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News in the Humanosphere: New evidence of widespread human rights abuses in Eritrea

Fresh vegetables for sale on a dry riverbed in Keren, Eritrea. (credit: David Stanley/flickr)

An explosive new report from the Human Rights Council provides an exhaustive documentation of widespread human rights abuses in Eritrea. The government controls its population through fear, coercion and straight up enslavement. “Eritrea effectively enslaves people by a system known as “national service” that involves “arbitrary detention, torture, sexual torture, forced labor, absence of leave”, the report said. National service is supposed to last 18 months, but the commission spoke to one witness who had fled after 17 years. Witnesses reported people being executed for trying to avoid being drafted into service as recently as 2013, it said. The commission said it had evidence forced labor had been used in the construction of the Bisha mine, a copper-gold project owned jointly by Canadian miner Nevsun Resources Ltd and Eritrea. (Reuters

“Despite Being a Woman”…Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inadvertently coined a Twitter hashtag Sunday when he praised the courage of Bangladesh’s prime minister to take on terrorism “despite being a woman.”  The hashtag #DespiteBeingAWoman was one of Twitter’s top trending topics Monday as Indians reacted to Modi’s speech at Dhaka University during a two-day visit to the neighbouring country.  In the speech, Modi praised Sheikh Hasina for her commitment to tackling terrorism in both countries. ‘I am happy that the prime minister of Bangladesh, despite being a woman, is openly saying that she has zero tolerance for terrorism. I would like to congratulate Sheikh Hasina for her courage to deal with terrorism with zero tolerance’” he added.” (CBC

Quote of the Day: Craig Spencer, the New York doctor who contracted ebola in Guinea, on the public health and media’s missed opportunity.  “Instead of saying the risk of infection is nearly impossible because I didn’t have a temperature [yet], they discussed the risks of getting Ebola from a bowling ball. It was a prime opportunity for education, and they squandered it with misinformation and unscientific quarantines.” (New York


The trial of 13 men accused of taking part in the 2010 Shebab bombings, which killed 76 people in Uganda’s capital Kampala, resumed on Monday without the lead prosecutor, who was murdered in March. (AFP

Burundi’s government has received donations from citizens to help fund the presidential polls and other elections and hopes Western donors will reverse a decision to halt election aid to avert more chaos, the presidential spokesman said on Monday. (Reuters

A popular Zambian singer was arrested on Monday after being accused by supporters of President Edgar Lungu of mocking the leader in a song that police said could provoke public clashes. (Reuters

Human Rights Watch appealed on Monday to authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo to exhume a mass grave near the capital Kinshasa that contains hundreds of corpses. (AFP

The main opposition coalition in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti said Monday that a key agreement with the government following contested elections in 2013 had reached “deadlock”. (AFP

Senior African officials negotiating a trade deal in Egypt to create a common market across half the continent said Monday the pact was ready to be signed. (AFP


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest annual list of parties that kill or injure children in armed conflict does not include Israel — as some U.N. officials had recommended. (AP

Human Rights Watch condemned on Monday “flagrant human rights abuses” during the first year in power of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, on the anniversary of his inauguration. (AFP

Government airstrikes on a northwestern Syrian village Monday killed at least 49 people and left survivors screaming in anguish as they pulled bodies from the rubble, according to activists and videos of the chaotic aftermath. (AP

Yemen’s exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has played down next week’s talks in Geneva between his country’s warring parties, saying they will only address ways to implement a Security Council resolution demanding his enemies retreat. (Reuters

Libya’s warring factions geared up for crunch talks Monday as world leaders called for “bold political decisions” to prevent the oil-rich nation crumbling into a failed state. (AFP

The EU on Monday renewed calls on Saudi Arabia to stop lashing blogger Raif Badawi after the country’s top court upheld the sentence against him for insulting Islam. (AFP

Iran plans to open 150 alcohol treatment centres, a health ministry official said on Monday, in an acknowledgement of the scale of abuse in a country where drinking is illegal. (AFP


About 150 migrants found adrift in a boat off Myanmar’s coast were set Monday for transfer to neighbouring Bangladesh, an immigration official said, returning them to homes many tried to flee months ago. (AFP

As Malaysian police finish exhuming mass graves in human trafficking camps along the Thai border, Southeast Asian nations are under pressure to end the brutal trade in human lives by tackling the roots of the crisis. (IRIN

The South Korean government on Monday said it is ready to take swift measures to counter the negative effects on its economy from an outbreak of MERS, suggesting that worried policymakers may soon deliver monetary and fiscal stimulus. (Reuters

Sri Lanka’s new mangrove protection scheme, the world’s first country-wide initiative, is relying on women who benefit from a microcredit program in exchange for looking after coastal forests. (TRF

Greenpeace said Monday an Australian staff member had been barred from entering India despite holding a valid visa, in what it said was the latest crackdown against the group. (AFP


Citing improved rural library services and indoor cinemas along with a deluge of other information, China praised its human rights record in a lengthy report card on Monday, its latest bid to deflect Western criticism. (Reuters

Chinese imports and exports shrank again in May, the latest sign of sputtering growth in the world’s second biggest economy that adds to pressure on Beijing to avoid a sharp slump. (AP

China’s greenhouse gas emissions could peak by 2025, five years earlier than indicated by Beijing, a development that could help limit the mounting risks of global warming, a study by the London School of Economics showed on Monday. (Reuters

The Americas

A former Spanish prime minister has arrived in Venezuela, where he intends to help lawyers defending imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, who is under house arrest. (AP

In this overfished area of northern Haiti, fishermen who want a catch big enough for a meal say they must travel three hours in a boat to the Dominican Republic, where they scour the reefs of a national park and risk arrest, beatings or even death. (AP

...and the rest
Leaders of the G7 major industrialized democracies pledged on Monday to speed up work on a transatlantic trade and investment partnership deal that has provoked fierce opposition on both sides of the Atlantic. (Reuters

Fighting pollution critical to fight against diseases of poverty (Humanosphere

In this special episode of the podcast, Mark interviews two people about the forced expulsion of an indigenous people from their homeland to make way for a big US military base. (Global Dispatches Podcast

4 Outrages from the Eritrea human rights report (UN Dispatch

A Wake-Up Call for NGOs (Foreign Policy

Creating a Level Playing Field for Social Innovators in Africa (SSIR

Philippines factory fire: 72 workers need not have died (Guardian

Lost Posture: Why Indigenous Cultures Don’t Have Back Pain (NPR

Randomizing Competition: allowing CCT recipients to get more goods for their money (Development Impact

Addressing the Economic Dimensions of Mass Atrocities: International Criminal Law’s Business or Blind Spot? (Justice in Conflict

Uganda’s NGO law: Most repressive in East Africa? (Devex


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]