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Nevsun Loses Appeal to Dismiss Slave Labor Case

A British Columbia court dismissed Nevsun’s appeal to have the case filed against it to be rejected. Three Eritrean refugees who worked in Nevsun’s mine in Bisha, Eritrea, had filed the case in November 2014.

Nevsun had argued over jurisdiction and appealed to have the human rights-related case be moved to Eritrean courts claiming that the Canadian courts do not have jurisdiction in a case involving a mine in Eritrea. However, “the B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld last year’s ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court that since Nevsun was a B.C. company, the province’s court had territorial jurisdiction.”

According to reports, the court also confirmed the absence of a free legal system in Eritrea where the courts are beholden to wishes of “the President and his military supporters…”

Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP pursued the case in the Canadian court on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Bisha mining company is jointly owned by the Eritrean government and Nevsun Resources of Canada. And like other mining operations in Eritrea, it uses slave labor provided by the Eritrean government through the many companies it owns.

An ex-employee of Nevsun said, “all major construction and sub-contracting projects are carried out by the government owned companies that entirely depend on slave labor.”

The Eritrean ruling party monopolizes all economic aspects of the country; the construction and contracting companied it owns use free labor extracted from conscripts who are in service indefinitely—some of them have been deployed in slave labor camps and projects for over a decade. The victims narrate horrid stories of severe maltreatment, malnutrition, overwork, torture and imprisonment and receive an equivalent of $10 per month as wages.

Victims allege that Nevsun and other multi-national companies operating in Eritrea “are benefiting from such cheap slave labor and declare inflated profits.”

Since its independence in 1991, Eritrea is ruled by proclamations and does not have a constitution. Judges are appointed by the ruling party and get their orders from the president and his senior associates.

Thousands of people have disappeared after they were taken away by security personnel and languish in a wide network of prisons without charges or trials, or visitation rights.

An ex-employee of Nevsun said, “this ruling is a good precedent and justice denied in Eritrea can now be obtained elsewhere.” He added, “multi-national companies operating in Eritrea under such conditions should take note because they could be sued in any free country.”

Meanwhile, Eritrean victims of slave labor who reside in many parts of the world as refugees are registering their names with human rights groups to file cases against several companies operating in Eritrea. Esla Chyrum, an Eritrean human rights activist is already compiling a list of ex-victims.

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  • Brhan

    NO COMMENT ; the matter is before the courts …..that is what we missing in Eritrea….people are arrested just because the expressed their opinion. They are neither presented to the court nor have lawyer to defend them.Above all there is no rule of law and no constitution.

  • Kokhob Selam

    Dear All,

    Let us hope and work… at the same time for Eritrean young to be free..


  • Acria

    Hello everyone,

    This is another vindication of the poor Eritrean souls that
    are vanquishing in the modern slavery by the government of Eritrea in the name
    of national service. This is nothing new to the Eritreans and the world. The
    question is who will be found liable for this gross human violation. As we all
    know the Eritrean government (EG) owns a 40 % share and Nevsum Resources Inc.(NRI)
    owns the rest 60% of the company. NRI knew the EG as dictatorial regime who was
    sanctioned by UN in 2009. Nevertheless, they went into business with the EG. In
    2016, the UN Inquiry finds gross human violations in Eritrea. NRI is still in business
    with EG.

    The BC court in
    Canada should find the NRI negligent of human rights indifference, at a minimum,
    for knowingly doing business with EG. The rush to capitalize on profit knowing
    that its partner is a gross human violator is a venue the BC court should take
    to penalize NRI. The defendants shouldn’t agree to non-disclosure monetary
    compensation, if it came to that point, to be shared to all victims of the
    slave labor. I am ahead of myself here. The BC court could decide that NRI was
    using a third party to pay the laborers and was not directly responsible for
    any violation. The third party of course is part of EG. The EG may say the same
    thing: it was the third party that was supposed to pay these poor souls and is
    responsible for the violation. That the EG didn’t use conscripts directly.
    Moreover, the EG, as is its habit, will try to discredit these defendants by
    labelling them as liars.

    The most important
    point at this time is that, despite where the suit against NRI goes, the
    Canadian government through its BC court did find the suit against NRI credible
    enough and was willing to listen. The final judgment is another story. Finding
    the EG responsible for providing the conscripts as modern slaves is not new and
    will not make a difference. Finding NRI liable will of course will send shock
    to all companies that work with dictatorial regimes and may change their business
    dealings to the point of stopping all operations. That is my hope with Bisha mining
    and others in Eritrea. The GE is using the profits of our land to lengthen its dictatorial
    regime on our poor people. I want Eritrea to prosper under a different
    democratic government. For this reason, I am in favor of both the GE and NRI to
    be found liable for modern slavery.