A historic case for Canadian justice that opens a legal case against a Canadian company accused of complicity in forced labor and human rights violations in the Bisha mine.
Indeed, in 2014, three Eritrean refugees filed a lawsuit against Nevsun. They report that “they felt like objects“, that they worked in harsh conditions where intimidation and physical punishment were used to force workers to perform their tasks.
According to Mr. Joe Fiorante, in charge of the complaining party, about 60 new cases arose. All report similar mistreatment to the first complaints lodged. It should be recalled that there is no group in the Bisha mine or in the rest of the country that records the complaints of workers / conscripts and defends their interests. This brings us back to the political and rule of law issues that are almost totally absent from the Eritrean landscape.
A legal apparatus under the influence of the President
The recognition of these complaints in Canada highlights an important underlying element, namely the inability of ordinary Eritrean citizens to obtain justice in their own country.
Indeed, institutions whose mission is to protect the individual against the excesses of a government or any state agent do not exist in Eritrea. This lack of just and independent institutions profoundly vulnerabilities the individual and prevents him from living and developing because his only concern is not to live, but to remain as invisible as possible to avoid attracting any attention. The slightest clash with a military superior or the slightest misinterpretation by an intelligence officer in the streets of the country can lead anyone to various forms of persecution.
The individual in Eritrea never weighs against the state or one of its agents. The evidence with these many complaints that will be processed in Canada but that could never have emerged in the courts of Asmara.
In June 2016, the UN Commission of Inquiry had recommended to the Eritrean Government “to establish without delay, independently, impartially and transparently, a judicial system ensuring access to justice for all“. To date, the Government of Eritrea has not taken any steps in this regard. Recent incidents further prove the intolerance of the Eritrean authorities to accept the legitimate and widespread dissatisfaction of the population.
European states hosting a large number of Eritrean refugees enjoy considerable leverage against the Eritrean authorities. Switzerland has recently intensified its relations with the Eritrean authorities.