This case involves allegations by Eritrean refugees that they were subjected to forced labor and torture at a Canadian mining company, Nevsun Resources’, mine. The plaintiffs sued Nevsun in November 2014 in Canada, alleging that through the Eritrean National Service Program they were forced to work at the Bisha Mine. The Mine was jointly developed by Nevsun and the repressive Eritrean government. The plaintiffs allege that they worked in inhumane conditions: they were forced to work long hours, suffered from malnutrition, were confined in small spaces and received little pay under the constant threat of physical punishment, torture, and imprisonment.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that the Plaintiffs can have their day in court. Nevsun appealed to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. EarthRights International submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs subsequently won the appeal, with the Court holding their claims could be heard. Nevsun appealed to the Canadian Supreme Court, and ERI, along with the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, again submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Plaintiffs.
ERI’s interventions at the Court of Appeal and the Canadian Supreme Court address two issues. First, ERI shows that the act of state doctrine under U.S. jurisprudence does not bar claims for serious human rights abuses. Second, ERI addresses the application of customary international law and shows that Alien Tort Statute jurisprudence recognizes civil claims for international law violations based on the common law; that international law need not provide a right to sue because it leaves the means of its enforcement to states; that corporations are not immune from liability for violations of customary international law; and that prohibitions in international law that are crimes can also be torts.
On January 23, 2019 the Supreme Court of Canada held a hearing in the case. Watch it here.