HRW: Eritrea mine investors risk complicity in human rights violations

[JURIST] Investing in Eritrea's mines without assurance of fair labor practices could lead to allegations of complicity in human rights violations, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] warned [text] Tuesday. The 29-page report, titled "Hear No Evil: Forced Labor and Corporate Responsibility in Eritrea's Mining Sector," documents the failure of Vancouver-based company Nevsun Resources [corporate website] to prevent forced labor practices in the construction of its mine. Nevsun was the first company to develop an operational mine in Eritrea. After beginning its gold ore excavation in 2011, the company produced [HRW press release] upwards of $614 million worth of ore in its first year of operation. HRW alleges that the Eritrean government's national service program requires all able-bodied men and women to serve indefinitely as conscripts for the government, and it assigns some of these conscripts to state-owned construction companies. It forces citizens into terms of forced labor, and HRW claims participants are regularly subjected to torture, abuse and threats of violence against family members for misconduct or attempted desertion. The government then allegedly exerts pressure on international mining firms to hire these companies to develop the infrastructure for their projects. These allegations were also documented in a 2009 HRW report titled, Service for Life: State Repression and Indefinite Conscription in Eritrea [text].

The international community has become increasingly concern with forced labor issues and human rights abuses in Eritrea. In June UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] condemned [JURIST report] Eritrea for its failure to address the human rights violations in the country. These sentiments came on the heels of the US State Department [official website] Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 [22 USC § 78 text], which added Eritrea and five other countries to its list of countries with the worst human trafficking records. In conjunction with the report's publication, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] called for an end to what she sees as "modern slavery," and emphasized the broad global impact such trafficking can have on national economies and public health and safety.

 

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