March 31, 2015
We observe with grave concern the stream of official assertions by governments and official representatives, which suggest that there is a real prospect of “change in Eritrea.” This is being used to justify changes in official policy towards Eritrean asylum seekers that affect their protection. We make the following observations:
2. The Danish report has been the source of much controversy in Denmark, after the main source and named source of the report, Prof Dr Gaim Kibreab declared he had been misquoted and misled and he subsequently demanded that all citations should be removed from the report. Prof Kibreab has also criticized the content of the UK report in a commentary of 25 March 2015.
3. The Danish media has widely reported that officials were bribed to change the content of the report (with promises of pay-rises) – an allegation officially denied by the Danish Immigration Service. The officials concerned have subsequently resigned, after denouncing the methodology and the conclusions of the report. There were further accusations that the report was politically driven and that the Ministry of Justice “provided guidelines on the report’s content and conclusions in order to tighten the practice in Eritrean asylum cases”.
4. The report has not been officially withdrawn, but its conclusions are no longer used as a reference for policy in Denmark. The immigration service has announced that illegal exit and desertion from the national service in Eritrea remain grounds for granting asylum in Denmark. However this has not been communicated in English by the Danish authorities and the Report by the British Home Office does not highlight this crucial change in policy.
5. The Report by the UK Home Office on Guidelines for Eritrean Asylum-seekers makes 48 references to the Danish Report, advancing and building on the conclusions of the discredited Report. It conceals the serious flaws of the Danish Report and obscures the criticism the report has met. Its intent appears to be to mislead, rather than serve the truth.
6. The Danish Report, which underpins the report by the UK Home Office, has been widely critiqued for its content, by, among others, UNHCR, Human Rights Watch, Europe External Policy Advisors, Stop Slavery in Eritrea, Asmarino, and the Report by members of the Eritrean Diaspora “Listen to our Agony”.
7. The EU Commissioner Neven Mimica announced that a substantial bilateral aid package of € 312 million has been prepared to support the Eritrean regime – an almost threefold increase from 2009, despite the deteriorating human rights situation. News reports have suggested that the aid would be provided in exchange for promises that Eritrea would curb migration. This is despite the fact that the EU’s policy cites human rights as an essential element for development cooperation. Human rights groups have protested, pointing to the devastating human rights record in Eritrea – the central driver of refugee and asylum migration.
8. A Report from the Norwegian Immigration Service and a debate in the Canadian Subcommittee on Human Rights have followed similar lines, suggesting that the situation in Eritrea has changed. At the same time the Chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, Mike Smith, pointed out in the oral debate of the interim findings of the Commission regarding the conditions in Eritrea (such as the national service) that the Eritrea government has refused to given the UN Commission on Inquiry permission to visit Eritrea. Furthermore, a recent mission from Switzerland concluded that there was no evidence of change on the ground.
9. It is clear that there is no evidence that the government of Eritrea has implemented any change in its human rights regime, including its conscription practices. Instead it has given hearsay promises about what it may do so in the future—promises that are vigorously disputed in great depth and detail by the testimonies of refugees who have fled the country within the past twelve months.
In light of the above we urge that:
1. Eritrea gives full access to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea to carry out its mandate.
2. All governments observe the basic customary principle of non-refoulement and implement asylum procedures in line with UNHCR guidelines. State-parties to the Refugee Convention should refrain from discriminating against and singling out of Eritrean refugees as a group and ensure their individual protection based on international refugee law and fair domestic asylum policies and procedures.
3. The European Commission puts on hold its preparations for an aid package to the Eritrean government until such time that the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea has been given full and unfettered access to Eritrea so that it can carry out its investigation and has presented its conclusions. The EU must act in accordance with its own legal provisions that identify human rights as an essential element of EU development policy.
Dr. Anna Arnone, Research associate SOAS, University of London, UK
Prof. Dr. Victoria Bernal, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine, USA
Dr. David Bozzini, visiting fellow, The Graduate Center CUNY, New York, USA
Dan Connell, Visiting Researcher, African Studies Center, Boston University, USA
Dr. Bettina Conrad, Germany
Dr. Sara Rich Dorman, University of Edinburgh, UK
Meron Estefanos, Journalist, Sweden
Prof. Dr. Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, Former Ambassador of Eritrea to the EU, Professor Vesalius College, Brussels
Dr. Tricia Redeker Hepner, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director, Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights Program, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA
Dr. Nicole Hirt, Senior Research Fellow, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany
Noel Joseph, Director of Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights, UK
Prof. Dr. Gaim Kibreab, Research Professor and Director of MSc Refugee Studies, London South Bank University, UK
Selam Kidane, Director Release Eritrea, UK
Dr. Daniel R. Mekonnen, Senior Legal Advisor, International Law and Policy (ILPI), Switzerland
Antony Otieno Ong’ayo, Researcher, International Development Studies, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Martin Plaut, Former Africa Editor, BBC News and Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, UK
Dr. Amanda Poole, Associate professor of Anthropology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA
Prof. Dr. Mirjam van Reisen, Professor International Social Responsibility, Tilburg University, Member of the Dutch Government Council on Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands
Dr. Jennifer Riggan, Associate Professor of international Studies, Arcadia, University, Glenside PA, USA
Prof. Dr. Kjetil Tronvoll, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, Bjørknes University College
Simon Weldehaimanot, Immigration Attorney, Oakland, California, USA
Prof. Dr. Tekle M. Woldemikael, Professor of Sociology, Chapman University, Orange, USA
Some Reflections on the UK Home Office’s Country Information Guidance Eritrea: National (incl. Military) Service & Illegal Exit,Wednesday, 01 April 2015 21:47 Written by Prof. Gaim Kibreab
London 25 March 2015
Prof. Gaim Kibreab
London South Bank University
The UK delegation from the Foreign and Common Wealth Office and the Home Office visited Asmara on 9-11 December 2014. In March 2015, the Home Office issued two documents, namely, Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: National (incl. Military) Service and Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: Illegal Exit. This Note draws attention to the serious flaws contained in the Guidelines and the source material used to reach the conclusions.
The UK has been one of several European countries that have been receiving and granting refugee status to many Eritreans who either fled the country to avoid conscription or to flee from the open-ended Eritrean National Service (ENS). The single most important reason the UK has been at the forefront of providing refuge and succour for Eritrean asylum-seekers is because it accepted the UNHCR’s and other reputable human rights organisations’ reports describing the indefinite ENS as constituting persecution. This was due to the ENS’ degeneration into modern form of slavery proscribed in international law and the inhumane and degrading treatments meted to conscripts as punishment for:
- disobeying commanders
- attempting to escape from the ENS
- absconding to avoid conscription
- answering back to commanders, etc.
Many conscripts have sustained permanent injuries or died as a result of these punishments. These are amply documented by reputable human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, etc. The Country Guidance refers to and quotes from these reports extensively only to reach to conclusions that fundamentally contradict them.
The authors of the HO’s Guidance start by extensively quoting from the reports produced by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, US Department of State, etc. but instead of drawing conclusions based on the sources which they widely quote from, they instead use the Danish Immigration Service’s report—Eritrea—drivers and root causes of emigration, national service and the possibility of return (August and October 2014) to draw conclusions from, without taking into account that the report was deeply flawed and hence subjected to a series of severe criticisms.
The Danish report referred to in the Home Office’s Guidance as an “up-to-date information from inside Eritrea” was criticised fiercely by many organisations including UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. for being baseless. For example, Leslie Lefkow, HRW deputy Africa directorstated:
The Danish report seems more like a political effort to stem migration than an honest assessment of Eritrea’s human rights situation. Instead of speculating on potential Eritrean government reforms, host governments should wait to see whether pledges actually translate into changes on the ground.” (emphasis added).
Most Danish newspapers and other media condemned the report as being ill-thought-out, poorly documented and politically motivated. In response, the Danish authorities admitted the report’s flaws. For example, The Local, wrote:
The Danish Immigration Service's fact-finding report on Eritrea has been under heavy fire since its release and the agency now says that the feedback "raises doubts" and that Eritreans can expect to be "granted asylum in many cases" (emphasis in original). 
Despite the large number of people and organisations that have criticised the report. the Home Office Team do not even mention these or the fact that as a result, of the criticisms against the report, the policy recommendations concerning desertion from the ENS and illegal exit which were the central thrust of the report were withdrawn by the Danish Immigration Service. Controversies surrounding the Danish report are such that even two out of the three officials who visited Eritrea to gather information for the report distanced themselves from it and as a result of their dissatisfaction over the methodology and how the information was used resigned their positions.It is therefore alarming to learn that the UK Home Office has decided to change its policy on Eritrean asylum-seekers who flee from the indefinite ENS based on a report whose validity was rejected even by the people who collected the information in Eritrea.
Regarding the bleak human rights situation in Eritrea, the UK Foreign and Common Wealth Office which ironically was part of the Home Office Mission that visited Eritrea, in its Corporate report—Eritrea Country of Concern issued on 21 January 2015 (i.e. two months before the Home Office issued its Country Information and Guidance in March 2015), states:
The Eritrean government made no visible progress on key human rights concerns … continued to violate its international obligations and domestic law, including in the areas of arbitrary and inhumane detention, indefinite national service, and lack of religious freedom, freedom of the media and freedom of speech. The government continued to cite “no war, no peace” with Ethiopia as justification for its failure to implement the 1997 constitution, which provides for democratic government and fundamental rights and freedoms.
It is dumfounding that the Home Office has based its conclusions on a report which has been discredited in the country where it was supposed to constitute the basis of policy change. Had the HO instead of relying on the discredited Danish report tried to consider insights from the far more accurate account of the British Embassy officials’ letter in Asmara (see annex to the Guidelines) and the report of the UK Foreign and Common Wealth Office, which was part of their mission, on the state of human rights in Eritrea, it would have reached more reliable and judicious conclusions that reflect the reality on the ground.
As far as we can judge from the contents of the Guidelines issued by the Home Office, no new material which could justify change of policy was collected by the Team during their visit to Eritrea except the questionable information provided by the president’s advisor, Yemane Gebreab, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs regarding the duration of the ENS.
The New UK Policy on Eritrean Asylum-Seekers
According to the new Guidelines:
- the Country Guidance case MO (illegal exit—risk on return) Eritrea CG  UKUT 190 (IAC) (27 May 2011 issued by the UK Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber which hitherto provided guidance to decision-makers is obsolete and is superseded by “The most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea—notably the Danish Immigration Service 2014 Fact-Finding Mission Report (‘the Danish FFM Report’).
- the open-ended ENS no longer constitutes persecution or degrading or inhuman treatment hence people who flee to seek protection will not be granted refugee status in the UK
- the open-ended ENS does not constitute forced labour
- The ENS is not indefinite—it is between 18 months and four years
- conscripts or draft evaders who exit illegally either to avoid conscription or to desert from the ENS will not be granted refugee status
- Eritreans who exit illegally to avoid conscription or to flee from national service face no risk of persecution upon return provided they make good the 2% diaspora tax and sign a repentance form
- Those who refuse to undertake or abscond from military/national service are not viewed as traitors or political opponents and as a result it is unlikely that such persons would be detained upon return
- The most likely outcome for evasion or desertion is the requirement to return to military/national service
- Only those who have been politically active in their opposition to the Eritrean government and are readily identifiable (high profile cases) are likely to be at risk
These new policies represent 100% reversal of previous UK court’s decisions and policies based on the two most prominent Country Guidance based on Asylum and Immigration Tribunal decisions, namely, MA (Draft evaders – illegal departures – risk) Eritrea CG  UKAIT 00059 and Country Guidance case MO (illegal exit—risk on return) Eritrea CG  UKUT 190 (IAC) (27 May 2011) in which I was the key expert witness.
The Home Office do not deny that conditions in the Eritrean National Service (ENS) are harsh (p. 8) and make adequate references to reports that make such assertions. In spite of the diverse sources referred to in the Guidelines, the HO goes on to state that many Eritreans “complete military service without suffering mistreatment. As a result, those required to perform military service are unlikely to be at real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment but may be at such risk depending on their individual facts and specific circumstances” p. 8
There are many questions one can raise in connection to such an assertion. How do the HO know that those who “complete” the ENS had not been subjected to inhuman treatment when all the available evidence shows this to be the case? As the letter from the British Embassy in Asmara sent to the Home Office shows, there are no conscripts who complete national service and therefore, the HO’s claim that those who complete the ENS have not been subjected to inhuman treatment is not evidence based. For example, when the HO asked the British Embassy in Asmara:
“Are individuals who have completed military/national service issued completion certificate? If so, who has the authority to issue them?”
The officials at the British Embassy wrote :
There is no such a thing as a “completion of National/Military Service Certificate.” In the absence of such documents, a person’s age gives an indication regarding whether they should be in military/national/service—under 57 for men, or under 47 for women who are unmarried. 
Since there are no male nationals who complete national service before they reach 57 (men) and single women 47, the HO’s assertion is not backed by evidence. There is no evidence in the Guidelines to show that the team during its visit interviewed Eritreans who completed national service without suffering inhuman treatment. The Home Office does not seem to consider serving in the Eritrean National Service without remuneration indefinitely does not constitute “inhuman treatment.” This contradicts in a fundamental manner its previous position and the positions of the UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Journalists without Borders, etc.
What we find incredible about the Home Office’s Guidelines is that the standard of proof underpinning the Guidelines is very low as compared to the extremely high standard of proof employed by their adjudicators to discredit accounts of Eritrean asylum-seekers. If the Home Office were to use such a low standard of credibility, practically all asylum-seekers would have been granted refugee status in the UK.
The Guidelines conclude in their Policy Summary, “National service is generally between 18 months and four years” (p. 9). There is no evidence whatsoever that backs this assertion. The indefinite nature of the ENS has not changed in practice or at a policy level. It is further stated in terms of whether the indefinite ENS constitutes “a form of slave labour, the most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea suggests, in general” the ENS “lasts around four years” (6). The so-called “up-to-date information from inside Eritrea” is the discredited report of the Danish Immigration Service. Not surprisingly, this phrase is repeatedly used in the Danish report.
The Guidelines contain lots of inconsistent and contradictory information with regard to the duration of the ENS. On the one hand, it is stated that the UK mission were informed by the Eritrean Foreign Ministry that the issue was “being discussed in the government but no specific information about whether or when it would undergo change was provided.” It is further stated, “the Eritrean government and the EU and the embassies of the European countries are in an on going and constructive dialogue” (17).
Notwithstanding the fact that the team had been informed that no decision had been reached with regard to the duration of the ENS, the president’s advisor told them that the ENs is now limited to 18 months. The Guidelines state: “The Eritrean President’s Adviser Yemane Gebreab, told them that:
“from November 2014 national service is reverting to a duration of 18 months. This will now all be based in military …This has started with the 27th round and people have been informed we have had meetings with students and families at Sawa. We do not want to publicise this by a presidential announcement—this is not how we wish to do things.”
It is surprising that the HO took his statement for granted when they were already told that no decision had been reached on the matter. Information obtained from Eritrea, including from the Sawa military camp indicate that no such information was disseminated to students or conscripts. Conscription is continuing as before. The 28th cohorts began their service at Sawa in August 2014 and those who did not pass their matriculation were assigned to the army and other ministries or departments, including the firms of the ruling party, the PFDJ.
If the government does not want to announce the “dramatic change” by presidential announcement, why have they not posted the information in their tens of media outlets? The only official to ever state the alleged change of policy regarding the duration of the ENS, was a junior member of staff at the Washington office of the Eritrean Embassy. If the Eritrean authorities had changed the duration of the ENS which like a cancerous growth has been devastating the Eritrean polity, the announcement would have been accompanied with massive accolade.
Additionally neither the Home Office nor Eritrean officials say anything about the hundreds of thousands who joined the ENS before November 2014, i.e. cohorts 1-26.
Finally the HO without any evidence concludes, “Evaders and deserters are unlikely to be considered traitors” (p. 9). It is further stated, “The most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea suggests that those who refuse to undertake or abscond from military/national service are not viewed as traitors or political opponents. It is unlikely that a person would be detained/imprisoned on return as a result” (p. 7). This assertion is a verbatim copy from the discredited Danish report.
The indefinite ENS and the severe punishment regime have been driving tens of thousands of Eritreans to flee in search of international protection. Their number in the EU member states has been increasing dramatically in recent months. These rising numbers have sent shock waves through some EU member states. It seems that the sole purpose of the Home Office Guidelines is to stem this flow disregarding the consequences on those who desperately need protection against persecution—forced labour—accompanied with severe punishment regimes. Much of the conclusions of the Guidance are drawn from a deeply flawed source that has been discredited by those who worked on it and by many who are familiar with the situation in Eritrea. It is disturbing that the UK Home Office is resorting to such unsafe practices that jeopardise the lives of many asylum seekers and the UK’s obligations to them under the refugee convention and EU and UN treaties.
UNHCR criticizes Danish report on Eritrea, 17 December. Available at http://www.noas.no/en/unhcr-criticizes-danish-report-on-eritrea/
 See HRW Open Letter to the Danish Immigration Service. Available at http://hrc-eritrea.org/open-letter-to-danish-immigration-service/ see also
 Denmark admits 'doubts' about Eritrea report
Published: 10 Dec 2014. Available at http://www.thelocal.dk/20141210/denmark-doubts-controversial-eritrea-report
UK Foreign Office and Common Wealth, Eritrea—Country of Concern, 21 January 2015. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eritrea-country-of-concern/eritrea-country-of-concern
HO Country information Guidance…, 1.3.3 and 1.34
 Annex B: Letter dated 1 April 2010 from British Embassy in Asmara.
March 22, 2015
Nevsun Resources Ltd. (TSX:NSU) (NYSE MKT: NSU) (Nevsun or the Company) reports that the repairs to the mechanical issue with the ball mill, previously reported on March 13, 2015, are ongoing and the Bisha plant remains on-track for re-start later this week. While there was an act of vandalism at the Bisha plant late last week, there was no significant impact to operations and no personnel were harmed.
The equipment supplier Thyssen-Krupp AG, who had mobilized to site, have nearly completed replacement of the ball mill gear box bearings and re-installation of the gearbox is imminent. During the outage, some additional preventative plant maintenance that was scheduled for Q2 2015 was accelerated and ore mining was switched to waste mining to facilitate ongoing strip requirements.
The Bisha Mine experienced an act of vandalism on March 20 during the nightshift in which minor damages were sustained to the base of the tailings thickener, resulting in the release of water into the plant area. The required repairs and cleanup from the incident were minor and are incorporated into the plant re-start later this week. Additional safeguards have been adopted to ensure site and personnel safety and security while the Eritrean and mine security forces undertake an investigation.
About Nevsun Resources Ltd.
Nevsun Resources Ltd.is a Vancouver-based mining company with an operating mine in Eritrea. Nevsun’s 60%-owned Bisha Mine ranks as one of the highest grade open pit copper mines in the world. Nevsun has a strong balance sheet and future cash flows to grow shareholder value through exploration at Bisha and acquisition of additional mining assets.
NEVSUN RESOURCES LTD.
Cliff T. Davis
President & Chief Executive Officer
For further information, Contact:
Tel: 604 684 6730
Toll free: 1 866 684 6730
Forward Looking Statements
The above contains forward-looking statements or forward-looking information within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, and applicable Canadian securities laws. Forward-looking statements are frequently, but not always, identified by words such as “expects,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “intends,” “estimated,” “potential,” “possible” and similar expressions, or statements that events, conditions or results “will,” “may,” “could” or “should” occur or be achieved. Forward-looking statements are statements concerning the Company’s current beliefs, plans and expectations about the future including but not limited to commercial production, future production of copper and related cash flows and are inherently uncertain. The actual achievements of the Company or other future events or conditions may differ materially from those reflected in the forward-looking statements due to a variety of risks, uncertainties and other factors, including, without limitation, the risks that: (i) any of the assumptions in the historical resource estimates turn out to be incorrect, incomplete, or flawed in any respect; (ii) the methodologies and models used to prepare the resource and reserve estimates either underestimate or overestimate the resources or reserves due to hidden or unknown conditions, (iii) exploration activities or the mine operations are disrupted or suspended due to acts of god, internal conflicts in the country of Eritrea, unforeseen government actions or other events; (iv) the Company experiences the loss of key personnel; (v) the Company’s operations or exploration activities are adversely affected by other political or military, or terrorist activities; (vi) the Company becomes involved in any material disputes with any of its key business partners, suppliers or customers; (vii) the Company is subjected to any hostile takeover or other unsolicited attempts to acquire control of the Company; (viii) the Company is subject to any adverse ruling in any of the pending litigation to which it is a party; (ix) the Company incurs unanticipatedpower interruptions or failures due to electrical circuit failures or other repairs to the plant or inadequate fuel quality required to effectively operate power generators for the plant or otherwise, (x) the Company experiences shipping delays for equipment or replacement parts that are required to complete repairs at the copper plant that could impact mining operations;or (xi) are associated with thespeculative nature of exploration activities, periodic interruptions to exploration, failure of drilling, processing and mining equipment, the interpretation of drill results and the estimation of mineral resources and reserves, changes to exploration and project plans and parameters andother risks are more fully described in the Company’s Annual Information Form for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2014, which is incorporated herein by reference. The Company’s forward-looking statements are based on the beliefs, expectations and opinions of management on the date the statements are made and the Company assumes no obligation to update such forward-looking statements in the future, except as required by law. For the reasons set forth above, investors should not place undue reliance on the Company’s forward-looking statements.
Further information concerning risks and uncertainties associated with these forward-looking statements and our business can be found in our Annual Information Form for the year ended December 31, 2014, which is available on the Company’s website (www.nevsun.com), filed under our profile on SEDAR (www.sedar.com) and on EDGAR (www.sec.gov) under cover of Form 40-F.
On 10 March 2015, three schools of the Eritrean Catholic Church in Kassala jointly held a highly colourful end of school year ceremony attended by invited religious leaders, Eritrean and Ethiopian community dignitaries as well as the director of private schools in the Kassala region, Mr. Omar Mohammed Khalifa. Included in the event was the graduation of 12th graders from the school which has so far graduated 15 rounds.
After a welcoming address by Memhir Weldhiwet Keleta, two students speaking in Arabic and Tigrinia successfully led the ceremony that lasted for four hours. Students of the three schools presented folkloric dances, songs, dramas, and other educational and entertainment programmes in Arabic, Tigre, Tigrinia, Bilen, Kunama, Nara and English languages.
Presented in between the entertainments were messages of the teaching staff, the Director of Private Schools in Kassala region, and Father Ghebrai Bedemariam, the Director of Catholic Church schools in Kassala.
The message of the teaching staff of the three schools, presented in Arabic by Mr. Alem Zerai, and in Tigrinia by Mr. Woldeyesus Habte, urged families to be always watchful of the educational progress of their children because children spend more time at home than at school.
They stated that the 20124-2015 academic year started with 620 students (247 in elementary classes and 207 in middle school classes) and that the final number was 565 of whom 88.3% were promoted, 268 of them girls.
In his message, Mr. Omar Mohammed Khalifa said Eritreans and the Sudanese are “just one family” and that his office will continue to provide all the support needed to the Eritrean community schools in his country.
Father Ghebrai Bedemariam warmly thanks the Kassala regional administration for their continued support to the Eritrean Catholic Church schools which were started when the refugee phenomenon increased about 30 years ago. He said this noble effort of giving educational opportunities to refugee children of all religions and origins will continue until the need is there. Father Ghebrai also mentioned the contributions of the late Father Marino to the education of Eritrean children in the Sudan and he promised that the wishes of the late Father Marino will be sustained by his colleagues in the Catholic Church.
12th graders who are soon to take part in school matriculation exams.
The colourful ceremonies ended with granting of prizes to outstanding students from the three schools.
16 March 2015 – A four-month United Nations investigation into the human rights situation in Eritrea has found “very clear patterns” of violations and abuses, according to a report delivered today at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva.
“Most Eritreans have no hope for their future,” said Mike Smith, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which despite not being granted permission to visit Eritrea, collected testimony from more than 500 members of the Eritrean diaspora.
Presenting the Commission’s interim report, Council, Mr. Smith said that in Eritrea national service is universal and of an indefinite duration. From the age of 17, Eritreans could expect to spend their lives in national service, struggling to live on less than two dollars a day.
Meanwhile, the Government has curtailed basic freedoms to the extent that, “individuals feel that they have hardly any choice with regard to the main decisions in their lives: where to live, what career to pursue, when to marry or who to worship,” he noted in anews releaseon the report.
For Eritreans, Mr. Smith said, “detention is an ordinary fact of life, experienced by an inordinate number of individuals – men and women, old and young, including children.” Detention centres range from official to the unofficial, located above ground or underground. Some have metal containers where prisoners are kept in extreme heat.
“Once in one of them, there is a likelihood that you will be subject to torture to extract a confession or to simply punish behaviours,” he added.
Torture is widespread, both in detention and during national service. Some Eritreans interviewed by the Commission had been beaten or tortured simply for asking for medicine, or for drinking water without permission.
Mr. Smith pointed out that these violations take place against a backdrop of the so-called “no war, no peace” situation related to Eritrea’s unresolved border issues with neighbouring countries.
“This has become the pretext for almost all the State’s actions that generate and perpetuate human rights violations in the country,” he said. “It is an expression abusively used by the Eritrean authorities to disregard international human rights law.”
Under this pretext, the entire society has been militarised, the Constitution has never been implemented and there is no rule of law, according to the news release, which added that no one was being held accountable for human rights violations.
The Commission of Inquiry, established by the Human Rights Council, is examining a broad range of alleged violations since Eritrea gained independence. It will present a written report of its findings to the Council in June 2015.
09/03/2015, by ALEXANDER KAISER , FRANKFURT
© NORBERT MÜLLERRelaxed at the premiere: Abraham Hanibal, Avet and Anday (from left) with Pastor Thomas Stephan (center) at the Frankfurt Half Marathon.
By EPDP Information Office
In a statement released on 6 March 2015, a specialized committee of the UN Human Rights Council criticized the Eritrean regime for not respecting women’s rights that are well enshrined in a convention that the Asmara regime itself has already signed.
The committee scrutinizing failures in the implementation the Convention to Eliminate all forms Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) discussed women’s situation in Eritrea. Also discussed was a report from the Eritrean delegation at the meeting that was presented on 26 February 2015.
Dr Daniel Rezene represents Eritrean Law Society at Geneva meeting on women’s rights
Concluding observations of the Committee on Discrimination against Women contain serious concerns about the absence of rule of law in Eritrea with an elected National Assembly and fully implemented constitution which the basic necessities for protection and promotion of human rights, like women’s rights stated in the Convention (CEDAW).
The committee could not expect any improvement in the Eritrean women’s situation before steps are taken to the rule of law in the country.
Prevalence of sexual abuse of women in the Eritrean army, absence of criminal action against sex offenders, the open-ended “national service” that force women and families to escape from the regime, and the presence of small arms at every corner in the country were mentioned among the concerns of the committee that believed they should be addressed “as a matter of high priority”. (See link
http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=901&Lang=en - scroll down to see Eritrea)
Dr. Daniel Rezene, an Eritrean democracy and human rights activist residing in Switzerland, actively participated in the discussions and made written and oral presentations representing the Eritrean Law Society (ELS). Below are excerpts from the CEDAW committee meetings concluding observations and the oral presentation made by Dr. Daniel Rezene at one of the committee meeting:
From CEDAW Observations:
6: The Committee considers that the indefinite national service, the ineffective implementation of the 1997 Constitution and the suspension of the National Assembly, have resulted in a deterioration of the rule of law and resulted in a serious refugee crisis which pose a challenge to the implementation of the Convention. Therefore the Committee urges the State party to implement the recommendations contained in the present concluding observations as a matter of high priority.
8(e): Concerned about [t]he proliferation of small arms and the accessibility of firearms to individuals in the framework of the national service and their impact on the security of women.
9(b): Prevent, investigate, prosecute in criminal courts, and punish all cases of violence against women and girls in the national service and at the Sawa Military Training Centre, implement a policy of zero tolerance and provide legal aid, rehabilitation programmes and compensation to victims;
11(a): Ensure the effective implementation of the 1997 Constitution of Eritrea and expedite the planned Constitutional review process, within a clear timeframe and with transparent procedures …
13(b): Ensure that all cases of violence and discrimination against women covered by the Convention are brought under the jurisdiction of criminal instead of military courts, including when violations of the law are committed by military or public officials;
20(c): Alleged perpetrators of sexual violence against women in the national service are rarely prosecuted.
22. …it is concerned about reports that numerous women and girls, including unaccompanied children who are fleeing the country become victims of human trafficking and smuggling.
24. …it is concerned that women remain underrepresented in senior government positions and at reports that the measures taken only benefit women sharing the views of the political party in power.
25(b): Expeditiously hold free and fair elections to the National Assembly and other elected bodies, ensuring that all women, including those from disadvantaged groups and those holding divergent opinions, can vote and stand for election;
49: It also invites the State party to consider ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court [other international treaties].
Dr. Daniel Rezene’s Comments:
“I am presenting this oral statement on behalf of the Eritrean Law Society (ELS), an association of Eritrean legal professionals, working from exile. In addition to providing a context to the overall crisis of rule of law in Eritrea, our oral presentation focuses on three major issues: the issue of sexual violence in the army, the problem of human trafficking and the dire of state of women and unaccompanied refugee children in neighbouring countries.
“One of the most pervasive problems in Eritrea is the issue of sexual violence that is committed with impunity by military commanders. As is widely known, the government has a sweeping policy of compulsory military conscription, known as National Service Programme. Accordingly, every adult of member of the Eritrean society, including women, are subject to unpaid and indefinite military conscription by which reason many Eritreans are fleeing the country in unprecedented scale, making Eritrea one of the leading refugee-producing countries in the world.
“In the context of the government’s sweeping militarization agenda, many women conscripts have been victimised by sexual violence committed with impunity by army commanders. The problem is complicated by the total breakdown of the rule of law. In Eritrea, the whims and actions of military commanders are above the law. This means, access to justice with regard to sexual violence is unthinkable. The victims of this form injustice are estimated in thousands.
“The other issue is that of human trafficking. Due to a long history forced migration, Eritrea is also a major origin of victims of human trafficking. Eritrean victims make the majority of victims of the human trafficking crisis in the Sinai Desert of the last 4 to 5 years. Many of these Eritrean victims are women, who are wantonly raped and subjected to all sorts of abuses. In the first place, they have been forced to flee Eritrea as a result of severe political repression, pervasive practice of sexual violence and a dire state of socio-economic crisis. After feeling Eritrea, they fall in the hands of merciless human traffickers, and this means effectively jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Related to this issue is that of thousands of refugees, including unaccompanied underage boys and girls, in neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Sudan. Their plight requires urgent attention.
“Madame Chairperson, what makes the case of Eritrea unique from many other countries is that it has no working constitution, no opposition political party, no functioning parliament, no form of free press, no form of civil society organizations (except GONGOs). To our knowledge, there is no other country in the world that is helplessly stifled bysuch kind of multiple structural problems all at once.The predicament of Eritrea is exceptionally unique. That is why the country has alarmingly high number of victims of human rights violations, estimated in tens of thousands. And this includes victims of sexual violence.
“As we speak now, the Eritrean government is under comprehensive scrutiny by a Commission of Inquiry established last year by UN Human Rights Council, here in Geneva. To our knowledge, Eritrea is the only African country (after Libya) to have been a subject of investigations of this nature. And this is happening sadly in the absence of any sort of armed conflict in the country. From this, it is not difficult to imagine the level of political repression and the dire state of women’s right in in the country.
“In conclusion, Madame Chairperson, we would like to highlight that the prevailing situation in Eritrea is a portent of much worse to come. This is how it looks like when a nation is at the brink of a state failure. Anyone with a right conscience cannot feign ignorance about the deep-seated political crisis in the country. We therefore kindly urge the CEDAW Committee to adopt recommendations that are commensurate with the reality at the ground level”.