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UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Ethiopia and Eritrea on Wednesday “to exercise maximum restraint” following clashes on their disputed border.

Eritrea accused Ethiopia of “military aggression” by attacking its positions in the Tsorona Central Front, a border area that saw one of the bloodiest battles during their 1998-2000 border war. Ethiopia’s military said its troops were provoked into launching a counter-offensive after Eritrean forces fired into Ethiopian positions on Sunday.

The U.N. chief met Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Brussels on Wednesday and Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson phoned Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed.

“They urged both Governments to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any act or statement that could exacerbate the situation,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“They also called on both governments to resolve their differences through peaceful means, including by ensuring the full implementation of the peace agreement they signed in 2000,” he said.

 Dujarric said the U.N. is available to assist in any peace efforts.

Eritrea and Ethiopia have been feuding over their border since Eritrea gained independence from the Addis Ababa government in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war.

A 1,700-strong U.N. force monitored a 15-mile (24-kilometer) wide, 620-mile (1,000-kilometer) long buffer zone between the Horn of Africa neighbors under the December 2000 peace agreement.


But tensions between the two countries remain high because of Ethiopia’s refusal to accept a boundary commission’s 2002 ruling on the border demarcation which awarded the key town of Badme to Eritrea. The Eritrean government progressively limited peacekeepers’ movements in response and it July 2008 the Security Council ended the peacekeeping mission.

Secretary-General Ban warned that that a new war could break out if U.N. peacekeepers withdraw.

Dujarric said the U.N. now has no way to monitor “what is actually going on along the border.”


Ethiopian, Eritrean Troops Clash on Border, Horn Affairs Says

June 12, 2016 — 5:47 PM CEST
Ethiopian and Eritrean troops clashed at several border locations on Sunday, local website Horn Affairs said, citing sources it didn’t identify. Ethiopia’s government said it had no reports of incidents.

Fighting involving heavy artillery began around 5 a.m. and continued until at least early afternoon, the Addis Ababa-based website said.

The incident could be an effort by the Eritrean government to distract attention from a June 8 United Nations report that said its leaders committed crimes against humanity, Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s communications minister, said by phone from Frankfurt.

 Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment made on Twitter Inc.

Eritrea, a former province of its neighbor, fought a two-year war with Ethiopia that formally ended in 2000, although its government has maintained war-time controls such as requiring national service and suspended enactment of a constitution.


Eritrea’s culture of fear

Saturday, 11 June 2016 23:24 Written by

Eritrea’s culture of fear


WHEN PEOPLE risk their lives to evade armed border guards or pack rickety boats at sea, you can be sure the conditions they are fleeing are frightful. This is as true for the persecuted Rohingya Muslims of Burma who set sail on packed vessels in the Andaman Sea as for the escapees who manage to flee the horrors of North Korea’s prison camps. And it is true for people fleeing Eritrea, a country that won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and has become a human rights disaster.

Listen, for example, to a woman who fled last year. Her husband had been arrested in 2009 outside their home, she told the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea . She went to the prison to find out why. “For years, I was going once a week. I took food and some clothes. They never told me how he was doing.” After a few years, the prison refused to take the food and clothes. She lost hope. “I haven’t seen my husband in seven years and don’t know if he is alive or not. I searched for him, but the authorities finally told me just don’t bother coming back, there’s no point.”

She joined the flood tide of people leaving Eritrea and attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea on flimsy rafts and boats. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees , the global number of asylum seekers and refugees from Eritrea as of a year ago stood at 444,091, about 12 percent of the country’s official population count of 3.6 million. (Unofficial totals are 6 million to 7 million.) Eritreans accounted for 24.7 percent of all Mediterranean arrivals by sea to Italy last year, the largest number from a single country of origin.

An explanation is contained in the latest report of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry , published Wednesday, which found reasonable grounds to believe that “crimes against humanity” have been committed against the population. The report urged a referral to the International Criminal Court. The crimes include indefinite national service, arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance, persecution on ethnic and religious grounds, rape and murder. They are a powerful indictment of the rule of President Isaias Afwerki, who has been in power since 1991.

The U.N. Commission, which Eritrea did not permit to visit, conducted 833 interviews from outside and documented a “general climate of fear.” Many of the abuses are centered around the military in a heavily militarized society. Soldiers are conscripted, made to serve indefinitely in abusive conditions — sometimes as forced labor in state-owned companies. Torture is extensive and methodical in civilian and military detention facilities. Rape in military training centers, in the army and in detention is committed with impunity, and soldiers are not punished for rape in society.


10 June 2016 | by Fredrick Nzwili

Orthodox patriarch among number of religious leaders jailed by Horn of Africa state

While citing systematic and widespread human rights abuses in Eritrea, UN's Human Rights Commission has called for the respect of religion and belief in the horn of Africa country.

The Catholic Church is one of four religious denominations authorised to operate by the government in the Red Sea country. The others are the Eritrean Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran and Sunni Islam, but many protestant, pentecostal and evangelical groups are not allowed to operate.

The commission said in the report released on June 8 that state authorities have cracked down and detained members of unauthorised religious groups, such as the Pentecostal churches and Jehovah Witness.

Since 2007, the former Patriarch of the Eritrean Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios, is under house arrest, strict surveillance and held without charge. The 89 years old patriarch was forcefully removed from office by government after he protested the authority’s interference in church matters. He is the most senior religious figure currently serving a detention.

“Sources said the victims has asked for the release of Patriarch Abune Antonios,” said report

Unconfirmed number of priests, deacons and monks of the Eritrean Orthodox Church have been arbitrary arrested and detained, according to report.

The country has scored poorly in global freedom indexes, with its fleeing citizen accounting for a large number of refugees trying to cross to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. The report indicated that the government of President Isaias Afwerki also kill those trying to flee the country.

It has since rejected the report which details extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual slavery and forced labour, saying the accounts were exaggerated. In the past, the country has also been accused supporting radical Islam in the region, especially in Somalia.

In the report, the UN body calls for immediate and unconditional release all those arbitrary detained, an end to arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals based on religious beliefs.



10 June 2016


For Immediate Release

The release of a damning report on human rights violations in Eritrea by the Commission of Inquiry On Human Rights in Eritrea (COI-E) under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Commission affirms SADC CNGO’s long standing concern about the Eritrean government’s deep rooted and ever-escalating violations of human rights against its citizens. Over the time we have noted reports out of Eritrea of torture, assassinations and enslavement of citizens without recourse to the rule of law. SADC CNGO believes that the totality of these barbaric acts constitute extreme forms of crimes against humanity and thus the continued silence of the African Union and the African leadership in particular on the suffering of the Eritrean people raises profound concerns on the protection of human rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

Established by the Human Rights Council Resolution 26/24 of 27th of June 2014, the COI-E released its first report in June 2015 (A/HRC/29/42) in which it ascertained the existence of “systematic and widespread human rights violations committed by the Eritrean government”. The report was adopted by the UN Human Rights Commission, which resolved to extend the mandate of the COI-E for another twelve months. After twelve months the COI-E released its report in which it unequivocally concluded that:

“[it] has a reasonable ground to believe that crimes against humanity, namely, enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecutions, rape and murder, have been committed in Eritrea since 1991.”  

On this basis, the COI-E recommended, among other things, that the UN Security Council “determine(s) that the situation of human rights in Eritrea poses a threat to international peace and security” and that the African Union “establishe[s] an accountability mechanism, under the aegis of the African Union and supported by the international community, to investigate, prosecute and try individuals reasonably believed to have committed crimes against humanity”.

Against this background and reiterating the resolutions of the 10th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum in July 2014 in Harare, Zimbabwe, and the 6th Citizens’ Continental Conference held on 21-23 January 2016 in Addis Ababa, SADC CNGO calls upon the African Union to expeditiously put the human rights situation in Eritrea on its agenda and establish accountability mechanisms as recommended by the COI-E.

We are once again calling upon the African Union to act decisively and fearlessly to protect the lives of defenseless men, women and children in Eritrea against their authoritarian government. For our attainment of the aspirations of Agenda 2063 and the principle of “African solutions to African problems”, the African Union must not fail the people of Eritrea yet again and thus must urgently act on the recommendations of the Commission’s report.

For more information please contact:

Boichoko A. Ditlhake

Executive Director

SADC Council of NGOs Plot 18682, Khurutshe Road, Phase 2

Gaborone, Botswana

Tel: +267 3912982 Fax: +267 3912954

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Suspected people trafficking ringleader arrested

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 21:18 Written by

Suspected people trafficking ringleader arrested

Wednesday 08 June 2016 17.53

A photo of Mered Medhanie distributed by the British National Crime AgencyA photo of Mered Medhanie distributed by the British National Crime Agency

An Eritrean suspected of controlling a people-trafficking network responsible for shipping thousands of people across the Mediterranean to Europe has been extradited from Sudan to Italy.

Medhanie Yehdego Mered, 35, who had been on a wanted list since 2015 for international people smuggling, was arrested in Khartoum at the end of May and flown to Italy late Monday, police said in a statement this morning.

"Mered is considered one of the biggest migrant traffickers operating on the Libyan- Sub-Saharan route," it said.

"He directed operations not only in Africa but also kept fellow operators in Italy up to date on the arrival of boats, to enable the migrants to continue to their final destinations [in Europe]."

Mr Mered was tracked down by the Sudanese intelligence services, with support from Italy's organised crime police and Britain's National Crime Agency.

A top Sudanese police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity that Mr Mered was "accused of smuggling youngsters from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan across the Mediterranean through Sudan or Libya or Egypt".


Wiretaps of Mr Mered's conversations revealed he was in contact with traffickers in north European countries, particularly the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and held a "senior position in a criminal network operating in several continents", the Italian police statement said.

He also showed "disregard for the lives of the migrants, appearing cynical and unscrupulous".

It is the first time a suspected top smuggler has been arrested in Africa and brought to face justice in Italy, which has been overwhelmed by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people since the migrant crisis began in 2008.



Ongoing human rights abuses in east African nation include rape, murder and torture, report alleges


A migrant from Eritrea simulates what she says is a torture technique during a protest outside the European Union delegation in Israel, in June 2015. Eritrea is believed to have a shoot-to-kill policy to stop people from fleeing the country, according to the head of a UN inquiry. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)



UN rights investigators accused Eritrean leaders of crimes against humanity including torture, rape and murder on Wednesday and called on the Security Council to impose sanctions and refer the case to the International Criminal Court.

Atrocities — including an indefinite military national service program that amounted to mass enslavement — had been committed since the country's independence in 1991 and were ongoing, the UN Commission of Inquiry said.

"We probably think there are 300,000 to 400,000 people who have been enslaved," Mike Smith, the head of the inquiry, told a news conference.

He also said he believed Eritrea was still operating a shoot-to-kill policy on its borders to stop people fleeing from the country, many of them heading to Europe as refugees.

The report says "particular individuals, including officials at the highest levels of State, the ruling party — the People's Front for Democracy and Justice — and commanding officers bear responsibility for crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations." 

The inquiry said there had been no improvement since a year ago when it published a 484-page dossier describing extrajudicial killings, widespread torture, sexual slavery and enforced labour.

Switzerland Eritrea Human Rights

Inquiry head Mike Smith says atrocities including rape, murder and de facto enslavement have been committed since Eritrea's independence in 1991. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone/Associated Press)

'Facade of calm'

Visitors to the country should not be fooled by the "general sense of calm and order" in the capital Asmara, because abuses were carried out in military training camps and detention centres, the report said.

"The facade of calm and normality that is apparent to the occasional visitor to the country, and others confined to sections of the capital, belies the consistent patterns of serious human rights violations," it added.

Eritrea's government did not allow the inquiry team to visit the country, although its diplomats met the investigators at the UN headquarters in New York.

Last year the three-strong inquiry team, led by Smith, an Australian diplomat and counter-terrorism expert, did not have a mandate to look into "international crimes," so the previous report said only that crimes against humanity may have been committed, without apportioning blame.

'Groundless accusations'

In the past year, the inquiry has received almost 45,000 written submissions, almost all group letters and petitions criticizing the first report, the direct result of a government campaign to discredit the inquiry, the report said.

Some signatories contacted by the inquiry said they had been coerced or their signatures had been forged and they were unaware of the letters, the report added.  

Eritrea's government said on Wednesday it rejected what it called the "politically motivated and groundless accusations."

The report is "an unwarranted attack not only against Eritrea, but also Africa and developing nations." said presidential adviser Yemane Ghebreab in a statement. 

The east African nation has routinely dismissed reports by UN bodies and campaign groups of rights violations in the past.




Eritrea commits crimes against humanity, UN says

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 14:43 Written by


UN investigation reports a litany of crimes committed in Eritrea since 1991, including enslavement, rape and murder.

08 Jun 2016 12:28 GMT

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A refugee from Eritrea simulates what she says is a torture technique done by Eritrean authorities [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Eritrea's government is guilty of committing crimes against humanity since independence a quarter-century ago with up to 400,000 people "enslaved", the UN said on Wednesday.

The crimes committed since 1991 to the present day include imprisonment, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, and rape and murder, said the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights.  

The forced labour of military conscripts is also a major problem in the country, the UN said.

"We probably think that there are 300,000 to 400,000 people who have been enslaved," chief UN investigator Mike Smith told journalists in Geneva.

The governement also operates a shoot-to-kill policy to stop people fleeing the country, according to evidence collected by the UN inquiry. 

About 5,000 Eritreans risk their lives each month to flee the nation where forcible army conscription can last decades.

"Very few Eritreans are ever released from their military service obligations," Smith said.

Eritrea's Minister of Information Yemane Meskel denounced the UN's findings on Twitter. 

One witness said that Air Force conscripts were made to work in a plantation that belonged to the Air Force chief. The conscripts were not paid and were sent to detention facilities if they refused to work.

These acts were perpetrated to terrify and control the civilian population, while crushing opposition, the Commission of Inquiry said.

"There is no genuine prospect of the Eritrean judicial system holding perpetrators to account in a fair and transparent manner," Mike Smith chair of the commission said.

The Commission of Inquiry recommended that the international community and the International Criminal Court get involved. 


Exiled Eritreans campaign for freedom of journalists

"Crimes against humanity have been committed in a widespread and systematic manner in Eritrean detention facilities, military training camps and other locations across the country over the past 25 years," the UN commission said.

"Particular individuals, including officials at the highest levels of state, the ruling party - the People's Front for Democracy and Justice - and commanding officers bear responsibility for crimes against humanity," it said.

The 1991 split between Ethiopia and Eritrea followed a three-decade independence war, which saw Eritrean rebels battling far better-equipped Ethiopian troops backed first by Washington and then by the Soviet Union.

The country ranks below North Korea as the worst in the world for press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders.

With an annual per capita gross national income of $480, Eritrea is one of the world's poorest nations, according to the World Bank. 



EU plans to try and stop the flow of refugees from Eritrea are causing officials to downplay a UN report into potential crimes against humanity by the regime.

“This is deeply disturbing,” says Marie-Christine Vergiat, Left Front French MEP who is a member of the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee. “We have been warning the Commission for months about the situation in the Horn of Africa and especially in Eritrea – without any results.”

The tiny nation of Eritrea – situated between Ethiopia and the Red Sea – is haemorrhaging people. As many as 5,000 a month cross borders, evading guards with orders to shoot to kill. They flee a regime that traps them in permanent servitude: a system of indefinite conscription that can last for decades.

Eritreans and Sudanese make up the majority of the African refugees, drowning in the Mediterranean and arriving in “the Jungle” in Calais. European officials are determined to halt the exodus by almost any means.

Plans for the EU to co-operate with the Eritrean authorities to halt the refugee flight are described in official documents as: “Assistance to develop or implement human trafficking regulations.” They include sharing intelligence and police reports with the regime.

The UN Commission of Inquiry report into Eritrea’s gross abuses threatens to derail these plans. Collaboration with President Isaias Afwerki’s regime would be difficult, if not impossible, if they were officially designated as a regime that commits “crimes against humanity”. 

The EU’s development principles are founded on respect for human rights. As its basic understanding with Africa and the Caribbean, the Cotonou agreement, put it: “respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, and good governance is part and parcel of long term development”. It would be hard to flout such a clearly-stated undertaking.


Yet senior EU officials have spent the last week preparing for such an eventuality.   They have been quietly suggesting that since the UN Commissioners were not allowed to visit Eritrea (despite repeated requests) their work was unfortunately “anecdotal” and cannot be relied on.

In making this claim the EU is marching in step with the Eritrean government, which has attacked the UN report before it is published.

The Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement accusing the Commission of Inquiry of showing a “total disregard for the basic principles of fundamental rules of procedure and established norms of fair play” and suggesting that its credibility has been undermined. The statement fails to mention that it was the government’s own actions that kept the Commission out of Eritrea.

Documents leaked from the Eritrean capital provide an insight into the scale of the official campaign against the UN Commission. The government’s plan is to collect 300,000 signatures protesting against the work of the Commission.

News of this development has been revealed by a whistleblower in the Eritrean capital, who goes by the name of “Samuel”.

A seven-page letter in Tigrinya from the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs details the operation. Every Eritrean foreign embassy is required to fulfil an allocated “quota” of signatures against the Commission’s report.

For Eritreans in the diaspora this is not a mere request. Living – as many of them do – in countries like Sudan, they are open to real pressure to comply with this request for support. Refusal would leave the exiles open to accusations of being unpatriotic, resulting in a denial of assistance from any Eritrean embassy – including passports, visas or any other form of official documentation or permission.

Thousands of Eritreans across the diaspora are being officially encouraged to travel to Geneva. “Spontaneous” protests are planned against the Commission’s findings, even before they have been made public.

Human rights campaigners are critical of the shared objectives of the EU and the Eritrean government. “Nobody should undermine the work of the UN Commission of Inquiry.  European civil servants shouldn’t comment on – even less minimise a UN report – especially prior to publication.”


Fresh chaos as Italian border town sees new migrant influx

The Italian border town of Ventimiglia has seen more than 300 migrants arrive in the last week. Photo: Valerie Hache/AFP


The Local · 6 Jun 2016, 14:20

 Published: 06 Jun 2016 14:20 GMT+02:00

More than 300 people arrived in the Ligurian town after making their way up from southern Italy after a week that saw 13,000 rescued at sea.

The spike comes a year after Italy and France became embroiled in a standoff after hundreds of migrants were stranded in Ventimiglia because they were refused entry into France.

With the border still being stringently monitored, just 20 of the 300 migrants who arrived in Ventimiglia have attempted to cross, with the majority now housed in the town’s main refugee centre, run by the parish church of San Antonio, where numbers have swelled to over 600.

“The situation has become unsustainable,” parish priest Father Rito Alvarez told San Remo news.

Volunteers at the centre are now preparing 700 meals a day.

“We're trying to welcome everyone, but there are so many and the number keeps growing,” Maurizio Marma, a volunteer from Caritias, the church-run charity, told Ansa.

“Many of them are now sleeping on the floor outside; we are looking for another solution.”

The problems are not just logistical. The spike in arrivals is also creating a headache for guards at the French border.

Although the majority of the arrivals have been identified in Italy and therefore must stay, some have been caught trying to cross the border into France, with a reported 20 migrants being removed from France-bound trains on Monday morning alone.

The sudden influx has also caused sanitation problems inside the refugee centre.

An outbreak of chickenpox last week saw four refugees hospitalized and a further 80 given vaccinations against the disease.

Ventimiglia Mayor Enrico Ioculano is set to meet with religious leaders on Monday in the hope that more Church structures can be freed up for use as welcome centres.

In June last year around 250 migrants camped out in Ventimiglia for four days, protesting that they should be allowed to enter France on their way to their desired destinations in northern Europe.

Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano described the dramatic scenes as “a punch in the face of all European countries that want to close their eyes”. The migrants were eventually forcibly moved.

Migrants in Ventimiglia last June. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP