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Sensationalised Journalism: Deconstructing CBC's Fifth Estate's Documentary on Eritrea

CBC's The Fifth Estate created one of the most sensationalized, biased and false documentaries on Eritrea.

As an individual who has made a number of visits to Eritrea on various mandates including independently I express deep concern at the content which was unduly biased, sensationalised and inflammatory and where premised on themes presumptively predicated on subversive agendas including where reference was made to:

1.Eritrea as the Pariah state, a brutal dictatorship;

2.Sensationalised Migration: Brutal Dictatorship provided as the reason for the Migration;

3.Allegations of Eritrea’s destabilising role and Links to Terrorism through its receipts of Nevsun Resources Limited (Nevsun) mining revenues;

4.Nevsun's alleged complicity with Eritrea in destabilisation and terrorism of neighbouring countries through its mining operations and ensuing revenues to the Government of Eritrea; and

5.Responsible Mining v Nevsun's alleged complicity with Eritrea in destabilisation and terrorism of neighbouring countries through its mining operations and ensuing revenues to the Government of Eritrea.

I will address each of these headings below.

Eritrea as the Pariah state, a brutal dictatorship

Defining Eritrea as a pariah state and dictator makes no reference to the fact that the Government of Eritrea has received a number of credentials recently. Eritrea is a responsible member of various international and regional organizations including the UN, the AU, COMESA, Cin-SAD etc.

Eritrea has over 27 Embassies in all major capitals (US, China, Germany, Japan, UK, France, India, Italy, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, The Sudan, Southern Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Yemen, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, etc…) and non-resident Ambassadors to virtually all UN Member States.

In addition, there is deployment by the EU through its European Development Fund (EDF), 11th EDF cooperation programme for 200 million Euros earlier in February 2016 a number of capacity building and infrastructure projects to assist in the country’s nation building and development.

At the bilateral level, Eritrea has ongoing cooperation programmes with China, Japan, India, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and a number of European countries.

Eritrea has also cultivated unhindered investment and ties with all prospective countries; in the extractive industries alone, 17 foreign companies from Canada, Australia, China, the UK, Russia and South Africa have acquired prospecting, exploration as well as exploitation licenses.

Furthermore, Eritrea enjoys ties of economic cooperation with several countries and multilateral institutions including all UN Development Agencies; the Africa Development Bank etc.

Further no mention was made of the exemplary work carried out by the Government of Eritrea on economic rights including engagement with the UN on a number of successful projects and the successful implementation of a number of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and commencement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Or that Eritrea acceded to the UNs Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) on 25 September 2014 and as a response to the Universal Periodic Review of 2009 and 2014.

The Danish Immigration Services Report states emphatically, “there is a lot of misinformation about Eritrea in circulation. Ethiopia and some diaspora societies are responsible for the distorted and wrong image Eritrea has had abroad. Some international human rights organizations have published extremely critical reports on the human rights situation in Eritrea despite the fact that they have never set foot in the country and they rely heavily on biased sources of information.’[1] Subsequent to this report there have been a number of representations from various delegations referring to the sensationalized and distortive narrative prevalent on Eritrea.

Your selection of individuals for interview were specifically sought as individuals who were of an opinion or emphatic to continue either the sensationalized narrative and were themselves either biased and some without credibility or legitimacy and for reasons as set out below. A genuine well researched and balanced documentary would have followed through on other opinions and importantly carried out research with the appropriate due diligence which would have included a balanced response and on the allegations that were being made.

Michaela Wrong has not been to Eritrea or met with the President for over a decade. There are a number of individuals who have met with the President recently including Bronwyn Bruton of the Atlantic Council who met and interviewed the President in 2015 and her opinion on this meeting can be openly found on the world wide web. She was not interviewed.

Erwin Cotler, sub committee of international human rights (2012) reference to Eritrea as the North Korea of Africa, a sensationalized reiteration. A more recent visit and updated account of the situation in Eritrea including mining operations and activities around the implementation of policies on human rights could have been provided through easily accessible and publicly available footage from Scott Reid, Chair of the Parliamentary sub committee on Human Rights 2013 visit to Eritrea.

Matt Brydon, who was retained to carry out the investigative inquiry as referred to was not in a position to provide credible testimony as no reference was made to the fact that he had been dismissed on allegations of bias. Further at 28:04 – Bryden states that the Company assured the SEMG that none of revenues were used for military purposes. This is an incorrect statement as research shows that Nevsun were never asked to provide any assurances to that effect.

Elsya Chyrum. A know activist with a regime change agenda. Her campaign is funded through the National Endowment of Democracy (NED). She has never visited Eritrea and the reference to her as an “exiled Eritrean” is therefore incorrect.

Abdinor Soriyan, a former gun runner. Extraordinary that you would place credibility on his story without researching carefully the references he provided as part of any sensible due diligence.

The plaintiff in the Canadian case against Nevsun – you did no research as to the credibility of his sweeping statements. No inquiry was made of Nevsun to test the legitimacy of the information where they would have been informed that there are affidavits that confirm that despite a thorough search of comprehensive payroll and visitor records that there is no evidence that either Kisete and Mihrtab were ever at the mine.

The reference to “An unhinged dictator” was made by – Ambassador Ronald McMullen, 05/03/2003 in “An unhinged dictator: is Eritrea unravelling”. Ronald McMullen is known for his subversive regime change agenda and as disclosed in wikileak cables.

The irresponsible framing by CBS of the Government of Eritrea’s 40% equity stake in the mining company as the actions of a dictatorial regime as instead of innovative and protective actions by a Government of its natural resources to ensure responsible and sustainable development and exploitation as compared to the case studies of many other African countries rife with negative exploitation of their resources and the resource curse and at the behest of foreign companies with little or no benefit to the people of those countries and the ensuing risk of expropriation on change of Governments was never discussed or provided as a comparative assessment of the advantages of such a equity stake. Further this was an investment by a Government at a high level of risk and reward and to ensure that externalities were minimized and that there was adherence to the country’s national development goals.

The character and lifestyle of the President does little to serve the image of corruption that your reference to Pariah state and Brutal Dictator implies and as to the mining revenues. The President is known to live simply and walk the streets of Asmara with little or no entourage. The reference to a brutal dictator or North Korea of Africa, that is, sensationalized news memes do not provide the ground reality. Thus the pejorative appellation of the “North Korea of Africa” is used to sully the image of Eritrea by its arch-enemies. As one knowledgeable Ambassador quipped: “Those who call Eritrea as the North Korea of Africa have never been to Eritrea and do not certainly know North Korea”. There is no analogy between the two countries in terms of cultural, political, and economic policies and philosophies.

Evidence of a campaign against Eritrea is the Government of Eritrea’s reference to a letter in its possession: circulated by a senior member of the SEMG that compromises his professional neutrality and exposes his active association with an agenda of “regime change” above and beyond his entrusted mandate…[and this] must have a bearing on the credibility of the entire report.[3] This letter amplifies and provides support and legitimacy for the Danish Immigration Services Report, which does much to dispel the current narrative of representing Eritrea as the North Korea of Africa, and categorically states that, “Eritrea is victim of a huge propaganda war.”[4]

2. Sensationalised Migration: Brutal Dictatorship provided as the reason for the Migration

Even poor communities living in mud huts in many villages scattered across Eritrea have access to satellite and western TV channels. Media and other factors including economic and as referred to in the Government of Eritrea’s statements of the push and pull factors of the West that have been affecting the mass migration and the resulting opportunistic actions of traffickers were never provided opportunity to be discussed.

Further reference in the footage at 31.34 states that the “UN estimates that 400,000 fled in recent years” this did not reflect the true position and as evidenced in reports. A Western Embassy in Eritrea referred to the fact that: ‘Ethiopians present themselves as Eritreans and apply for asylum in Europe. It is very difficult to distinguish between Eritreans and Ethiopians especially if the latter are from the Tigray region in the northern part of Ethiopia where most people share the culture and language with the Tigray people in Eritrea.’[5]

There was no mention made of organized and targeted trafficking of migrants by and criminal gangs. The Eritrean Government expressed concern that the allegations of individuals fleeing is in fact an undercurrent of organized human trafficking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, disseminated in a Press Statement issued 20th November 2014, the following response with regards to the alleged illegal migration of Eritreans as a push and pull phenomenon, stating:

pull factors have been immensely augmented in recent years by deliberate policies of certain government and agencies who chose to encourage, for sinister political purposes, the youth to defect from the National Military Service through various inducements.

Slanderous labeling of the prolonged National Service as “slave or forced labor” was and is peddled to spice up and rationalize these policies.

What is conveniently glossed over here is the fact that mandatory, 18 month period, National Military Service is prolonged solely because of Ethiopia’s occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories and its continued belligerence in breach of international law.”

These deliberate policies coupled with “frantic activities by organized human trafficking” and the UNHCR has…for over ten years, an unwitting catalyst in bolstering the pull factors by invariably categorizing all Eritrean migrants as “prima facie asylum seekers.’

Further the Government, requested the UN Secretary General to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the various facets of organized human trafficking. This is also why it is currently involved in the regional efforts at curbing illegal migration and human trafficking. The UNHCR can be part of this constructive process if it is really prepared to review its past, misguided policies.’

The Government of Eritrea has engaged with the AU and their sponsored Regional Conference on Human Trafficking and Smuggling in the Horn of Africa held in Khartoum, Sudan in 2014 and agreed to cooperate with the EU on its implementation of the European Development Fund program and over migration issues.[6]

Further the President’s address at these above mentioned events addressed four key points on trafficking and migration issues: (i) Recognized the critical nature of the issues and the need for concrete measures and within specified timeframes and [to] make a positive difference for irregular migrants and victims of human trafficking as well as address the legitimate concerns of the countries of origin, transit and destination. (ii) Action, to develop the political, economic, social and cultural environment that would provide opportunities for our young people to live and thrive in their own country. Engaged in a sustained and promising effort to transform economy and develop human resources, specially the education, health, skills, fortitude and initiative of the youth. Specific program to bring tangible change in the lives of the people within three to five years, positive change which will also have a significant impact on current migration patterns. (iii) To Work closely and mutually in beneficial partnership with regional countries to address the problems of irregular migration and the crime of human trafficking. More broadly and importantly, Eritrea is actively engaged in promoting regional cooperation and integration as a strategically located, maritime country, it stands to gain from regional peace, stability and cooperation. (iv) Eritrea values partnership with the EU and is determined to work with the EU and all European Countries to tackle irregular migration and human trafficking and to address their root causes. Call for an urgent review of European migration policies towards Eritreans, as they are based on incorrect information, something that is being increasingly acknowledged. Call on the EU and all European countries to increase their all sided engagement and cooperation with Eritrea and the entire Horn of Africa in a partnership focused on peace security, trade and investment that will benefit both the region and Europe. [7]

The interview with the young fifteen year old girl did not ask the pertinent and highly relevant question of why she had left Eritrea? Instead focusing on how long she had been at the Sudanese refugee camp. Research carried out over the last 15 years on all of the six-zoba regions referring to education at the elementary (7-11), middle (12-14) showed an increase in attendance of 7.2 and 8.7 per cent respectively. However the statistics did provide evidence that secondary level (15-18) attendance had decreased by 4.8 per cent.[8] The Minister of Education provided the response of nation building, through clear campaigns and initiatives, set in motion in schools for community, building, ensuring the young were being educated on agriculture, sustainability and desertification with volunteers paid a nominal amount for their efforts. Eritrea’s extensive terracing and planting of trees, across the landscape of Eritrea can only have been possible through the community and national action and service campaigns. The question is exactly what was the reason for the young Eritrean at the age of 15 years to leave Eritrea and certainly not as may have been implied that the young girl was subject to slave labor.

The refugee figures (approximately 400,000 etc) are highly inflated. This is due to the misguided policy of granting automatic asylum to Eritrea’s economic migrants, Ethiopians and others routinely pose as “Eritreans” in order to obtain political asylum status easily. The Austrian Ambassador to Ethiopia recently announced that 60% of asylum-seekers in Austria were Ethiopians although they had applied as Eritreans. The figures for Switzerland are estimated at 40%. Sudan’s Immigration Office recently revealed that there are 2 million illegal Ethiopian migrants in the Sudan while the figure for Eritrea was 200,000. UNHCR report in last December states that from March until December 2015 last year, about 92,000 people entered Yemen illegally through the Red Sea. 90% of these migrants were Ethiopians while the remaining 10% were Somalis. All these figures and trends illustrate that the number of “Eritrean refugees” is hugely exaggerated and incorporates Ethiopian refugees. This could have easily been ascertained from very

Eritrea and UNHCR are currently engaged in extensive discussions to rectify the latter’s misguided “eligibility guidelines” issued in 2009 and 2011 respectively and that argued for “automatic asylum” to Eritrean migrants. A senior delegation from the UNHCR visited Eritrea last July which has resulted in continued dialogue. Eritrea has submitted a detailed rebuttal to the allegations contained in UNHCR’s eligibility guidelines. The latter reports were not based on facts but mere compilation of previous, slanderous reports from notorious Eritrea detractors. Eritrea subsequently expects the UNHCR to review and rescind its earlier guidelines.

3. The Commission of Inquiry Report (“COI”)

The UN Human Rights Council provided a mandate for a Commission of Inquiry and appointed Mike Smith of Australia and Victor Dankwa of Ghana along with Ms. Keetharuth (Special Rapporteur) to investigate the allegation of egregious human rights violations as referred to in the Human Rights Watch Report and the UN Report, which include, forced conscription as part of the National Service, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearances, torture, lack of freedom of expression, of opinion and assembly. This investigation was premised on the Special Rapporteurs and continued investigation conducted during her five day mission to Italy where she met with Eritrean refugees and migrants. Concern is expressed with regard to these findings as they rely heavily on evidence of refugees seeking asylum to promote a specific narrative of a repressive police state. Importantly the shoot to kill policy referred to in international human rights report has been strongly refuted in the Danish Immigration Service Report, referring to an international organization’s findings that there are ‘no hard facts concerning the so called “shoot-to kill” order to Eritrean soldiers at the border to Ethiopia.’.[9] Further another unidentified source stated that they had ‘never been aware of a “shoot to kill” policy at the border and neither had heard of anyone being shot while trying to get to Ethiopia. Instead relatives share the news when individuals reach a neighboring country as they receive phone calls from community members and extended family.’[10] Further a Western Embassy stated, “that there could be anecdotal reports about someone having been shot near the border. However such stories are most likely not true as it is hard to believe that Eritrean soldiers would shoot at fellow citizens.”[11]

4. Allegations of Eritrea’s destabilising role and Links to Terrorism through mining revenue

The insidious juxtaposition as between Nevsun, its operations and the use of the revenues by the Government of Eritrea to fund extremist groups to Al Shabbab and Al Kida is highly irresponsible. Balanced research would have provided the Government of Eritrea’s response to the allegations as well as the concern of the politicisation of the situation as was revealed in openly available UN public documentation.

The distorted perception of Eritrea throughout the broadcast was not balanced by the asymmetry of relations as between the West and Ethiopia, referred to under Meles as an “indispensable partner to stability in the region, the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is “frozen”[12] including excessive aid packages and investment into Ethiopia further fractures any hope for conciliation between these two countries. This is despite the awareness that Ethiopia continued to pursue an aggressive policy toward Eritrea.’[13]

A damning indictment of Western behaviour and the asymmetry and Ethiopia’s confidence in its violation of the Boundary Commission’s ruling[14] was provided by the Republican Rohrbacher in his recorded Chairing of a session on water conflicts as between Ethiopia and Egypt,[15] referring to the “unethical and strategic blunders of the handling of the Ethiopia Eritrea war and boundary dispute in 1998-2000, by the Clinton administration, leading to more tension and conflict. Moreover, the US’ harmful role was further compounded when Ethiopia – supported by the US – invaded Somalia in 2006, leading to a sharp rise in terror and insecurity in the region.” Rohrabacher further provides a narrative that has not been allowed to enter the mainframe debate or discussion in the West, by the media or political discourse, to do so would undermine the geopolitical arrangement in the West, more specifically as between the USA, Europe, Israel and Ethiopia – this is: For over a decade, Eritrea has been the scapegoat for the ills of the Horn of Africa – sanctioned, characterized as intransigent, and bearing the brunt of the blame for the region’s instability, conflicts, and tensions. In direct contrast, Ethiopia has been held up as a strong US and western partner, receiving millions of dollars in aid. In 2011, it was the world’s fifth largest recipient of official humanitarian aid and received $3.6 Billion in total assistance,[16] representing between 50-60 per cent of its total budget.[17] Additionally, Ethiopia’s 2011 share of total official development assistance – approximately 4 per cent – placed it behind only Afghanistan.[18]

And recent evidence was the leaked Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs document sent on the 20th February 2014 to all its diplomatic missions, whereby the State Minister Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos had instructed his diplomats, inter alia: to constantly provide information to the security and intelligence agencies of the countries of the region so that they will understand and explain Eritrea’s destabilizing role in the region….to lobby member states of the UNSC to accept the reports of the SEMG as credible; and ….to develop close relations with the relevant departments in the UN Secretariat in order to ensure that the reports are in line Ethiopia’s position, or at least don’t hurt Ethiopia’s position.[19]

You made no reference to Eritrea’s continued inquiry on the legality, fairness and justification of this asymmetric approach of “regional destabilisation” and as against Eritrea.

The SEMG is acutely aware that Ethiopia is fully involved in blatant acts of destabilization against Eritrea. Addis Ababa hosts several armed subversive groups that intermittently unleash terrorist forays into Eritrea. These acts are in the public domain as they are publicized almost routinely by these groups and by Ethiopia’s official media outlets.[20] The Government of Eritrea reiterates in spite of all of these facts, the SEMG routinely invokes ‘mandate limitations’ to ignore Ethiopia’s egregious acts of regional destabilization while it turns every stone to “validate” fabricated accusations against Eritrea that primarily emanate from Ethiopian military and security officials, and its international allies.[21]

Importantly the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), found no evidence of Eritrean support to Al‑Shebaab during the course of its present mandate. The Monitoring Group does not, however, rule out the possibility that Eritrea may be providing some assistance to elements within Al-Shebaab without detection, but it is the overall assessment of the Monitoring Group that Eritrea is a marginal actor in Somalia, and increased public scrutiny by the international community has made any direct support to Al-Shebaab much riskier.[22]

The Government of Eritrea refers to a pattern of UN Security Council decisions for sanctions established on spurious grounds through its monitoring groups.[23] This has been recognised in the past by European representatives when they refer to the long arm of Ethiopia behind the sanctions initiative(s).[24] UN Resolution 1907, which imposed sanctions against Eritrea was the result of accusations that 2000 soldiers had been sent by Eritrea to Somalia. This was despite an acute awareness of the potential of creating another Afghanistan by applying Eritrea-focused sanctions,[25] on the basis of tenuous evidence. In a letter to the Somali-Eritrea Monitoring Group, the Eritrean Government stated:[26]

This deliberate disinformation was not seriously questioned at the time and was quietly discarded later once it had served its purpose. The SEMG did not take the trouble to apologise to Eritrea and/or correct this baseless information even in retrospect.

The next false accusation was to accuse Eritrea of airlifting weapons to Al-Shebaab through Baidoa, UNSC Resolution 2023, the Eritrean Government states: ..this calculated and deliberate disinformation was quietly discarded after it had achieved its intended objective of tightening sanctions against Eritrea……[further] associating Eritrea with rebel groups in South Sudan reported by the SEMG to the Sanctions Committee, [was] under dubious validation procedures.

Eritrea’s rapidly emerging economic potential, particularly through its natural resource copper and gold, is blighted heavily by the above factors and development is therefore limited to being a slow and gradual process. The receipt of mining royalties and tax by the Government of Eritrea is minimal in comparison to its public expenditure on education, health, food security and infrastructural projects and programmes. It does not even cover the country’s annual food import bill.[27] And therefore the Government of Eritrea asserts, SEMG conduct through the issuance of due diligence guidelines [with regard to mining payments and receipts] seems to have been prompted by an unhealthy desire to harass Eritrea and scare potential investors in the mining sector rather than sincere concern on the misuse of mining revenues, which the SEMG has so far failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt.’[28]

This was further reiterated in the Government of Eritrea’s letter dated 14th July 2014, as part of the documentation compiled for Somali Eritrea Monitoring Group, for “the need for Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) to respect the standards for investigation as stipulated in the Report of the Informal Working Group of the Security Council on General Issues of Sanctions (S/2006/997), which inter-alia, underscores the need for expert panels to rely on verified information and documents, and ensure that their “assertions are corroborated by solid information and documents, and that their findings are substantiated by credible sources”……The principle of transparency, objectivity and impartiality must be respected.’ [29]

A Freedom House report on Eritrea carried out in 2011 referred to the lack of fiscal transparency, resulting from PFDJ’s operations, tax collection and party finances, which information is not publicly available and allegedly are not known between members of the PFDJ itself.[30] These concerns were reiterated in the Security Council’s report (S/2012/545), issued on 13 July 2012.[31] The Government’s response to the suggested due diligence in relation to transparency of mining revenue[32] was met with concern that such measures would dampen investment opportunities and economic growth and were therefore unjustifiable. The Government further refused to engage with the Security Council’s monitoring group on gold exports.[33] The Government of Eritrea (GOE) states:

Revenues that the GOE obtains from mining and / or other activities are funnelled into the government’s coffers. Once annual budget allocations are determined by the Government through its normative institutional bodies and established procedures, the appropriation of the budget is administered by the Treasury in a holistic manner….revenues from mining in 2011 until the first half of this year in the past four years have fluctuated every year but do not exceed 150 million US dollars when averaged over the same period. Leaving Government expenditures on education, health etc. aside, GOEs annual food imports for essential consumables exceed 200 million US dollars.[34]

Eritrea finds the laborious attention that the SEMG has given to “mining revenues” quite inexplicable and counter productive. It also exceeds its overview as spelled out in the sanctions resolutions.[35] IF the SEMG has incontrovertible evidence that these revenues are funnelled for “acts of destabilization” in violation of the UNSC Resolutions, as it is insinuating, it must publish these figures with all the necessary details.[36]

5. Responsible Mining v Nevsun's alleged complicity with Eritrea in destabilisation and terrorism of neighbouring countries through its mining operations and ensuing revenues to the Government of Eritrea.

The timeline of the events was distorted and provided a confusing picture of the reality of operations. Nevsun had already commenced explorations in Eritrea in 1998 and a deposit was located in 2003 with the application for EIA licenses and construction in 2008 and the commencement of operations in 2011. This is with reference to the allegation of the Government’s crackdown of journalists Aaron Berhane.

Eritrea’s domestic law establishes an obligation to conduct an impact assessment in order to obtain a license for mining operations. In A Proclamation to Promote The Development of Mineral Resources Article 43(2(f-g) requires: An applicant for a mining license to submit an environmental impact study before the granting of the license; and without prejudice to prior commitment of the licensee, require that a licensee sell all or a portion of his minerals to the Government, to a legal person owned by it, or to another Eritrean person subject to the payment of the international market price prevailing at the time of the sales transaction.[37]

In response to the allegations, BMSC commenced the process of implementing initiatives and screening (confirmation from personnel hired that they were not part of the Eritrean National Service) to ensure processes and grievance mechanisms were put in place as part of the improved policies, including guarantees and site visits[38] and conducted interviews in an attempt to install good human rights procedures.[39].

Further references at 14.46 The Company’s press release described as an apology “regret if…were..conscripts…” The key word here is “IF”, no mention was made of the fact that the Company had found no such evidence and have repeatedly denied the use of conscripts. This was also incorrectly repeated at 16.45.

In addition the reference at 15.02 “Cliff Davis called on the carpet” is not true, Company voluntarily presented at the subcommittee on International Human rights and not as was stated at the direction of the Government of Canada. This reiterates the ongoing commitment to proactive transparent dialogue with all of the stakeholders. Lloyd Lipsett the independent international human rights lawyer was retained by the Company well over one and a half years before the UN Commission of Inquiry filed their report on Eritrea. It is therefore inaccurate to suggest that the Company only responded to the UN’s Report in June 2015. The Company had already commissioned a full independent human rights impact assessment in 2014 and an independent audit had already started in 2015 during the time period that the UN released its findings. The Company attempted contact with the COI for many months as well as submitted key documents but were never given the opportunity to engage despite evidence to the contrary on the development and evolution of Business and Human Rights and corporate Social Responsibility.

At 16.40 reference is made to the Company doing a 180 on the issue of national service. The Company never admitted to the use of national service but was committed to ongoing due diligence on this matter. Based on international and external investigations there was no shred of evidence to validate the allegations being made about the Bisha mine. If evidence did surface in the future then that is where the Company would express regret and take steps to remedy the situation.

The Company in its 2013 CSR report put forward the following constructive actions:

Improved stakeholder engagement programme to invite feedback from both Eritreans and Canadians;

Engaged with stakeholders and communities and in Eritrea;

Provided extensive disclosure in its CSR Report (using the current G4 GRI Sustainability Guidelines);

Disclosed payments to the Government of Eritrea, even though Eritrea itself is not a member of EITI[40].

Implemented training for all of its employees on the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights; and

Working towards alignment with the IFC 2012 Performance Standard for Social and Environmental Sustainability.

The Company’s 2013 CSR report, ‘Positive Directions’ (published, 10 April 2014) shows a marked and concerted effort to address its human rights impact and improve BMSC’s financial transparency[41] followed by a progressive CSR video on YouTube.[42]

The Company subsequently in 9 April 2014 published, a summary of its Human Rights Impact Report (‘HRIA’) [43] undertaken by an independent international human rights lawyer – Lloyd Lipsett – following his visits to the Bisha mine in October 2013 and January 2014.

In response to the questions raised by the sub committee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to the Company’s important economic role in the region, the following constructive key points were disseminated of the Company’s actions, to date (inter alia):

High levels of local employment

Training programs for the local community

Considerable taxation revenue provided to the Government which in turn has been used for the country and infrastructure

Adding value to the relation between Canada and Eritrea

Full disclosure through its CSR efforts and HRIA report

Robust environmental program

Excellent health and safety record

Creation of grievance mechanisms

This was information that could easily have been easily obtained from the public domain. Progressive journalism requires intelligent and balanced perspectives where the public is intelligently informed of all aspects in order that they can make an informed opinion as instead of being provided one sensationalised narrative which further polarises and divides the issues and potentially impacts the peace and stability in the region.


[1] Danish Immigration Services (August October 2014) Eritrea – Drivers and Root Causes of Emigration, National Service and the Possibility of Return p30.

[2] Promoting educational opportunity for ant-regime Eritrean youth Embassy Eritrea. Accessed 11 December 2014

[3] Government of Eritrea correspondence, dated13 August 2014 (S/AC.29/2014/NOTE.79/Add.1).

[4] Danish Immigration Service (August and October 2014). Eritrea – Drivers and Root Causes of Emigration, National Service and the Possibility of Return. P42.

[5] Danish Immigration Service (August and October 2014). Eritrea – Drivers and Root Causes of Emigration, National Service and the Possibility of Return. P49

[6] Danish Immigration Service (August and October 2014). Eritrea – Drivers and Root Causes of Emigration, National Service and the Possibility of Return. P45

[7] Press Statement by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea on UNHCR: Part of the problem of illegal immigration, dated 20th November 2014.

[8] Ministry of education, Asmara, Eritrea December 2012

[9] Danish Immigration Service (August and October 2014). Eritrea – Drivers and Root Causes of Emigration, National Service and the Possibility of Return..P29

[10] Danish Immigration Service (August and October 2014). Eritrea – Drivers and Root Causes of Emigration, National Service and the Possibility of Return..P36

[11] Danish Immigration Service (August and October 2014). Eritrea – Drivers and Root Causes of Emigration, National Service and the Possibility of Return..P43

[12] Europeans track US on East Africa but remain reluctant to sanction Eritrea. 2009 November 18. 09:20. Accessed 11 December 2014.

[13] Europeans track US on East Africa but remain reluctant to sanction Eritrea. 2009 November 18. 09:20. Accessed 11 December 2014.

[15] (begins at 6:20) accessed 5 December 2014.

[18] (begins at 6:20) accessed 5 December 2014.

[19] Eritrea’s Response to the Information Request Contained in Letter S/AC.29/2014/SEMG/C.14. 14th July 2014.

[20] UN Security Council SEMG S/2014/727. 13 October 2014. Eritrea’s Response to the Information Request Contained in Letter S/AC.29/2014/SEMG/C.14. 14th July 2014.

[21] Eritrea’s Response to the Information Request Contained in Letter S/AC.29/2014/SEMG/C.14. 14th July 2014. UN Security Council SEMG S/2014/727. 13 October 2014

[22] Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council resolution 2111 (2013). UN Security Council SEMG S/2014/727. 13 October 2014

[23] Government of Eritrea correspondence, dated 13 August 2014 (S/AC.29/2014/NOTE.79/Add.1).

[24] Europeans track US on East Africa but remain reluctant to sanction Eritrea. 2009 November 18. 09:20

[25] Europeans track US on East Africa but remain reluctant to sanction Eritrea . 2009 November 18. 09:20. Para 10 ( c )

[26] Eritrea’s Response to the Information Request Contained in Letter S/AC.29/2014/SEMG/C.14. 14th July 2014. UN Security Council SEMG S/2014/727. 13 October 2014

[27] Eritrea’s Response to the Information Request Contained in Letter S/AC.29/2014/SEMG/C.14. 14th July 2014. UN Security Council SEMG S/2014/727. 13 October 2014

[28] Eritrea’s Response to the Information Request Contained in Letter S/AC.29/2014/SEMG/C.14. 14th July 2014. UN Security Council SEMG S/2014/727. 13 October 2014

[29] United Nations Security Council. S/2014/727. Pursuant to Resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Eritrea and Somalia. 13 October 2014.

[30] Connell, D. 2011. Freedom House. ‘Countries at the Crossroads 2011: Eritrea’. [online]. [viewed 21 April 2014]. Available from:

[31] United Nations Security Council. 2012. ‘Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council resolution 2002 (2011): S/2012/545’. [online]. [viewed 21 April 2014]. Available from: CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/Somalia%20S%202012%20545.pdf

[32] Namely resolutions: 1844 (2008), 1862 (2009), 1907 (2009) and 2023 (2011).

[33] Idem at 19, paragraphs 109 and 110.

[34] Government of Eritrea correspondence, dated13 August 2014 (S/AC.29/2014/NOTE.79/Add.1).

[35] Government of Eritrea correspondence, dated13 August 2014 (S/AC.29/2014/NOTE.79/Add.1).

[36] Government of Eritrea correspondence, dated13 August 2014 (S/AC.29/2014/NOTE.79/Add.1).

[37] A Proclamation to Promote The Development of Mineral Resources No. 68/1995.

[38] Ibid., pp.22-23.

[39] Human Rights Watch (January 2013), pp.20-21.

[40] Idem at 70

[41] For Nevsun’s 2013 CSR report see:

[42] Available via: CSR

[43] See:
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