By Yared Tesfay,
A JOINT event of the Solicitors International Human Rights Group (SIHRG) and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) UK that was the third part in a series convened by SIHRG on Eritrea and the development of Business, Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility. It discussed key issues facing Eritrea from the development of its natural resources through to migration and trafficking.
On 15th June 2015, therefore, the third part of this series was conducted in Lancaster Gate with a panel consisting of Lloyd Lipsett, an international human rights lawyer, Todd Romaine, Vice President Corporate Social Responsibility of Nevsun, Lindira Kartallozi, Crysalis Family Futures and Simon Tesfamariam on Eritrean Human Trafficking.
Lidra Kartallozi is from Kosovo that was once a refugee and her reflection of the country’s shift from oppressive to a UN administered state and now to a notoriously rife with organised crime and corruption is eyeopening. She jokingly said that she calls Kosovo the ‘designer state‘ because the UN had taken it upon itself to supposedly create a utopia of a state.
In spite of this, she bitterly stated “Even though, Kosovo was under an oppressive regime prior to the UN, organised crime was very low and corruption unheard of. Now, it has gotten so severe that even high government officials are accused of organised crime.” It paints a very vivid picture of the effectiveness or lack there of, of the UN. At the wake of the allegations of UN soldiers sexually abusing children in CAR and consequently attempting to dismiss the whistle blower makes one question the very essence of the organisation.
The extensive presentations by the Nevsun CSR Vice President and Mr. Lipsett unsurprisingly starts with the expectations they had of Eritrea on the basis of the reports they’ve read and the actual reality of the situation in Eritrea. It was explained as a ‘stark difference’.
The presentation highlighted the extremely flawed methodology conducted by the Commission of Inquiries (#COIEritrea) on their report on Eritrea. It has been confirmed by Nevsun and third parties that the Eritrean government had already taken steps to ensure the safety and integrity of the mining employees by hiring Colorado School of Mines to assist with the development of mining laws.
This has been furthered by Nevsun by introducing various methods of assessing the welfare of the workers at the Bisha mine and also launched a pilot program of formal human rights training for security personnel on site.
Interestingly, Mr. Lipsett contradicts the reports of foreigners’ visits to Eritrea where they claim to have been under surveillance by their ‘handlers’. During his assessments in Eritrea, his report states that he independently carried out the assessments without the interference of the government and had carried out interviews with over 150 employees of the mine both of the day and night shifts. The questioning also included foreign employees to gather a holistic impartial assessment.
The report found that the employees had to provide documents that verify their discharge from the national service prior to employment and are required to wear photo IDs to avoid unofficial employees from working there. Quite a contradiction to what the Commission of Inquiries stated in its long misguided report.
But, what is even more interesting is that Nevsun and Mr. Lipsett contacted the Commission of Inquiries on numerous occasions to provide the assessments they’ve conducted as well as the interviews of employees from Bisha. There was no response, and so the report relied solely on asylum seekers that have conflict of interest.
It is from events such as this that one could have a clear perspective of the current situation of human rights in Eritrea. It would have been perhaps useful if panelists with a different viewpoint would have joined the discussion. However, the request was met with abuse and harassment to the organizers of the series.
Chair: Ruby Sandhu, Vice Chair of SIHRG
Mr Todd Romaine, VP Corporate Social Responsibility, Nevsun Resources Limited.
Todd will discuss business operations in Eritrea and the recent CSR Report and the company’s vision to generate shared prosperity through its business operations. This objective means much more than just generating economic benefit. It also means protecting the safety and health of employees, mitigating environmental impacts from its activities, respecting the human rights of its workers and the residents of the communities in which it operates, and contributing to the sustainable development of those communities.
Lloyd Lipsett, LKL International.
Lloyd is an international human rights lawyer with over 15 years of experience working with leading companies, governments, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations and indigenous peoples. He has developed a niche in the field of human rights impact assessment with a focus on extractive industry projects and free trade agreements. He has special expertise on indigenous peoples rights, economic, social and cultural rights and stakeholder engagement.
Indira Kartallozi, Chrysalis Family Futures.
Indira is the founder and director of Chrysalis Family Futures – a social enterprise that stands for protection and empowering of human and socio-economic rights of vulnerable and marginalised families and children. Indira has 15-year experience and on issues of migration and human rights. Her work with Chrysalis Family Futures has taken her to various countries in Africa, Europe and Latin America.
Simon Tesfamariam, Trafficking in Eritrea.
Simon is the founder and director of the Red Sea Institute, an Asmara-based think tank, whose mission is to advance sustainable peace, economic development, and social progress in the Red Sea Basin and Horn of Africa sub-region. He is an active blogger on Eritrean issues and has written extensively on human trafficking and migration. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Washington and is currently a student at Duke University School of Medicine.