Miles Amoore Africa correspondent Published: 11 October 2015

Many of the African migrants to Europe come from Eritrea, a one-party state since 1991, where torture is common in labour campsMany of the African migrants to Europe come from Eritrea, a one-party state since 1991, where torture is common in labour camps (Fabrizio Villa)

SURVIVORS of Eritrea’s labour camps recall few methods of torture with as much fear as the technique known as the “helicopter”.

Victims have their elbows and feet tied tightly together behind their backs, often with wire or plastic rope that makes their limbs bleed.

They are then strung from trees and dangle in the scorching sun. Gangrene sets in, resulting in amputations.

Eritrea is the third-largest source of migrants flooding Europe with more than 5,000 people fleeing their homeland every month.

Despite the country’s horrors, catalogued in United Nations reports, investigations by activists and court papers, European Union officials last week outlined plans to deport Eritreans seeking asylum in Europe back to Africa.

A plane carrying the first Eritrean refugees to be relocated within Europe left Rome on Friday for northern Sweden.

Not all the Eitreans who follow will be so fortunate. The EU is set to build reception centres

Source=http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/world_news/Africa/article1618014.ece?CMP=OTH-gnws-standard-2015_10_11

Eritrea in Our Hearts

Sunday, 11 October 2015 22:49 Written by

Eritrea i våran hjärtan

UN security council to assess expert report on alleged support for subversive activity as EU moots possibility of increasing aid to tackle migration problem

A report on Eritrea’s alleged support for subversive regional activity comes with relations between the country’s government and the international community at a crossroads. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

The UN security council will meet on Friday to consider a report on Eritrea’s alleged support for subversion across the Horn of Africa. The report, by the UN Monitoring Group on Eritrea and Somalia, will play an important part in the global body’s decision on whether to continue sanctions against the Eritrean regime.

Relations between President Isaias Afwerki’s government and the international community are at a crossroads. The UN and the EU may decide to embrace the regime despite its dire human rights record, ploughing aid into the country and attempting to crack down on the smugglers who have enabled tens of thousands of Eritreans to flee their homeland.

Equally, diplomats may conclude that until abuses in Eritrea end, people will continue to cross state borders at the rate of 5,000 a month. Should this be the case, pressure on Afwerki could be stepped up, with the UN adopting a wider range of sanctions and the EU refusing to consider Eritrea a suitable partner in its continuing African dialogue.

Eritreans make up one of the largest groups of refugees arriving on European shores – in April alone, more than 5,300 came ashore in Italy, according to UN figures.

EU governments are attempting to come up with a battery of policies aimed at sealing off “Fortress Europe” from unwanted migrants and increasing the speed and volume of deportations for refused asylum seekers.

According to 10 pages of draft decisions prepared for a meeting on Thursday of this week, the European institutions and national governments are to make a show of deporting refused asylum seekers in what looks like a vain attempt to try to discourage others from making the journey.

Eritreans are named among those against whom these measures could be taken.

The EU has also started Operation Sophia, under which a naval taskforce headquartered in Rome will work to halt operations smuggling people across the Mediterranean.

Six ships – including Britain’s HMS Bulwark – will be used to “start to dismantle this business model by trying to apprehend some suspected smugglers”, Rear Admiral Hervé Bléjean told the BBC.

This is what the Eritrean government, which is acutely embarrassed that so many of its citizens are fleeing their country, has been calling for. In December last year, Eritrea’s minister of foreign affairs, Osman Saleh, told an EU–Horn of Africa conference that his country was “determined to work with the EU and all European countries to tackle irregular migration and human trafficking and to address their root causes”.

European ministers have been discussing bolstering these efforts by increasing aid to Eritrea by 200m (£147m), in the hope that this might relieve the poverty that could drive migration.

If Britain and its allies appear close to an accord with Eritrea, there are also strong pressures in the opposite direction.

In June, a UN commission of inquiry into human rights in Eritrea published a report accusing the regime of abuses so severe that they “may constitute crimes against humanity”.

The commissioners said it was these atrocities – rather than underdevelopment and poverty – that were behind Eritreans’ decisions to risk all to leave their country.

There have since been further allegations that the Eritrean government is continuing to destabilise its neighbours and nearby countries – the issue that triggered the UN sanctions against it in the first place.

Afwerki is reported to have trained and equipped Houthi rebels in their drive against the Yemeni government. The Eritreans are said to have allowed Iran to use the Danakil islands in the Red Sea as a base from which to arm and train the Houthis. Eritrea’s foreign ministry has strongly denied these claims.

The UN security council will be well aware of these various issues when it considers the report from its team of monitors. A great deal will depend on what evidence the experts have been able to amass concerning Eritrea’s undermining of its neighbours. 

 

“We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring.”

 Catherine Pulsifer 

Governments, political parties and communities around the globe in advanced and developing countries strive to adopt their constituents’ voice and interest by incorporating representative policy in their charters to reap better social, economic and political progress. This concept of participatory governing or process is called political diversity. What is the essence of diversity?

According to the Queens Borough Community College website, “The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences.  These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.  It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.”

Therefore, political diversity is a framework that allows people of one nation to establish a representative governance to have a saying on the decision making process that affects their livelihood. It brings diverse people from different ethnic groups, regions and religions together to form a governing body that respects, accepts and recognizes the human and political interests of all stakeholders. In a nutshell, political diversity is a system that fulfills the political interests of all parties involved. The process guarantees its owners to participating in the decision making process in policies that affect their political, social, and economical life.

Eritrea (like India, Nigeria and Switzerland) is a multiple ethno-territorial diverse country. Nonetheless, Eritrea’s ethno-linguistic and religious blood relationship offers a better situation for harmonious political diversity than the said examples. The Bilen and Saho religious bi-communal formation, and the ethno-linguistic Tigre blood relationship with the Tigrina are core foundations of our social and political make up. This unique formation is a winning formula that should not be squandered.

It is for that reason that the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) is striving to establish a representative governance system to advance the interests of all Eritreans. A government where all ethnic groups and regions participate in the process through their representatives. This way all Eritreans will have a voice in their government and their political  interest are respected and recognized. 

Could diversity mean the give up or submission of one’s culture? Or, does diversity mean the coercion of one culture in favor of another? Absolutely not. A culture is the way people live their daily lives. Fortunately, each ethno-linguistic group in Eritrea have very distinctive culture, and representative system of governing empowers the culture of every stakeholder. It never promotes the coercion or submission of cultures. It rather allows diverse cultures to co-exist side by side in harmony and bondage. Thus, one can confidently say that political diversity is about inclusiveness and not exclusiveness. 

In conclusion, our diversity is unique and rich. We need to explore and invest on our uniqueness from a human aspect where we can build bridges of understanding and dialogue. This way we are stronger and will come out winners together.

Libya's Migrant Cattle Trade: One Refugee's Story

VICE News visited a makeshift prison near Tripoli where militia were holding captured migrants and refugees.
 

War And Conflict

September 16, 2015 | 1:55 pm

I met Saron, a 16-year-old girl from Eritrea, last summer in an abandoned industrial facility a few miles east of Tripoli. Along with more than 700 other Eritrean refugees, she had been captured earlier that day by one of the many militias that have carved out a zone of influence in Libya's fractured society.

The refugees were fleeing Africa's most repressive dictatorship, hoping to catch a boat to Europe with one of the countless smugglers who ply the route on overcrowded, ill-equipped boats.

Back in Eritrea, Saron would soon have been forced by law to end her education, enrol in military school and serve for an indefinite period of time in the Eritrean army. "The reason I left my country was there is no future in there. There is no hope," she told me, while I was working on a film for VICE News. "You just become a soldier, you go [to] war. I want to reach Norway, obtain citizenship, study human rights, and change my country."

Watch the VICE News documentary: Detained by Militia: Libyan's Migrant Trade

But like many other refugees seeking to pass through Libya, Saron and her fellow captives became human commodities, pawns in a game of power and wealth played by Libyan militias.

To get to Tripoli, they had traveled for eight days, at night in vehicles and kept in cages during the day. Their food and water had run out on the fourth day. After finally nearing the capital and gathering at a farm, waiting for a boat to be made ready to travel to Italy, the group had been captured by the powerful militia Libya Dawn.

Whilst we talked, she took my notebook and begun to write, attracting the attention of a nearby guard. He rushed over, brandishing his Kalashnikov, and interrupted us aggressively.

Saron is no more than 5 feet tall and slightly built, but she looked him coolly in the eyes.

"I'm writing down my brother's telephone number so he can call him and let my family know that I'm alive," she said. "Is that a problem?"

Saron, an Eritrean teenager, spoke to VICE News from a makeshift prison where she was being detained by Libyan militia

Despite his gun, and the scars of a four year civil war, the guard could only stammer a reply.

According to one of the militia commanders, who didn't want to be named, they had received an offer from a gang, wanted to buy the migrants for $2 million for use as slaves and fighters. 

But for the moment, the commander said, they had refused, preferring to keep hold onto the hostages as a card to play with the new unity government, which is expected to be formed shortly. The many militias controlling Libya are attempting to present themselves as a credible force taking good control of their territory and the illegal migration taking place within it — hoping to be granted legitimacy and funding from authorities as a result.

I had to leave Saron there. When I spoke to her next, she had seen things that no teenager should have to see.

* * *

On April 18, European political and public opinion was shaken by the news of the most deadly day in the Mediterranean since World War II, when an estimated 850 migrants died following the capsizing of their boat off the Libyan coast.

In May, it emerged that the European Union had drawn up plans for military attacks on smuggling networks in Libya. A draft resolution prepared by Britain reportedly called for the "use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers".

Soon after, the Islamist government in Tripoli declared its intention to fight irregular migration from its territory, and begun a campaign to represent itself as an enemy of the people smugglers. They promised armed patrols and the deportation of migrants.

The numerous militias that control Libyan territory and are widely believed to be involved in the human traffic business, understood this as their cue to increase their political standing and begun to "arrest" illegal migrants, or sometimes just black people.

One of these was the militia holding Saron. It had previously allied with Ansar al Sharia, the militia linked to the September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Having been expelled from Benghazi a few months ago, they had relocated to Tajoura, east of Tripoli.

Like other militias who have taken to "arresting" migrants, they were not acting under the oversight of the Interior Ministry, or with any formal legal authority.

Yet armed groups in Libya now believe that if they are able to stop migrants arriving in Europe, whatever means they use, they will become a de facto partner of Europe, thus gaining legitimacy and power.

This belief is based on their experience. The European Union collaborated with the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, providing aid so that he would prevent the flow of migrants across the sea. They did so despite the fact that the Libyan security services were well-known for their abuse of human rights and the fact that Libya is not party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

The British plans to take military action against smugglers never came to anything, and likely were never practical. But the episode gave the cover of legitimacy to militias detaining and holding refugees, even without legal due process.

* * *

One night after VICE News left the makeshift prison, the guards got drunk, Saron later told me. She and a few other women tried to take advantage and escape. For many of them, it turned out to be a bad idea.

For some reason, some of the other detainees sounded the alarm and guards rushed set out in pursuit, shooting to kill.

Luckily, none were harmed. Some of the escapees got away, Saron and a few others laid down in the dirt so as not be shot and were recaptured.

Amid the chaos, a group of Eritrean men thought they saw their own chance and tried to escape as well. Militiamen chased them too. Two were gunned down, another two were arrested.

Saron, the youngest of the escapees, was tied and forced to watch as the two men and the other women were tortured with a stick with nails attached to it. In front of all the detainees, a militia member pressed a pistol to the head of each of the two men who tried to escape and shot them dead.

Following the mass escape attempt, the militia decided to sell 26 of the Eritreans, including Saron, to a smuggler for 26,000 Libyan dinar ($19,000).

The smuggler made the migrants pay back the 1,000 dinar for which they were each purchased, as well as the price of the boat trip to Europe and the costs of an array of other "services," such as accommodation, transport to and from safe houses, life jackets and telephone communications. In total Saron's family paid $2,800.

Saron was transferred to the port of Sabratah where she and more than 500 other migrants were loaded onto a wooden boat. The loading took two hours and nobody was at pains to hide it, Saron later said.

Libyan men from another militia were guarding the group at the port and followed the boat in three dinghies, giving instructions along the way, until the boat reached international waters.

Neither Saron nor I know what happened to the other Eritrean refugees who unluckily found themselves captive in that old industrial facility outside Tripoli. We cannot know, but what is likely is that for many of them their journey did not have a happy end. If their fates matched those of other refugees seeking to reach Europe, some were sold as slaves, some died of sickness, some were shot, and some drowned at sea.

They came from Eritrea, one of the most cruel dictatorships in the world, where according to the UN, the use of extra-judicial killing, torture, indefinite military conscription and forced labour is systemic.

They were fleeing to the European Union, which agreed in April a $353 million development package with the Eritrean government, reportedly in an attempt to discourage emigration.

As for Saron, she made it.

She left her home and her country at 16 years old for an almost 4,000 mile journey, accepting that death was a possible consequence of her migration, of her determination to live in a free country.

"We can't get out of our country legally — it's always illegal and they can kill you," she said. "So it was okay for us to cross the sea. We know a lot of people died there. But we accept it as Eritreans, because our government can't help us."

Source=https://news.vice.com/article/libyas-migrant-cattle-trade-one-refugees-story

Libya's Migrant Cattle Trade: One Refugee's Story

By Marco Salustro

September 16, 2015 | 1:55 pm

I met Saron, a 16-year-old girl from Eritrea, last summer in an abandoned industrial facility a few miles east of Tripoli. Along with more than 700 other Eritrean refugees, she had been captured earlier that day by one of the many militias that have carved out a zone of influence in Libya's fractured society.

The refugees were fleeing Africa's most repressive dictatorship, hoping to catch a boat to Europe with one of the countless smugglers who ply the route on overcrowded, ill-equipped boats.

Back in Eritrea, Saron would soon have been forced by law to end her education, enrol in military school and serve for an indefinite period of time in the Eritrean army. "The reason I left my country was there is no future in there. There is no hope," she told me, while I was working on a film for VICE News. "You just become a soldier, you go [to] war. I want to reach Norway, obtain citizenship, study human rights, and change my country."

Watch the VICE News documentary: Detained by Militia: Libyan's Migrant Trade

But like many other refugees seeking to pass through Libya, Saron and her fellow captives became human commodities, pawns in a game of power and wealth played by Libyan militias.

To get to Tripoli, they had traveled for eight days, at night in vehicles and kept in cages during the day. Their food and water had run out on the fourth day. After finally nearing the capital and gathering at a farm, waiting for a boat to be made ready to travel to Italy, the group had been captured by the powerful militia Libya Dawn.

Whilst we talked, she took my notebook and begun to write, attracting the attention of a nearby guard. He rushed over, brandishing his Kalashnikov, and interrupted us aggressively.

Saron is no more than 5 feet tall and slightly built, but she looked him coolly in the eyes.

"I'm writing down my brother's telephone number so he can call him and let my family know that I'm alive," she said. "Is that a problem?"

Saron, an Eritrean teenager, spoke to VICE News from a makeshift prison where she was being detained by Libyan militia

Despite his gun, and the scars of a four year civil war, the guard could only stammer a reply.

According to one of the militia commanders, who didn't want to be named, they had received an offer from a gang, wanted to buy the migrants for $2 million for use as slaves and fighters. 

But for the moment, the commander said, they had refused, preferring to keep hold onto the hostages as a card to play with the new unity government, which is expected to be formed shortly. The many militias controlling Libya are attempting to present themselves as a credible force taking good control of their territory and the illegal migration taking place within it — hoping to be granted legitimacy and funding from authorities as a result.

I had to leave Saron there. When I spoke to her next, she had seen things that no teenager should have to see.

* * *

On April 18, European political and public opinion was shaken by the news of the most deadly day in the Mediterranean since World War II, when an estimated 850 migrants died following the capsizing of their boat off the Libyan coast.

In May, it emerged that the European Union had drawn up plans for military attacks on smuggling networks in Libya. A draft resolution prepared by Britain reportedly called for the "use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers".

Soon after, the Islamist government in Tripoli declared its intention to fight irregular migration from its territory, and begun a campaign to represent itself as an enemy of the people smugglers. They promised armed patrols and the deportation of migrants.

The numerous militias that control Libyan territory and are widely believed to be involved in the human traffic business, understood this as their cue to increase their political standing and begun to "arrest" illegal migrants, or sometimes just black people.

One of these was the militia holding Saron. It had previously allied with Ansar al Sharia, the militia linked to the September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Having been expelled from Benghazi a few months ago, they had relocated to Tajoura, east of Tripoli.

Like other militias who have taken to "arresting" migrants, they were not acting under the oversight of the Interior Ministry, or with any formal legal authority.

Yet armed groups in Libya now believe that if they are able to stop migrants arriving in Europe, whatever means they use, they will become a de facto partner of Europe, thus gaining legitimacy and power.

This belief is based on their experience. The European Union collaborated with the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, providing aid so that he would prevent the flow of migrants across the sea. They did so despite the fact that the Libyan security services were well-known for their abuse of human rights and the fact that Libya is not party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

The British plans to take military action against smugglers never came to anything, and likely were never practical. But the episode gave the cover of legitimacy to militias detaining and holding refugees, even without legal due process.

* * *

One night after VICE News left the makeshift prison, the guards got drunk, Saron later told me. She and a few other women tried to take advantage and escape. For many of them, it turned out to be a bad idea.

For some reason, some of the other detainees sounded the alarm and guards rushed set out in pursuit, shooting to kill.

Luckily, none were harmed. Some of the escapees got away, Saron and a few others laid down in the dirt so as not be shot and were recaptured.

Amid the chaos, a group of Eritrean men thought they saw their own chance and tried to escape as well. Militiamen chased them too. Two were gunned down, another two were arrested.

Saron, the youngest of the escapees, was tied and forced to watch as the two men and the other women were tortured with a stick with nails attached to it. In front of all the detainees, a militia member pressed a pistol to the head of each of the two men who tried to escape and shot them dead.

Following the mass escape attempt, the militia decided to sell 26 of the Eritreans, including Saron, to a smuggler for 26,000 Libyan dinar ($19,000).

The smuggler made the migrants pay back the 1,000 dinar for which they were each purchased, as well as the price of the boat trip to Europe and the costs of an array of other "services," such as accommodation, transport to and from safe houses, life jackets and telephone communications. In total Saron's family paid $2,800.

Saron was transferred to the port of Sabratah where she and more than 500 other migrants were loaded onto a wooden boat. The loading took two hours and nobody was at pains to hide it, Saron later said.

Libyan men from another militia were guarding the group at the port and followed the boat in three dinghies, giving instructions along the way, until the boat reached international waters.

Neither Saron nor I know what happened to the other Eritrean refugees who unluckily found themselves captive in that old industrial facility outside Tripoli. We cannot know, but what is likely is that for many of them their journey did not have a happy end. If their fates matched those of other refugees seeking to reach Europe, some were sold as slaves, some died of sickness, some were shot, and some drowned at sea.

They came from Eritrea, one of the most cruel dictatorships in the world, where according to the UN, the use of extra-judicial killing, torture, indefinite military conscription and forced labour is systemic.

They were fleeing to the European Union, which agreed in April a $353 million development package with the Eritrean government, reportedly in an attempt to discourage emigration.

As for Saron, she made it.

She left her home and her country at 16 years old for an almost 4,000 mile journey, accepting that death was a possible consequence of her migration, of her determination to live in a free country.

"We can't get out of our country legally — it's always illegal and they can kill you," she said. "So it was okay for us to cross the sea. We know a lot of people died there. But we accept it as Eritreans, because our government can't help us."

Borderlines: The tale of a state in limbo

Sunday, 04 October 2015 12:50 Written by

Michela Wrong Image Credit: TEDx Euston

Borderlines (2015) is Michela Wrong’s debut novel. Taking the perspective of a British narrator named Paula, it tells the tale of a newly-independent fictitious African nation named North Darrar, which relapses into border conflict with its neighbour. Although the country is never mentioned, Wrong’s North Darrar looks very much like the real African nation of Eritrea. The story very much seems like a fictionalized account of events and anecdotes that took place in Eritrea in the last decade, events which Wrong has written extensively on in other publications.

In this well-written novel, Wrong weaves the picture of a curious and naive British lawyer who lands in Africa for the first time, carrying with her all the stereotypical images of the continent. And, at least initially, the bond between North Darrar and Paula, seems driven by her career more than anything else. As the story unfolds, Wrong depicts a country encapsulated in an early decolonizing process, trying to present itself to the world amid acute shortages of skilled human power, resources, and paranoid political leadership. Paula encounters a society that is generous, simple, hopeful, and yet ruled by a culture of pervasive paranoia. The paranoid culture, as the narrator Paula eventually understands, results from the long years of colonial rule, isolation, and political corruption. The commingling of seclusion, detachment, and inwardly looking culture further reinforce, according to one of the characters in the novel, the trauma and mutual distrust in the society:

Half the residents are related to each other and the other half fought alongside one another during the liberation struggle. They loathe or love each other, often simultaneously (102).

The story is roughly divided into three parts. The first section is where the narrator lands in a country that is yet going through the early steps of decolonization. Described in vivid detail are: impressive and ruined buildings; hope and anxiety; sense of loss and victory; as well as the seemingly monotonous life of the diplomatic and expatriate communities. In the second part, Paula and her team collect facts and evidence about the border conflict, as part of her preparation to represent the country in the international court of justice in The Hague. The third part chronicles hopeful stories of citizens who are gradually zombified. Paula also gets involved in the internal affairs of the country, campaigning against the political system’s corruption, which effectively ends the job that sent her there in the first place.

What is interesting is that Wrong’s writing avoids a simplistic over-generalization about the population of North Darrar, that reduces a people’s complexity into one-dimensional stereotypes. Different characters such as Dawit, who doubles as operations and opposition; the truly devoted yet ambitious revolutionary character of Dr. Berhane; and the pleasant personality of a government agent named Abraham all help paint the book’s multi-faceted landscape. The descriptions of a monotonous and slow daily life, the wearisome entrances into the world of international law where time is jagged into an eternity, punctuated by a sudden course of actions that result in unexpected outcomes, are symbolic representations of the country and its fate. Although at times the narrative seems extended, the story also benefits from the author’s wonderful curiosity for detail. This allows the author to create an interesting picture of the country by intertwining small stories into a bigger image of a state in limbo.

Source=http://africasacountry.com/2015/09/borderlines-the-tale-of-limbo-state/

“It is good to be a Catholic at this time."

  Iman Khalid Latiff, NYU

 

The visitation of Pope Francis in the USA last week touched people of all faiths and diversities. His mass services, public speeches, visitation to the jail and the homeless luncheon attracted not just faithful Catholics, but interfaith masses. Spiritually, he truly walks the life of Jesus Christ.  Politically and socially, he centered his policy under dialogue and inclusiveness.

Glued on TV watching the Interfaith Prayer Service hosted by his Holiness in Ground Zero, New York, was beyond emotion. It was a communion of different faith leaders remembering the 9/11 casualties in spiritual and brotherly tone. It was a moving moment to watch Imam Khalid Latiff passing well wishing card to Pope Francis, and his Holiness accepting it with a booming smile, his signature. What does his Holiness teach us from his pastoral journey? Dialogue and inclusiveness.

 

Naturally, when the political situation of a country hits abyss, nationals wake up from the slump in urgency to resurrect their countrymen. At this juncture, instead of building bridges, we continue building walls of separation, the root cause of mistrust. This act is emboldening the dictator from his death bed. An open dialogue done with inclusiveness is our only revival to a victory lane.

Reaching out to every human being is at the center of the Pontiff’s mission. Of course, his Holiness does it from a spiritual aspect. Politically, it will also work equally. Human beings love to be touched, cared, respected, and loved. Truly, Pope Francis has made an impact on many people by caring about them, reaching them out, and telling them they are also loved by God. 

In conclusion, as many faithful Catholics have felt, I also felt it is good time to be a Catholic. It is good feeling to see many people from all walks of life to express their admiration of his humility, love and compassion. It was a memory that took me back to my childhood roots in the Combonian compounds in Decamere. He had a message for everyone that we are all sons and daughters of God and can overcome all our issues in this life through dialogue.

Residents of Asmara, Eritrea’s capital reputed for its Modernist architectural heritage lament the city’s decline as the regime obstructs crucial maintenance of the buildings that gained the city its reputation as ‘Little Rome’ where Italian architects freely experimented daring and innovative designed in the 1930s.

In recognition of the importance of this heritage the world bank funded projects to conserve and maintain these buildings, however these project and other similar initiatives seem to have ground to a halt as many buildings stand derelict and devoid of their potential as tourist attractions.

A case in example is the historic Asmara Icon known locally as Palaso Aba Habesh, in a picture given by a recent Asmara visitor. The building is in total decline and in dyer need of maintenance and conservation, however the regime’s policy prevents any building and construction projects to be undertaken by citizens. As a consequence many residential buildings constructed by individuals to salivate the severe housing shortage in the city are being demolished without regard for the economic and social damage that this is causing residents.

 AsmaraBuildings 1

In 2014, in a rare case of private initiative to modernise and conserve old buildings four individuals bought to renovated a building in the commercial heart of the city deploying resources estimated in millions of 'Nakfas', however as the building work was nearing completion and the building almost ready for commercial use officials ordered its demolition and the result is total dereliction of the building as seen in the picture.

 AsmaraBuildings 2

Asmara residents note that all of this adds to the hopelessness in the city and fuels the exodus of the young and resourceful citizens.

 AsmaraBuildings 3

Project Freedom Friday

 

By Tomas Monzon   |   Sept. 30, 2015 at 8:37 AM
An Eritrean man in his 20s died Wednesday in the French port city of Calais after being struck by a freight train, similar to the one pictured, while attempting to enter the Eurotunnel illegally. Fencing has been increased in the area as a way to stymie the attempts made by migrants to enter Britain illegally. File photo by i4lcocl2/Shutterstock

CALAIS, France, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- A migrant from Eritrea was killed by a freight train Wednesday at the Channel tunnel in Calais, France, as he attempted to make his way to Britain, law enforcement said.

Calais police said they found the man at about 1 a.m. local time. Eurotunnel, which owns the Channel tunnel, or Chunnel, said incident was "regrettable" and a representation of the dangers associated with trying to cross the Channel illegally.

The man's death marks the fourth such casualty at Calais in the past two weeks, and the second in a 24-hour period. On Tuesday, a 20-year old man from Iraq was found crushed by truck pallets there. The week prior, an African teenager was also hit by a freight train near the Channel tunnel entrance. Finally, a man believed to be Syrian was electrocuted near the tunnel entrance as he tried to climb atop a train.

Migrants in Calais have tried to stow away on ferries or trucks bound for Britain. At least 13 people have died in attempts to access to Channel tunnel since June.

Newly installed security fences around the nearby train tracks have stymied attempts to access the Channel tunnel entrance. A peak figure of 2,000 attempts each night to enter Britain through the tunnel has decreased to fewer than 150.

A Eurotunnel spokesman told SkyNews the continued attempts by migrants to cross illegally is "very, very sad" and that it puts "their lives at risk."

British Home Secretary Theresa May said France and Britain are willing to work together to deport these migrants back to where they came from, adding that the two countries have spent a significant amount on tunnel security.

Source=http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2015/09/30/Eritrean-migrant-killed-by-freight-train-while-attempting-to-enter-Channel-tunnel/1231443611266/?spt=su&or=btn_fb

Screenshot_2015-09-25-00-42-22-1Question. Although Eritreans, at least those in the Diaspora, are familiar with your picture and your being one of the trio of the UNCOI, can you provide us with an introduction as to your background and how you ended up with the COI team?

Answer. I am a lawyer from Mauritius and have been working on human rights issues on the African continent for almost three decades.  I have served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea since November 2012.  On 27 June 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution A/HRC/RES/26/24 setting up the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, it specifically indicated that the Special Rapporteur would be one of the three members. This explains my presence on the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea (COIE) as one of the Commissioners.

Q. What is the COI and how does it come into existence?

A. Following the presentation of my reports (A/HRC/23/53 in June 2013 and A/HRC/26/45 in June 2014) in my capacity as Special Rapporteur, and taking into account the non-cooperation of the Eritrean Government with the mandate and other human rights mechanisms, in June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) decided to establish, for a period of one year, a commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE). The HRC mandated the COIE to investigate violations of international human rights law, as outlined in the reports of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea. There were also calls for the setting up of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea made by civil society and other Eritreans, including those in the diaspora. Following the presentation of the Commissino’s report containing its findings in June 2015, the HRC decided to extend the mandate of the COIE for one year to investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring full accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity.

Q. Are members appointed or they have to express an interest and even have to apply to be member of such a commission?

A. The President of the Human Rights Council approaches suitably qualified candidates to see whether they may be interested and then appoints members from among those who express an interest in being part of the Commission.

Q. Since your work entails having to investigate a government’s policy and behavior, does the government in question have a say in approving the members?

A. Appointment of the Commisioners remains the responsibility of the UN Human Rights Council and does not entail the approval of the Government concerned.

Q. What in short were you able to firmly establish from your investigation of the Eritrean regime?

A. The Commission found that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed with impunity in Eritrea under the authority of the Government. Some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity. Our investigation identified specific patterns of systematic human rights violations, based on several factors. They included:

• The high frequency of occurrence of violations documented and corroborated;

• The number of victims and the replication of the violation over a certain period of time;

• The type of rights violated; and

• The systemic nature of these violations, meaning that they cannot be the result of random or isolated acts by the authorities.

The COIE was able to confirm serious human rights violations in Eritrea, including cases of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, inhumane prison conditions, violations of human rights in the context of the indefinite national service, which in effect amounts to forced labour, sexual violence in the national service, lack of freedom of expression and opinion, assembly, association, religious belief and movement.

Q. Was there any information that you came across thar surprised you most? What was it, why?

A. It was the extent to which the vast security network reaches into every level of society in-country but also in other countries.  This is one of the reasons why the Commission said that Eritrea is a country ruled by fear and not by law.  While I had an indication of this state of affairs, the Commission was able to gauge how wide-reaching it was.

Q. Have you heard of, read or even worked on a situation like that of Eritrea? Are there regimes out there like the PFDJ?

A. The COIE’s mandate is to focus on human rights violations in Eritrea and it is best to avoid making comparisons with other countries.  However, human rights violations in Eritrea are systematic, widespread and indeed happening on a large scale and we seldom see human rights violations of the scope and scale we see in Eritrea today.

Q. The regime’s constant criticism of the report is that you have never been into the country. How much did you try to convince the regime to allow you in?

A. Although the Commission repeatedly sought the cooperation of the Government in carrying out its work, it received no response.   The Chair wrote to President Isaias Afewerki seeking his invitation and collaboration right at the start and followed up on several occasions, including with requests for information. The Commission even sent an advance copy of the report to the Eritrean authorities. There was no response.

Q. Do you think not being able to talk to the people inside undermined your report?

A. The Commission conducted interviews with some 550 witnesses in eight countries and received 160 written submissions.  As was indicated by the Chair, Mike Smith, the Commission recorded the voices of real Eritrean people as articulated in these 550 testimonies and 160 submissions received. The Commission also reflected the silenced voice of the majority of Eritreans who have never been able to elect their own representatives in national, free, fair and democratic elections, as well as the voices of imprisoned and ill-treated critics, journalists, religious leaders and others who have disappeared into a vast network of jails, the muzzled voice of those subjected to forced labour and inhumane conditions for years on end. Finally, the Commission highlighted the voice of those who every day risk their lives to flee a government that has failed them and all of the others.

Q. There was also this incident of a cut and paste situation involving a North Korean document that somehow ended up being inserted in that of Eritrea. What exactly happened and why? Do tragic errors like that undermine or compromise the credibility of the UN and specifically the COI?

A. This “incident” as you call it did not involve the COIE and it is not something I have personal knowledge about. It is therefore difficult for me to talk about this specific happening. However, not related to the COIE work, it has no incidence on the credibility of the COIE.

Q. You are also accused of being anti-PFDJ because you had previously worked for humanitarian organizations. Can you be an objective investigator with a background of opposing unpopular governments?

A. I have dedicated my time and energy for years to monitor, document, investigate, advocate against human rights violations and even to  litigate abuses wherever they happen, mainly in Africa. I have grounded my work in the human rights treaties and documents accepted universally as well as regionally, on the African continent. I have no interest in opposing any specific political organisation or government. I oppose human rights violations as my unwavering pursuit for human dignity for all.

Q. In fact, what was it like having to work on the Eritrean case?

A. It has been challenging; a situation which I can describe as taking two steps forward and one backward.  However, the work which the Commission was able to achieve with the support of its Secretariat is there for the international community to appraise.  

Q. If you had to do it again, would you still be part of the COIE?

A. I make it a point to deliver on my responsibilities. This is exactly what I did and would continue doing.

Q. There were reports that Commision members were threatened during the Geneva Demonstration by the regime’s supporters. What exactly took place and what can you tell us about the results or status of that investigation?

A. The President of the Human Rights Council made a statement to that effect on 23 June 2015 before the Commission presented its report.  As the investigations are ongoing, I would not like to comment further on the matter.

Q. What was it like to be threatened by the supporters of a regime that you documented as ruling by fear? Would you say the regime unwittingly helped make your case or could one say that people found the report so unfounded that they resorted to threats?

A. It is unfortunate that this happened.  There are other ways of engaging on substantive issues and the Commission has always kept the channels of communication open to address the core of its mandate, that is, human rights violations committed by the Eritrean authorities against its citizens.

Q. You seem to be the most accessible and visible in the media, we do not hear from your colleagues as much. Have you been delegated to be the team spokesperson?

A. Not at all. My fellow Commissioners are also very active and available.  The only difference is that I have been highlighting the situation of human rights in Eritrea since November 2012 in my capacity as Special Rapporteur.

Q. What’s next for the COIE, where do you go from here?

A. The COIE is currently transitioning to its next phase and developing its programme of work.  This is work in progress.

Q. What is it that you would have achieved by the end of the tenure of the Commision?

A. By the end of the tenure of the COIE we are aiming at bringing clarity regarding responsibility for human rights violations committed in Eritrea. Our goal is to pave the way for accountability, in a country where a pervasive culture of impunity is firmly entrenched.

Q. What is meant by Crimes against Humanity?

A. The definition of crimes against humanity is threefold:

–  Crimes against humanity include: murder (killing or causing death, including the deprivation of access to food and medicine); extermination (mass killing or causing death to a part of the population); enslavement; imprisonment or other deprivation of physical liberty; torture; rape; sexual slavery; sexual violence; enforced disappearances of persons; persecution (intentional and severe deprivation of one or more fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group); and other inhumane acts committed during peace time or war time.

– Crimes against humanity should take place in the specific context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population: the act should not be isolated or sporadic incident but it should be a course of conduct involving the multiple commissions of acts/ crimes against any civilian population.

– In addition, there should be two subjective or mental elements: the criminal intent to commit the inhuman act/conduct and the knowledge that it is part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. Gross negligence or inadvertent recklessness is not sufficient for the commission of crimes against humanity.

Q. Will you be able to enter into the country this time around? Even if allowed, how would you be able to guarantee your safety? 

A. As the Commission has previously indicated, the preferred way to conduct its investigations would be in situ, that is in the country and we hope to be invited.  It is the responsibility of the host government to provide security to those it has invited.

Q. Just as importantly, how would you guarantee the safety of those you interview?

A. The prime responsibility for the safety of those whom the COIE interview remains with the government authorities.  Witnesses and victims’ protection is a central concern for the Commission. We have adopted procedures and methods of work aimed at protecting such persons, as well as the information they have chosen to share with us, during all stages of our work and beyond the release of our report.

However, our ability to physically protect concerned persons is limited and we count on the governments of the countries we have visited to respect their primary responsibility to protect their residents, including the victims and witnesses we have interviewed. We have systematically sought guarantees from the concerned States that individuals wishing to meet us shall have unhindered access to us, and that none of them shall, as a result of meeting us, suffer any harassment, threat, act of intimidation, ill-treatment or reprisal, or face any criminal prosecution or other judicial proceedings.

Q. What if the regime availed only people that would refute your original report?

A. As part of its working methods, the COIE ensures that it has total freedom to interview any witness who can shed light on human rights violations in Eritrea, as per its mandate.

Q. Are you planning to interview as part of the investigation the current ruler of Eritrea, Mr. Isaias Afewerki or senior officials?  Have there been attempts to contact him directly?

A. As indicated above, the COIE wrote directly to the President at the start of the first mandate and followed up.  We will certainly seek an invitation to Eritrea again.

Q. African leaders seem united in their opposition as discriminatory the International Crimes Court (ICC). What is the point of the COIE and how does it help the victims of the regime you’re investigating?

A. On renewing its mandate in June 2015, the Human Rights Council decided “to extend, for a period of one year, the mandate of the commission of inquiry to investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring full accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity”. The mandate is clear.  What the HRC decides to do with the findings is not in the hands of the COIE.  The work of the COIE will also serve as a record of the human rights violations victims have been subjected to at the hands of the authorities.  However, the COIE aims at providing the basis to break the cycle of impunity for human rights violations in Eritrea. To do this the COIE has based and will continue using as legal framework all obligations assumed by Eritrea under international human rights treaties and other relevant treaties as well as those applicable under customary international law.

Source=http://www.erivision.org/an-interview-with-ms-sheila-b-keetharuth-commissioner-commission-of-inquiry-on-eritrea/