Eritreans file lawsuit against Canadian mining company for slave labour and crimes against humanity

Eritreans file lawsuit against Canadian mining company for slave labour and crimes against humanity Vancouver, November 20, 2014. Three Eritrean men filed a civil lawsuit today in a Vancouver court against Nevsun Resources Limited (TSX: NSU

Eritreans file lawsuit against Canadian mining company for slave labour and crimes against humanity

Vancouver, November 20, 2014. Three Eritrean men filed a civil lawsuit today in a Vancouver court against Nevsun Resources Limited (TSX: NSU / NYSE MKT: NSU) over the use of slave labour at Nevsun’s Bisha Mine in Eritrea.

The men allege that Nevsun’s local contractor, Segen Construction Company, which is owned by the Eritrean government’s ruling party, forced them to work on projects at the mine under abhorrent conditions and that Nevsun expressly or implicitly approved the use of slave labour, a practice alleged to be so widespread and inhumane that it constitutes crimes against humanity.

According to the lawsuit, conscripts were forcibly confined to the Bisha area, subjected to gruelling workdays and threatened with severe punishment if they left without authorization. They were made to survive on meagre rations and housed in deplorable conditions, the claim says, and all lived under a climate of constant fear and intimidation.

The claimants, who say they fled Eritrea at great personal risk, are supported in Canada by a legal team 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).

The legal team indicates that 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.

“There is no chance that these men will ever obtain justice in Eritrea, where forced labour of its citizens and other severe human rights violations are practiced on an enormous scale by the ruling party,” said Joe Fiorante, Q.C., a partner with CFM. “We assert that Nevsun should be held accountable for the tremendous harm suffered not just by the plaintiffs but all those coerced by its local contractor into working at the Bisha mine site.”

The lawsuit alleges that Nevsun knew or should have known that Segen had been implicated in slave labour and that in hiring Segen for the Bisha project – Nevsun’s only operating mine – there was a high risk slave labour would be used. The filing claims that Eritrea is a rogue, dictatorial state with one of the worst human rights records in the world, and that it conscripts workers for long periods of time.

The B.C. case follows the filing of a similar Vancouver lawsuit in June 2014 against Tahoe Resources for the shooting of protestors in Guatemala. The suit against Nevsun represents the fifth active case of its kind in Canadian courts, in addition to an action now before the Supreme Court of Canada to enforce a multi-billion dollar judgment obtained in Ecuador against Chevron for environmental destruction.

“Survivors of abuses associated with Canadian mining companies are increasingly frustrated and vocal about the lack of redress in Canada because there is no meaningful government regulation or process to seek remedies from Canadian corporations,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, CCIJ’s Legal Director. “Survivors are turning to civil lawsuits as the only means for accountability and compensation.”

Dimitri Lascaris, a partner with Siskinds, said, “There is, regrettably, a long and ignominious record in the Canadian resource sector of companies doing business with repressive regimes.” He added, “We intend to shine a bright light on these relationships, and we hope to raise the ethical bar for Canadian resources companies that are profiting from their interactions with such regimes.”

The lawsuit also advances ground-breaking claims 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.

Review overview
  • bereket November 23, 2014

    You guys we are proud of u what u are doing so we are be said of u to that of nevsun !!!!

  • Stefanos Temolso November 23, 2014

    The PFDJ mafia clique and Bisha must kneel down and relinquish everything to the Eritrean people. And the time will come sooner or later.

  • Wadbahar November 23, 2014

    In addition to the personal lawsuit of the three Eritrean citizens against the Canadian mining company for slave labour and crimes against humanity, the whole Eritrean people, including the Kunama as a particular case, should file lawsuits too, though I do not know how this could be done and who should do it on their behalf. The following couple of paragraphs constitute an offshoot of a paper I wrote few years ago to brief the Canadian media and human rights groups about the damages this company is causing to the Eritrean people in general and the Kunama as a particular case. I am re-posting it for the advantage of the readers and hoping that the legal team reads what we Eritreans are saying about this partnership of the Eritrean Nevsun Resources Inc with the dictatorship, and see if the team could cast its net wider.


    Is Nevsun Resources Inc uninformed into believing that the Eritrean government is struggling for self-reliance of the country as the government rhetoric has it or the gold producer does not care as long as it makes huge profits? Where do the investors think the money will be going? Have they ever realized that they are feeding a child killer, an Internet jailer, and one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world? How does the company justify its work in Eritrea to the Canadian people? How does the Canadian Government see the role of the company? Has the company ever tried to know what the Eritrean people say about its partnership with the regime? Isn’t the Canadian Government obliged to see to it that Canadian companies make economic decisions and determine on moral grounds who they should do business with? Is there anybody who could convince us that these investment projects do not secure the long-term financial viability and stability of the dictatorship that has one of the worst human rights records in the world? Doesn’t unconditional investment reduce any incentive for the dictatorship to improve its human rights records?

    The Kunama, a minority ethnic group and others, who were working on the traditional gold mines, are getting forcefully removed from their villages, burning their huts and shooting at them, sometimes this resulting in killings. As a result of all these forms of violence, the population of these villages for whom the traditional gold mining meant the only alternative to earn bread for their families, are not only experiencing starvation and malnutrition, but are getting displaced from the land of their ancestors. This is not different from ethnic cleansing. How can a Canadian company become a part of the conspiracy against the Eritrean people and be the guarantor of finances for the scheme of the dictatorship to prolong its life?

    An Eritrean campaign had been going in Canada, calling on the company to withdraw from investing or operating in Eritrea and doing business with the brutal dictatorship. Regardless of that, nothing has come out, as far as I know. This time, not only Eritreans but we want the Canadian media, politicians and human rights groups to be involved in the legal battle against this company.

  • Wadbahar November 23, 2014


    In my introduction (first paragraph), please read “the Eritrean Nevsun Resources Inc “ as “Nevsun Resources Inc”, and “the dictatorship” as the Eritrean dictatorship’. Thanks.

  • K. A November 24, 2014

    Thank you brothers. I support you from the bottom of my hart. Please do not hesitate to contact me. I would like to help with what ever I can.
    To all justice seekers let us support
    These brave Eritrean brothers.


  • Ahmed salih November 24, 2014

    I don’t really know going after mining company in eritrea is good for the country. I think we going to need them after we bring down the dictator and I don’t think it’s easy to find them when we need them but even if we successed to stop them from working in eritrea means it’s good for the dictator because the company is already producing right now, the government can just say I don’t care what happened to you back in your country if you want to work you can, if you don’t want to work you can leave and never come back so that mean the company will producing company behind it and I think by now some Eritreans can run it very well. Either way it will not hurt the dictator so let’s see what happens next. Even if the Canadian company is to leave the country guess who is going to take over soon? We all know that when Austrian company left eritrea Chinese company took over Zara Ming company just for your information. I think it happen last year or so.

  • John November 24, 2014

    Nevsun Mining Company should have a moral and contractual obligation to be equally fair to all employees under its recruitment; there should be a binding terms and conditions with the other party ie Eritrean regime, in place. If the terms are only those of the Eritrean regime, no question, it is doomed to be repressive and exploiting to the national employees. In this case, the Canadian mining company is a party to this wrong doing, therefore, it is accountable to meet the claims due to the poor Eritrean Employees. In preparing the law suit file, Nevsun should produce all rules, regulations and agreements. From, these anything deliberately pursued exploitation can be compared with those acts on the ground and follow the case through. By the way, what contract did/do the National Employees? This is based on some experience. Otherwise, unseating the ruling junta would be a main solution.

  • AHMED SALEH !!! November 24, 2014

    I think this way it might help to distance my identity
    from confusion with the same pen name called Ahmed salih
    by using slight change with capital letter “AHMED SALEH !!!”.

  • AHMED SALEH !!! November 24, 2014

    It is a case about forced labor injustices . To those
    Eritrean victims of exploitation who happen to reside
    in their host country , I hope your condemned voice
    will find humanity oriented society to listen the pain
    you endured and to those still under same circumstances .
    It is the beginning phase to tell the world the truth
    behind their closed secretive dealings .
    And I wish you to win your law suit case to share piece
    of the gained pie . You sweat and bled like slaves which
    is a crime in modern world . Again , good luck brothers .

  • AHMED SALEH !!! November 26, 2014

    Any Eritrean who forced to work in that gold mine
    can contact the lawyers if he/she feels a victim .
    You can refer to the interview with one of those
    who represent their case in as fast
    as possible . You never know it might help bring
    some satisfaction to settle your inner pain .