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Gross Misrepresentation: Protection of Human Rights or perpetuating repression in Eritrea

By Petros Tesfagiorgis [caption id="attachment_30360" align="alignleft" width="823"] A one day display in parliament square symbolizes life of 2500 drowned in the Sea, among them 400 children. It is meant to remind Parliamentarians and passers-by to never

By Petros Tesfagiorgis

A one day display in parliament square symbolizes life of 2500 drowned in the Sea, among them 400 children. It is meant to remind Parliamentarians and passers-by to never let people drown in the Sea again.

A meeting titled “Protection of Human Rights in Eritrea” chaired by Ruby Sandhu took place on Thursday 6 April 2017 at the University of Westminster-London: The speakers were:

Ruby Sandhu: a non-practicing senior solicitor, focusing on Business and Human Rights. She is the vice Chair of the Solicitor’s International Human Rights Group (SIHRG) and a Trustee of the Society of Mediators.  Ms Sandhu is of course the author of a small booklet “Eritrea – through the lens of nation building, business ethics & sustainability”. Habte Hagos – chairman of Eritrea Focus – has sent a review to SIHRG revealing its inaccuracies and that she is ill-informed.

Sara Pantuliano, MD at ODI specialist in Humanitarian and Development work overseas, Indira Kartallozi, Migrant Entrepreneurs International, and Todd Romaine, CSR VP of Nevsun Resources limited.

Ruby apparently visits Eritrea regularly and aims to paint a rosy picture of the situation in the country. At this meeting, she showed videos of students in classrooms, workers union activities and the health services.  She goes on to say all is good in Eritrea.  Her mission is to appeal to Eritreans in Diaspora (as if they do not know any better) to understand the situation in their own homeland, to engage with their Government and be part of the drive to develop the country economically.  As such to win support from the EU and put pressure to EU governments to appease the repressive nation.

Sara talked about world migration in general which said is in the millions.  She said people migrate for various reasons. Some due to sheer poverty, some to have a better life in the Western democratic countries, other because of religious and political persecution.  She implied that it is not new for the people of Eritrea.  She avoided saying anything specific to Eritrea or the ongoing repression there.

The talk of Indira Karallozi was ridiculous she was giving an advice to the Eritrean Diaspora to engage with the Government even if   it is bad.  She is of the opinion that those living in exile can challenge their repressive Government by getting together and invest to contribute to development of their country. Even if the Government is repressive. That is an experience of Kosvian Diaspora and it worked. Her advice is that the Eritrean in the Diaspora could do the same. It showed her ignorance of the reality in Eritrea. Goitom Mebrahtu from Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) said “Indira you have no clue of the situation in Eritrea.  If I go there to invest I will be arrested on the spot.  In what context are you talking about?  He continued, “By the way why don’t invite people who can give testimony of why they left the country. You are all paid foreigners and the pain, the suffering and the death of Eritrean does not matter to you.  No one answered but later in an informal discussion Sara said she is not paid. But obviously she was there to support Ruby who probably gets paid by both Nevsun and the regime in Eritrea.

The Third speaker was Tod Romaine who is the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).  He said   he ensures that Nevsun provides positive economic development within Eritrea Society. He apparently monitors health and safety and human rights in Nevsun’s operations. In the question and answer session he denied that Nevsun uses forced/unpaid labour and national service conscripts. He denied the Company uses national service conscripts but instead he said the Company employees those that have been demobilised

The fact of the matter is that in November 2014, 3 Eritreans filed a lawsuit against Nevsun in Vancouver, Canada in which they alleged the company’s complicity in the use forced labour by Nevsun. A ruling by the Supreme Court of British Colombia dismissed the efforts of Nevsun to block the case from going forward.

At the end, Tod was given a copy of a 4-page briefing paper that was widely distributed to students at the University. The brief titled “Eritreans Exploited: UK Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Abuses” was based on a preliminary joint research study by War On Want and Eritrea Focus into the country’s extractive sector.

Ruby’s comments, as ever, were far from the truth and distorted in order to support the regime and the mining companies. She needs to be aware that the leaders of the trade union are hired to serve the interest of the regime. The head of Trade Unions; National Union of Students and Youth and the National Union of Eritrean Women are an extension of the repressive system. Asmara University tried to maintain an independent student union and as a result their chairman was picked up from his house and arrested.  The students protested and as a consequence the University was closed.  Today all higher studies from 12th Grade upwards is taken in an army environment with rigid discipline in force. There is no academic freedom and students cannot develop their critical thinking:

For Ruby the pains and suffering of the people of Eritrea is nothing. Their death by drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, getting beheaded in Libya, prosecuted in Israel and languishing in the refugee camps in Ethiopia and the Sudan does not matter.

Her repressive ideology was clear in the manifesto she came with in her first meeting on 12 December 2014 in London.  The title was “Eritrea, through the lens of Business Ethics and Sustainability.  It goes I quote “Eritrea – a Nation that is keen to forge its own narrative and one of nation building through its Rehabilitation and Diaspora Tax, national Service and emerging natural Resources.

Nobody in his right mind can support a lifelong service.  The indefinite national service has destroyed the future of the Eritrean youth. They are denied to exploit their potential to study and pursue a profession, help their elder and work to make a family. In my view Ruby’s and Todd’s campaign is an exercise to promote corruption and enslave the people of Eritrea. It is the national service that has given rise the most to the influx of huge number of refugees to exile.  In order to stem the flow of refugees to Europe, the EU Governments negotiated with the regime to limit the national service t to 18 months. But the regime called their bluff and refused to do so.

However, the meeting did not go in the way Ruby had intended it.  Many from the audience where telling her of the repression taking place. People who were in prison without due course of law said so at the meeting.  Young Eritrean refugee gave a powerful testimony of what the young are going through at home which of course Ruby does not want people to know.

It is to be recalled that Ruby had previously tried to organise similar meetings which were repeatedly cancelled at the request of oppositions groups. Her aim to hold a meeting in the House of Parliament was cancelled. Baroness Ona who booked the meeting subsequently learned that the meeting was not genuine but a propaganda ploy by Ruby to give a humane face to the most repressive regime in our planet. We must not allow Ruby to speak for Eritreans for her own personal gain and we must endeavour to have her meetings cancelled at all times.

When the booking in Parliament was cancelled, adamant Ruby booked another venue, a community hall (resources Centre) at Holloway road. When the owners learned the intension they immediately had the meeting cancelled. The owners said they did not want to associate with that kind of people.  One supporter unable to attend Ruby’s meeting said, “There is no democracy in this country and someone from the opposition asked “in that case why don’t you go to Eritrea where there is democracy?

However Eritreans are beginning to seize the ownership of the struggle against repression and for democratic change.

The Geneva demonstration of 23 June 2016 which fielded 12,000 Eritreans from all over Europe and in New York both in support of the Inquiry commission were not only demonstrations but it is a mass assertion of the Eritreans in Diaspora to commit themselves to the struggle for justice and freedom.  Nowadays Eritreans everywhere are getting mobilized to channel their opposition in unified way.

Below: A glaring example in what has taken place in Holland and   letters from concerned Eritreans.  

After Ruby gave her presentation she showed a shameful support video message from Christine N.Umutoni, UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordination in Eritrea. Christine, who one questions how on earth she got into that position, says “Eritrea does not do PR” when she foolishly   being manipulated to be their PR tool. How these people get such high profile roles is beyond me.  They seem incapable of adding 2 plus 2 let alone understand the intricacies of Eritrean politics. The outspoken Dr.Russom Mesfun has written her an open letter to that effect.  In Eritrea what you see is NOT what you get – it is always the complete opposite.


The end

  • The justice seekers in Holland protested to cancel the YPFDJ conference shined in Veldhoven-Holland- when Mayor Mikkers banned it. 128 opponents of the conference arrested after riots and transported in buses. They are all released. This is an inspiration to all just seekers the world over.
  • Dear Ms Pantuliano: I am saddened to learn that you will be sharing a platform on 6 April with Nevsun CSR VP; a company that has been operating in Eritrea since at least 2009 and is accused of “slave labour………

Habte Hagos

  • The 69 page Manifesto of Rubi was challenged by 39 page by Mr Habte Hagos chairman of Eritrea Focus: There was also a letter to SIHRG accusing her of not speaking the truth about Eritrea.
  • Russom Mesfun – Host & Editor-in-Chief, Face the Erespora – wrote a critical open letter to Christine N. Umutoni for abusing his position in Eritrea.
  • An article by Saleh Younis – A beautiful narrative that exposing the Atlantic council who link with Nevsun.
  • On 10 March 2017, Professor Mirjam van Reisen and Professor Munyaradzi Mawere launched their new book titled Human Trafficking and Trauma in the Digital Era The Ongoing Tragedy of Trade in Refugees from Eritrea. “Sheds new light on   the thriving business of human trafficking for ransom and presents findings that suggest the involvement of the Eritrean government in the trafficking.


Review overview
  • Paul Salgado April 25, 2017

    Thank you for Petros for this hard hitting article! More people need to be aware that the Eritrean dictatorship is using ‘human rights lawyers’ in the UK to be apologists for the regime. We need to be organised to speak out when these paid agents hold lectures like this.