The EU Parliament’s Rapporteur to the Committee on Budgetary Control, Michele Rivasi has released a report in which she asks critical questions about the use of Eritrean conscripts in EU funded road projects.
Ms Rivasi asks the EU Commission to avoid financing Eritrean schemes which use “forced labour via National Service.”
[Paragraph 68] “Calls on the Commission to include clear and transparent human rights clauses in its Contribution Agreements concluded with Implementing partners (UN agencies, Member State development agencies) in order to avoid situations where the EU could indirectly finance projects that violate human rights; points out in this regard the project “Reconnecting Eritrea and Ethiopia through rehabilitation of the main arterial roads in Eritrea”, funded by the EUTF and managed by the UNOPS, financing Eritrean national construction companies using forced labour via the National Service;”
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea found in its reports that National Service is indeed a form of slave labour and that it carries a real risk of rape for women.
The UN Commission concluded that:
[Paragraph 234] “…there are reasonable grounds to believe that within the context of military and national service programmes, Eritrean officials exercise powers attaching to the right of ownership over Eritrean citizens. It further determines that despite the justifications for a military/national service programme advanced in 1995, the military/national service programmes today serve primarily to boost the economic development of the nation, profit state-endorsed enterprises, and maintain control over the Eritrean population in a manner inconsistent with international law. Thus there are reasonable grounds to believe that Eritrean officials have committed the crime of enslavement, a crime against humanity, in a persistent, widespread and systematic manner since no later than 2002.”
The UN Commission went further:
[Paragraph 301] “Women are at a disproportionate risk of discrimination and violence within the military/national service and in the army and are targeted for sexual abuse on account of their gender. As described above in the section on enslavement as a crime against humanity, many women in military training centres, as well as to a lesser extent in the army, are raped by military officials and trainers.”
This is all well known and well understood by the European Union, yet its officials have approved funding for projects which, they accept, involve the use of National Service conscripts – some of whom have been held in this form of slavery for more than 20 years.
The full EU report can be found here: EU Eritrea Road rehabilitation