GENEVA, June 26, 2014 – Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch called on all 47 member states of the Human Rights Council to vote in favor of creating a landmark commission of inquiry into human rights abuses in Eritrea, as proposed in a draft resolution, sponsored by Somalia, that is slated for a vote today.
If adopted, the resolution would “strongly condemn” the Eritrean authorities for perpetrating “widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The text cites arbitrary and extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, the use of torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention without recourse to justice, and detention in inhumane and degrading conditions.
The resolution would also condemn Eritrea’s widely-criticized forced conscription of citizens for indefinite periods of national service, “as a system that amounts to forced labor.”
Most critically, the resolution would create the first-ever commission of inquiry to investigate “all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea” as outlined in the annual reports of the council’s already-existing Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth.
The inquiry would be composed of three UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur. The draft resolution would also renew Keetharuth’s one-year mandate.
UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer Commends Somalia
“It speaks volumes that thousands of Eritreans are fleeing every month to escape their country’s grave abuses,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
“UN Watch commends Somalia for its leadership on the resolution, which is co-sponsored by France, and urges the international community to rally behind it and send the message that the time has arrived to seek minimal human rights accountability from the Eritrean government.”
“Let’s not forget that Eritrea is one of the few countries without any reporting on the human rights situation from within, and a complete lack of access by international human rights observers, rendering monitoring of human rights conditions on the ground extremely challenging,” said Neuer.
“It is unacceptable that Eritrea refuses to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, that none of the UN rights council’s thematic mandate-holders have been allowed to visit, and that the government has still not responded to the request by High Commissioner Navi Pillay to dispatch a mission with access to places of detention.”
During the UN’s recent quadrennial review of Eritrea’s human rights record, the country was unable to document any tangible improvements.
Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees undertake perilous journeys to Europe and are now one third of the overall arrivals in Italy—above Syrians.
“The human rights crisis in Eritrea has been forgotten for too long,” said Neuer. “There’s an urgent need for the international community to increase efforts to explore additional means to tackle the situation effectively, at a time when Eritrean authorities continue to perpetrate human rights violations without any accountability.”
UN Watch: Leading Voice on Eritrea This Session
UN Watch has been a leading voice in the Council’s 26th session for accountability in Eritrea, taking the floor twice to condemn Eritrea’s abuses.
During last Friday’s review of Eritrea’s rights record, UN Watch brought Eritrean journalist and rights activist Meron Estafanos, who gave eyewitness testimony of the cruelty suffered by Eritrean refugees. (See UN Watch’s testimonies on Eritrea here and here).