of the CAR’s timber exports are destined for the European Union, with 32 percent going to Germany and 20 percent to France. 

By failing in its legal obligations to keep blood timber out of European markets, the EU is making itself an accessory to the suffering of the CAR’s people. We call on the EU to place a complete ban on timber imports from the Central African Republic. In addition, the EU Timber Regulation and the relevant German timber trade regulations (HolzSIG) must be strengthened.

Back­ground

The forested areas of the Central African Republic are located in the Congo Basin, the second-largest rainforest area in the world. It provides habitat for lowland gorillas and forest elephants, whose population has plummeted by 65 percent within eleven years. Poaching and the sale of ivory are a further source of funding for rebel groups. In 2013, militiamen stole 600 kilograms of seized illegal ivory worth $1.5 million.

The illegal timber trade is a major source of income of the militias: Before the civil war, timber accounted for around 40 percent of the country’s exports. Even at the height of the chaos and bloodshed, it was business as usual for three foreign logging companies: Lebanon-based SEFCA, the Chinese Vicwood Group and France’s IFB. The timber traders were hardly impacted by the war – exports fell by a mere 6.1 percent.

Global Witness estimates that the three companies paid a total of €1.2 million in “informal taxes” at road checkpoints in 2013. They spent more than €33,000 for armed escorts and €1.77 million for militia “security services” to guard their staff, offices and concession areas. SEFCA also supported the rebel Seleka government with a direct payment of €380,876.

Today, militias continue to charge drivers passing through checkpoints, especially at border crossings to Cameroon, on roads used for timber exports. They currently take between €1.50 and €4.50 per vehicle – tiny sums that allegedly added up to €127,864 in 2014. That’s quite enough to keep an armed conflict simmering when you consider that hand grenades sell for as little as €0.50.

Letter

To: the EU Commission and the German federal government

Ladies and Gentlemen,

According to a report by the human rights NGO Global Witness, European companies undeterred by the civil war in the Central African Republic (CAR) continue to import timber from the country, thus financing militias.

In 2013, Seleka rebels allegedly collected €3.4 million from logging companies; in 2014, their successors, the Anti-Balaka received €127,000. The armed groups, which have tortured, raped and killed thousands of innocent civilians in the CAR’s southwestern forests in particular, continue to collect informal taxes at checkpoints and demand protection money.

Europe is deeply involved in the blood timber trade: an estimated 59 percent of the CAR’s timber exports are destined for the European Union, with 32 percent going to Germany and 20 percent to France.

By failing in its legal obligations to keep illicit timber out of European markets, the EU is funding the conflict in the CAR.

We therefore call on you to ban all timber imports from the Central African Republic immediately. Please strengthen the EU Timber Regulation and the relevant German timber trade regulations (HolzSIG) to put a stop to illegal imports.

Kind regards,

Please sign

Help us reach 200,000:

166,253
Recent activity