Greenpeace (Amsterdam)

14 August 2002

Congo-Brazzaville: Greenpeace Calls for Protection not Criminalisation of Independent Investigators

press release

Amsterdam — Environmental investigator released from prison after three-month detainment Greenpeace Calls for Protection not Criminalisation of Independent Investigators

Ex-poacher turned conservationist Joseph Melloh was released today from a Congolese prison where he had been detained for three months following an investigation of the area of forests logged by Swiss-German logging company, Congolaise Industrielle du Bois (CIB). During today's sentencing hearing in Brazzaville, the judge sentenced Melloh to 45 days in jail - all of which he has already served.

Greenpeace, along with Swiss photographer Karl Ammann, had campaigned for Melloh's release. Greenpeace co-financed Joseph's visit to Pokola together with the German ENGO Rettet den Regenwald.

"Joseph Melloh's investigation was aimed at contributing to forest law enforcement in the Congo," said Filip Verbelen, Greenpeace Forest Campaigner. "But in fact the law turned against him, condemning him to three months in prison on a charge that was unfounded."

Melloh, who has become a leading figure in uncovering the illegal bushmeat trade in Central Africa, was arrested on May 14th in the Congolese logging town of Pokola. He was picked up by the police for conducting interviews with residents of Pokola and for filming CIB forestry operations.

"While we are delighted that Joseph Melloh has been released, his case clearly highlights the current problems that exist globally around monitoring the activities of logging companies in the field," said Verbelen. "Corporate forest crime costs forest nations several million US$ each year - yet most of these nations have no formal framework - nor the institutional capacity - for independent monitoring of the companies operating in their forests."

Greenpeace argues that independent on-the-ground monitoring of logging companies - whether leading to a positive endorsement of a company or to the exposure of illegal and destructive practices - is fundamental to achieving sustainable forest management globally.

"Like neighbouring Cameroon, we are now calling on the government of Congo to commit to formal independent monitoring of logging company activities," said Verbelen. "Without this kind of commitment, then current political processes like the World Bank's programme on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance will mean very little."

At the Johannesburg Earth Summit , Greenpeace is calling on world governments to commit to the development of a global framework on corporate responsibility, which should include issues of transparency, independent verification and corporate liability.

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