Eritrean refugees take labour rights case to Canadian court

On 21st November 2017, a Canadian court unanimously dismissed an appeal from mining company Nevsun Resources to block a case brought against the company by three Eritrean refugees. The case concerns allegations of forced labour at Nevsun's Bisha mine, 150 kilometres west of Asmara. The plaintiffs claim that they were national service conscripts, forced into slavery at the mine under threat of torture, imprisonment and reprisals against their families. Since the company is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, the plaintiffs were able to pursue a civil case in Canada for Nevsun’s alleged complicity in crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour and torture at the mine. Forced labour has long been documented in Eritrea, where each citizen is compelled to serve 18 months in national military service. In practice, however, conscripts can serve indefinitely or for decades. Thousands have fled the country in recent years to avoid conscription. 

Peaceful Assembly

As reported previously on the Monitor, security forces violently dispersed a protest in Eritrea's capital, Asmara, on 31st October 2017, with unconfirmed reports of protesters killed. According to a statement by Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE) on 15th November, live ammunition was reportedly used and an unknown number of protesters were detained during and in the aftermath of the protest, including young demonstrators ranging in ages from 13 to 15, some of whom were tortured according to HRCE.