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Yet Another Lawsuit Hits Canadian Mining Company Nevsun

On behalf of three Eritreans, a Canadian legal team has filed a case in Vancouver and is suing Nevsun Resources Ltd, a Canadian mining company.

The Canadian legal team is, “comprised of Vancouver law firm Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM), Ontario law firm Siskinds LLP, Toronto lawyer James Yap and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ)

According to a press release issued today, the case against Nevsun was filed “for slave labour and crimes against humanity.”

As reported by Gedab News on July 2, 2013, such a lawsuit was apparently encouraged by the extensive report issued by Human Rights Watch on January 3, 2013. The report under the the title, “Hear no Evil: Forced Labor and Corporate Responsibility in Eritrea’s Mining Sector,” stated that, “Nevsun’s experiences show that by developing projects in Eritrea, mining firms are walking into a potential minefield of human rights problems. Most notably they risk getting entangled in the Eritrean government’s uniquely abusive program of indefinite forced labor—the inaptly-named national service program.”

The report added, “Through this program the Eritrean government keeps an enormous number of Eritreans under perpetual government control as conscripts. Originally conceived as an 18-month program, the national service scheme now requires all able-bodied men and most women to serve indefinitely, often for years and with no end in sight, under harsh and abusive conditions. Those who try to flee risk imprisonment, torture, and even reprisals directed against their families.”

Nevsun operates a mining concession in Bisha, a region 40 Kms. west of Agordat, a town in western Eritrea. The Bisha mining company is jointly owned by Nevsun Resources Ltd. and the Eritrean ruling party.

Several contractors and sub-contractors involved in Bisha gold mine, that are owned by the Eritrean ruling party, are known to use free labor extracted from conscripted Eritrean youth.

According to the press release, “the case is before the B.C. Supreme Court because Nevsun, which owns a majority share of the Bisha mine, is headquartered in Vancouver and is incorporated under the laws of British Columbia.

Several Canadian companies partner with repressive regimes and operate in countries where there are prevalent human rights abuses.

According to the press release, “The lawsuit… [is] based on the international law prohibitions on forced labour, slavery, torture and crimes against humanity. It is one of the first human rights lawsuits in Canada to assert claims based directly on international law.”

Last month, Nevsun was under UN scrutiny for its shady deals with the Eritrean Government. The company has a history of stonewalling human right groups and UN agencies on questions related to its financial dealings with the Eritrean government.

According to a recent UN Somalia Eritrean Monitoring Group (UNSEMG) published on Oct 25, 2014, when asked by UNSEMG  to verify  that “hard currency raised through mining  revenues was not appropriated  for the purpose of supporting activities that would constitute a  violation of resolution 1907 (2009)”, Nevsun refused to disclose any financial records or statements by citing numerous confidentiality agreements with the Eritrean government.

But when UNSEMG asked similar questions to Ambassador Tesfay of Eritrea, he stated that UNSEMG, “should direct specific questions to Nevsun, especially on issues related to the issue of how payments were being transmitted to the Government of Eritrea.

Earlier this summer, before settling a multi-million class action lawsuit on behalf  Nevsun stockholders, the company stated that the only way it would disclose any financial record is if a court in Eritrea compels it to do so.

Related Reading:
Nevsun Resources: Slave Labor At Bisha Mine
Hear no Evil: Forced Labor and Corporate Responsibility in Eritrea’s Mining Sector

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  • Nitricc

    this is a good reason why i miss Jebena section. I don’t know where to post it but I need help in decoding the content of this cartoonish illustration. I can understand why the Tigryans and Tigray to be included on the illustration but why Eritrea? I need some Oromo to explain this. What does Eritrea got to do with the Tigryans roping Oromo’s wealth?
    Strange!

    http://mereja.com/forum/download/file.php?id=23603

    • Saleh Johar

      Jebena is still there Nitricc! Just click the Jebena icon on the frontpage and post.

  • Elenta

    Business friendly!! Who? PFDJ (II)!What the….!!!

    The survey of mining companies done by Fraser Institute place Eritrea as the low -risk country to operate a mining industry compared to other African countries. Surprisingly only Ghana, Namibia and Botswana are the only African countries ranked better than Eritrea(which has a rating of 50 out of 100) on attractiveness of their government policy towards mining. The highest rating was given to Botswana(70) and the lowest to Angola(10).

    Others rating: south Africa(40),Kenya(27), Zimbabwe(14) , Tanzania(43)……….

    The surveyors indicates that the common problems in Africa are corruption,bureaucracy,bad and unstable mining code.Problems particular to Eritrea are a high restrictive labor policy and commercial transactions imposed by the government.But still In overall rating, Eritrea is the least riskier for mining companies and investors.

    Does the GOE following a new strategy to lure mining companies to invest in Eritrea ?Or some kind of trap by IA?

    In the other note, Nevsun and its media network are inflating the price of NSU stock by spreading takeover rumors which seems a damage control strategy to maintain the value of their stock which might have gone to the south due to this lawsuit.

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Selam Elenta,

      Could you please link the rating data of the African countries in order to see their standing from the study you are referring. Simply putting rating numbers of some countries without the source of the data will not make your argument sound and factual. In order to make assessment like what you did, we need the source of the data and the study they made. So please share with us, if your intend was to let us learn from the study. We will appreciate if you do that.
      Regards,
      Amanuel Hidrat

      • Elenta
        • Amanuel Hidrat

          Dear Elenta,
          Thank you for the link. I read the policy perception scores that affect investment decisions. But do you have any idea why many countries including Eritrea are not ranked from the 93 countries and states (state juridictions) listed in their studies? Why are many countries excluded from the studies, such as Japan, Norway..etc? Any reason in their selection? Give me some hints if you are privy to such studies please.

          Amanuel Hidrat

  • Abraham Hanibal

    I can’t really grasp it how the international community or democratic countries like Canada can let foreign companies make dealings with a regime that has basically enslaved and held hostage its own people? I express my heartfelt hope for the success of this lawsuit. By now it should be clear to any foreign investment companies that doing business with the repressive PFDJ, is indirectly or directly participating in the human rights violations of the regime. I hope that the UN Human Rights Council consider this as a serious issue.

  • T..T.

    Most of the Sawa graduates are on bonded labor. It looks like they are trapped in a repayment process for life for what they received in training (skills) from the Isayas government. The repayment is through hard work in wherever they are sent to work. Because they are bonded, they are passed from one military official to another to work for free in building house and roads as well as in agriculture, mines and factors.

    As victims of bonded labor exploitation
    they are turned into tight mouthed slaves
    forming the last vestiges of slavery,
    which the whole world has to condemn and stand against.

    As slaves they are being sent to work for long hours in unhealthy areas with plenty of dirt and heavy stones to be cleared with their bare hands. The only choice they got is to either commit fast suicide or dive into delayed suicide. The delayed suicide occurs while their crossings or after crossings of the border because the guns of Isayas remain on their heads until they dive farther into the seas or desserts, where Isayas’s slaughtering houses are for harvesting their organs.
    Cry Eritrea Cry!!!!!!

  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    News of the lawsuit against the BC miner surfaced a day after Nevsun rallied on an all year high in the market following $1billion takeover bid rumors. The takeover news boosted Nevsun stock price by +13% on the TSX where as the news of the filing of this lawsuit didn’t really reverse that (or even the markets closed nominally higher for NSU in NY). However, it is well accepted that had Nevsun didn’t have the handicap “Eritrea” to contend with, its market value would normally had been much higher under normal conditions.

    In my layman assessment of what is going on here, the plaintiffs are suing Nevsun for “expressly or implicitly” approving (hence being responsible for ) the damages that are claimed by entering into contractual agreement with GoE. The heart of the issue goes to 2008 where where Nevsun subcontracted the services of Segen and Mereb construction companies that are owned by the PFDJ and are notorious in the use of forced labor akin to a form of slavery. Nevsun says that by 2009, after the first allegations surfaced, the company took measures to curb its involvement and introduced stringent controls to stop PFDJ from conducting such operations in the mine zone. However, the dispute is on what happened in the intermediate time interval between 2008 – 2009, prior to Nevsun starting to implement regulations to control against such cases. Nevsun is defending itself by saying that the company was required by Eritrean regime to use local contractors to build the mine and how the latter provided for its work force is the country’s internal affairs, hence raising jurisdictional defense for its argument. The plaintiffs on the other hand are saying that by 2008, the Eritrean regime’s behavior in the use of forced labor and massive violations of human rights were credibly established (or well known) and they point various UN, NGO and third party reports to show that. And, hence unless Nevsun can prove that it had no knowledge of such possibilities occurring in Eritrea prior its receiving of direct claims in 2009, it is alleged that it has “expressly or implicitly” involved its operations with such acts of forced labor, torture and crimes against humanity.

    So, I think that it would either come to a situation that Nevsun will be able to prove there were due diligence done on its side to discount what was credibly established by third parties about the Eritrean regime’s record of violations against its citizens (forcing the population into a form of slavery) or would lose the case. The other scenario would be to settle out of court with the plaintiffs, but that would be a slippery slop and that it would be considered admission and would have to issue compensation to all those involved by the incident.

    Regards

  • Tesfabirhan WR

    Dear Awatistas,

    No matter how long it takes, justice always prevails. Here is good news coming from Burkina Faso.

    In Burkia Faso, with a general surprise, the Transitional President, Michel Kafando authorized experts to examine the supposed tomb of Captain Thomas Sankara, the father of Burkinabe Revolution, who was assassinated on October 15, 1987, during his overthrow that brought BLaise Compaore to power.

    The decision is welcomed by Thomas Sankara’s family lawyer.

    http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20141122-burkina-faso-michel-kafando-annonce-enquete-identifier-corps-sankara/

    This is a very good lesson to dictators that they think that everything can be buried. No matter to what extent justice is suppressed; time will come for justice to reveal the truth.

    Hawkum
    tes

  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    According to the Globe and Mail:

    “In their notice of civil claim, the three Eritrean plaintiffs, Gize Yebeyo Araya, Kesete Tekle Fshazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle, allege that Nevsun, by entering into a commercial relationship with the government of Eritrea, “became an accomplice to the use of forced labour, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses.”

    The report also cites Nevsun’s earlier statement:

    “Nevsun told The Globe last year that it regretted the use of any forced labour at its mine and that it no longer permitted the use of conscripted labour there. The company said it was required by the Eritrean government to use a subcontractor, Segen Construction, that is owned by Eritrea’s ruling party. Nevsun said last year that it didn’t know whether Segen had used conscripted labour in the past.”

    The claimes were reported to be:

    “…the three plaintiffs were subject to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” while forced to work at the Bisha mine, facing “long hours, malnutrition and forced confinement for little pay.” At least one worker at the mine, the claims says, died of “heat exhaustion and dehydration.” The Eritrean plaintiffs allege they “worked under the constant threat of physical punishment, torture and imprisonment.” All three plaintiffs escaped the mine, and their country, in 2011 or 2012.”

    Read Full story ..

    Regards

  • Elenta

    Nevsun(NYSEMKT:NSU) is flying high in the stock market today due to a rumor on potential takeover by QKR Corp ,headed by former JPMorgan banker ,Lloyd Pengilly. According to the report,QKR would make a bid of about $1 billion for Nevsun.

    It would be interesting to see how the market will react to this lawsuit.

  • T..T.

    Selected Quotes on End Slavery

    “If you love your children, if you love your country, if you love the God of love, clear your hands from slaves, burden not your children or country with them.”
    –Richard Allen

    Why should workers agree to be slaves in a basically authoritarian structure? They should have control over it themselves. Why shouldn’t communities have a dominant voice in running the institutions that affect their lives?
    –Noam Chomsky

    None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.
    — Pearl S. Buck

    Men would rather be starving and free than fed in bonds.
    –Pearl S. Buck