由荷蘭和加拿大政府合作舉辦的「開放社會研究所的正義行動」(Open Society Institute's Justice Initiative) 會議日前在海牙舉行，與會者討論到以上述方式來遏止非法開採自然資源的可能性，而這方面的法學領域過去一項受到忽視。前南斯拉夫國際刑事法庭（ICTY）檢察官史都華（James Stewart）也在會中發表了一份參考文件，作為起訴戰爭罪的參考手冊。
New proposals to pursue those who benefit from the illegal exploitation of minerals have been broadly welcomed by activists - although some argue this would impoverish communities dependent on the trade.
Under new measures put forward by lawyers and human rights activists, companies that profit from the trade in so-called conflict minerals in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, could face war crimes prosecution.
The possibility of using a neglected body of jurisprudence to curb the illegal exploitation of natural resources was raised at a recent conference in The Hague, held under the auspices of the Open Society Institute's Justice Initiative, in coordination with the Dutch and Canadian governments.
The conference saw the launch of a document described as a manual for war crimes prosecutors by its author, former International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, prosecutor James Stewart.
The publication sets out the relevant judicial definitions and precedents which would enable national courts to prosecute individuals from corporations involved in the illicit trade in natural resources. Critics say funds derived from such transactions have been fueling ongoing violence and rape in countries like the DRC, where an estimated five million people have been killed in the past 10 years alone.
Among the most prized resources mined in the DRC is coltan, a material used in virtually every mobile phone, remote control and MP3 player. Some 80 percent of the world supply of coltan is to be found in the DRC and is heavily exploited by militia.
The United Nations estimates that over 40 percent of civil wars over the past 60 years have involved natural resources and almost one in three UN peacekeeping missions worldwide deal with conflicts sustained by revenues derived from natural resources.
For such crimes to be successfully prosecuted, national courts would need to take the initiative. ICC member states, through the principle of complimentarity, can adopt the Hague court's war crimes statutes to prosecute the crime of pillage.
Five years ago, the UN Security Council extended a set of targeted sanctions to prosecute companies and individuals involved in financing illegal armed groups in the DRC through the illicit trade in natural resources.
However, currently only 30 individuals and entities have been placed on the targeted list of sanctions. Recently, in October 2010, a British court declined an application for a judicial review of the government's decision not to list United Kingdom companies trading in Congolese conflict minerals for targeted UN sanctions.
Many activists believe prosecuting the pillage of natural resources as a war crime would be an effective means of channelling funds away from militias in conflict zones, but some argue that this may result in already impoverished local communities losing jobs and income.
However, some argue that prosecuting businessmen for war crimes if the materials they bought - directly or through an intermediary - were initially procured illegally by armed militia groups could actually have a negative effect in places like DRC.
But others believe that prosecuting the pillage of natural resources would benefit investment and trade in the long term.