Eritrean Activists Sue EU over ‘Forced Labor Project’

ADDIS ABEBA – Eritrean human rights activists have sued the European Union (EU) and asked it to stop funding an 86mln scheme that they say relies on forced labor, the Reuters news agency reports.

The Netherlands-based foundation Human Rights for Eritreans (FHRE) filed the lawsuit in an Amsterdam court on Wednesday.

They say the EU failed to carry out due diligence on a road-building project that connects the Ethiopia-Eritrea border to the Eritrean port of Massawa.

The group’s lawyers say some of the laborers in the project belong to Eritrea’s national service, which they argue was condemned for forced labor and slavery by the United Nations and European Parliament, Reuters reports.

Human Rights Watch last year also condemned the national service for subjecting conscripts “to inhuman and degrading punishment, including torture”.

Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Ghebremeskel, questioned the credibility of the FHRE and said the lawsuit was typical of its “demonization campaigns”.

“The accusations emanate from a very small but vocal group, mostly foreigners who have an agenda of ‘regime change’ against Eritrea,” Yemane is quoted as saying by the news agency.

The EU, which last year denied the accusations, has said in its response to the suit that its actions are guided by democracy, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity and international law.