Eritrea's Ghirmay Ghebreslassie wins NYC marathon

Monday, 07 November 2016 22:46 Written by


Ghirmay GhebreslassieGhirmay Ghebreslassie |Photo: AP.


November 06, 2016 06:39 PM

NEW YORK (AP) - Eritrea's Ghirmay Ghebreslassie has won the New York City Marathon in the men's field.

Ghebreslassie finished his debut in New York with an unofficial time of 2 hours, 7 minutes, 51 seconds.

For most of the course, the men's field was a three-man race between Ghebreslassie, Kenya's Lucas Rotich and Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa. By mile 20, Ghebreslassie gradually began pulling away.

The 20-year-old beat Rotich by 62 seconds and became the youngest male winner in New York. The previous youngest male winners were Alberto Salazar in 1980 and Tom Fleming in 1973, who won as 22-year-olds.

Defending champion Stanley Biwott withdrew at the 10-mile mark with a right calf injury. He also dropped out in the Rio Olympics after getting sick.

American Abdi Abdirahman placed third.

Desisa, who was the runner-up in New York in 2014 and a two-time Boston Marathon winner, dropped out at the 22nd mile.


This story has been corrected to show that the winner's last name is spelled Ghebreslassie, not Ghebresiassie, and that he's 20 years old, not 19.


Eritreans face repression

Monday, 07 November 2016 22:40 Written by


Monday, November 7, 2016

Eritrea marked 25 years of independence from Ethiopia this year, but its citizens remain victimised by one of the world’s most repressive governments.

They suffer arbitrary and indefinite detention; torture; inhumane conditions of confinement; restrictions on freedom of speech, movement, and belief; and indefinite conscription and forced labour in national service.

People from all walks of life —government officials, leaders of government-controlled labour unions, business people, journalists, and national service evaders or escapees — have been jailed for explicit or inferred opposition to the ugly brutal President Isaias Afwerki and his policies.

The number of Eritreans jailed for such opposition is difficult to confirm, but ranges from 10,000 to 20,000, excluding national service evaders and deserters, who may number tens of thousands more. More than numerous prominent critics and journalists have been held in incommunicado isolation for a decade — most of which are feared to be dead.

Prisoners are often held indefinitely without access to family members, prison monitors or lawyers. There are no public trials and no appeals. Those inquiring about a relative’s whereabouts risk being jailed themselves, or disappeared.

Families are punished for the acts of one of its members, especially for draft evasion or desertion. The family is given no opportunity to defend itself. Families are fined for evasion or desertion. Those who do not or cannot pay are jailed and may have property confiscated, in addition to the forced labour and other abuses faced by those who do national service.

Therefore, we urge the United Nations to take the required immediate strict action against the criminal government so that it might be a good lesson to the other dictators.



By Michelle Nichols|UNITED NATIONS

United Nations sanctions monitors warned in an annual report released on Friday that possible foreign support for a new military base and seaport in Eritrea and the presence of foreign weapons and equipment were likely in violation of an arms embargo.

The monitors told the U.N. Security Council last year that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had established a military presence in Eritrea as part of the Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, which lies just 40 km (25 miles) across the Red Sea from the poor Horn of Africa nation.

They said the use of Eritrea's land, waters and airspace by other countries to conduct military operations in a third state was not a sanctions violation, but warned that "compensation diverted directly or indirectly towards activities that threatened peace and security in the region, or for the benefit of the Eritrean military, would constitute a violation."

In the past year the U.N. monitors collected evidence, including the construction of a new military base at Assab airport and a new seaport next to it, indicating "there may have been external support for infrastructure development that could benefit the Eritrean military."

The monitors said they have also documented the presence in Eritrea "whether for training or transit, of armed personnel and related military and naval equipment of various Member States other than Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."

The U.N. sanctions monitors determined the current terms of the U.N. arms embargo does not allow for such activities and recommended that the Security Council provide advice to U.N. states on compliance with the embargo.

They said it "could be reasonably determined" that foreign support for the construction of permanent military installations in Eritrea constitutes the provision of technical assistance, training, financial and other assistance to military activities, which is banned under the arms embargo.

The Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates missions to the United Nations were not immediately available to comment on the report by the U.N. sanctions monitors.

Eritrea's Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed told Reuters earlier this year that the United Arab Emirates now uses Eritrean "logistical facilities." The UAE has also trained 4,000 Yemeni fighters in Assab, Eritrea.

The U.N. sanctions on Eritrea were mainly imposed following accusations it backed Somalia's Islamist al Shabaab militants, a charge Asmara denies. The U.N. monitors said in the latest report that they had - for the third year in a row - not found any firm evidence of such support.

Eritrea has refused to engage with the U.N. monitors and they have been unable to visit the country.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Rigby)



Amnesty: Italian police tortured and electrocuted migrants
File photo of migrants arriving on an Italian navy ship. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP
08:40 CET+01:00
Italian police have used beatings and electric shocks, potentially constituting "torture", to coerce migrants into being fingerprinted as Italy cracks under pressure from the EU, Amnesty International said Thursday.

"The European Union's pressure on Italy to 'get tough' on refugees and migrants has led to unlawful expulsions and ill-treatment which in some cases may amount to torture," the human rights NGO said in a report.

The EU-sponsored "hotspot approach" for processing people - which requires Italy to fingerprint incomers so they can be prevented from claiming asylum elsewhere - has even seen minors abused, according to testimony from over 170 migrants.

Some migrants do not want to be finger-printed as they hope to continue on to an EU-nation of their choosing and apply for asylum.

Last year Europe saw an influx of more than one million migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty in its worst such crisis since World War II.

"In their determination to reduce the onward movement of refugees and migrants to other member states, EU leaders have driven the Italian authorities to the limits - and beyond - of what is legal," said Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International's Italy Researcher.

"The result is that traumatized people, arriving in Italy after harrowing journeys, are being subjected to flawed assessments and in some instances appalling abuse at the hands of the police, as well as unlawful expulsions," he was quoted as saying.

Of the 24 reports of ill-treatment Amnesty gathered, 16 involved beatings. In several cases, people also said they had been given electric shocks with stun batons, including a 16-year-old boy from Sudan.

"They gave me electricity with a stick, many times on the left leg, then on right leg, chest and belly. I was too weak, I couldn't resist and at that point they took both my hands and put them on the machine," he was quoted as saying.

Another 16-year-old said police had inflicted pain on his genitals. A 27-year-old told Amnesty that officers had beaten and electric-shocked him before making him strip and using a pair of three-pronged pliers on him.

'Human rights violations'

"I was on a chair made of aluminium, with an opening on the seat. They held [my] shoulders and legs, took my testicles with the pliers, and pulled twice," he said.

The NGO said that while the vast majority of fingerprinting takes place without incident, the findings of this report raise "serious concerns" and it called for an independent review of the situation.

De Bellis told AFP the testimonies were consistent with each other and therefore, while Amnesty cannot verify every single detail of each account, "we are certainly in a position to say there is a problem of use of excessive force by the police".

Under pressure to root out genuine asylum-seekers from economic migrants as soon as possible, police quiz new arrivals without providing them with psychological support for traumas suffered during the journey or advice on asylum procedures.

And as Europe races to close its borders, Italy has been seeking to up the number of migrants it sends back to their home countries and has negotiated readmission agreements "with countries that have committed appalling atrocities," it said.

One such Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Sudan in August, allowing for a summary identification process that, in certain circumstances, may even take place in Sudan, after the expulsion has been carried out.

"Even if the identification takes place in Italy, it is so superficial, and so heavily delegated to Sudanese authorities, that it does not allow for an individualized determination that a person will not be at real risk of serious human rights violations upon return," it said.

Amnesty cited the case of 40 Sudanese put on a plane to Khartoum on August 24th, saying it had spoken to a 23-year-old man from Darfur who was on this flight and was beaten by security forces on his arrival.



At least 110 feared dead in latest Mediterranean migrant tragedy
File photo of a boat used by migrants to cross the Mediterranean. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
13:36 CET+01:00
At least 110 people are feared drowned off Libya after a migrant shipwreck and more may have died in another stricken vessel, the UN's refugee agency said on Thursday, citing survivor testimony.

"A vessel with around 140 people on board overturned Wednesday just a few hours after setting off from Libya, throwing everyone into the water. Only 29 people survived," UNHCR spokesperson Carlotta Sami told AFP.

The Norwegian vessel Siem Pilot was first on the scene, some 20 nautical miles off Libya, and rescued the survivors - all of whom were in poor condition after spending hours in the water - and recovered 12 bodies.

Those pulled to safety were transferred to the island of Lampedusa by the Italian coast guard.

In what could be a second incident, which could not be immediately confirmed by the coast guard, two women told the UN agency they believed they were the only survivors in an disaster in which some 125 people drowned.

"They told us they were on a faulty dinghy which began to sank as soon as they set sail. They were the only survivors," Sami said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) quoted the same survivors but put the total death toll at around 240 people.

"Not enough has been done so far to avoid these tragedies," said Flavio di Giacomo, IOM spokesman in Italy.

The Italian coast guard said it had no information on the second reported rescue on Wednesday or the saving of two women.

Over 4,000 migrants have died or are missing feared drowned after attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing this year.

Migrants overboard

The rescue situation is often chaotic, with people confused, sick or exhausted after periods in crisis-hit Libya unable to specify how many people were on board their dinghies at the outset or what vessel pulled them from the water.

At least two rescue missions were underway off Libya on Thursday, with close to 180 people pulled to safety according to an AFP photographer aboard the Topaz Responder, run by the Malta-based MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station).

"Before dawn, we saw a migrant dinghy, lit up by the Responder's search light," photographer Andreas Solaro said, adding that 31 people, 28 men and three women, one of them elderly, were rescued.

In the second rescue, 147 people from Eritrea, Ghana, Sudan, Mali and Sierra Leone were pulled to safety, including 20 women, though only after some had fallen into the sea.

"The (Responder) crew was shouting at them to sit down and stay calm while the lifejackets were handed out but they were getting agitated, and around ten of them fell overboard, some without lifejackets on," Solaro said. All were pulled to safety.

October marked a record monthly high in the number of migrants arriving in Italy in recent years - some 27,000 people - and the departures have showed no sign of slowing, despite worsening weather in the Mediterranean.

Amnesty International warned Thursday the pressure placed on Italy by Europe to cope alone with the worst migration crisis since World War II had led to "unlawful expulsions and ill-treatment which in some cases may amount to torture".



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Eighteen Eritrean Football Players Disappear in Uganda

In this extract from“Understanding Eritrea: Inside Africa’s Most Repressive State,author Martin Plaut reflects on Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. The president led his people through most of the 30-year war with Ethiopia that culminated in independence in 1993. But the country has never held an election: President Isaias is an absolute ruler without a democratic mandate.

Note: Eritreans are known by their first names, so Isaias Afwerki is known as President Isaias on second reference.

How was it that Eritrea, which won its freedom at such a price, has sunk so far in just over two decades? Once hailed as a beacon of hope for the Horn of Africa, it is now mired in poverty, repression and bitter recriminations with almost all its neighbors. Thousands flee the country every month, braving the Sahara desert and drowning in the Mediterranean, to seek sanctuary on European soil.

The answer can be traced, in good measure, to the personality and policies of one man: Isaias Afwerki. At 70, he has been both the towering figurewho led his people to independenceand the dictator who now holds them in servitude. Yet, whatever his faults, Isaias has done little to encourage a cult of personality.

Asmara, the Eritrean capital, is not a city littered by his portrait or dominated by North Korean style statues of the "great leader" of the kind that can be found in other African capitals. But Isaias has made such an indelible imprint on his nation that it is impossible to understand Eritrea without grasping something about its president.

Eritrea presidentEritrean President Isaias Afwerki reviews the honor guard during his welcome ceremony in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, June 11, 2015.ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/GETTY

Isaias was born on February 2, 1946, in a working class suburb of Asmara. At school he became involved in secret nationalist politics, before leaving to study engineering in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in 1965.

Isaias’s studies did not progress well and he failed his June 1966 exams and had to repeat his year. Without funding for food or lodging it was not a tempting prospect. Isaias decided to leave to join the liberation movement thenfighting for Eritrean independencefrom Ethiopia.

He travelled to eastern Sudan, from where the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) was launching attacks inside Eritrea. There he was joined by two friends: Mussie Tesfamikael and Haile Woldetensae, who later became Eritrean foreign minister. Haile, who had been with Isaias at university, described how he was received when he arrived in Sudan in December 1966.

“Isaias was the one who opened the gate—and the first thing he told me was that I have to shut my mouth, that he’s going to tell me a lot of things,” Haile recalls. “I was shocked. What’s happened to this guy? Why is he so afraid?”

The ELF had begun among Eritrean Muslims from the country’s lowlands and had few Christian highlanders like Isaias and Haile in its ranks. They had assumed it was an exemplary revolutionary organisation and were sadly disappointed.  Its leadership was poor and sectarian—hostile to the Christians who joined it. Haile described the realisation as “a very dark moment for us.”

To confront this Isaias, Haile and Mussie formed a clandestine cell. Such activity was banned by the ELF and extremely dangerous. To seal their pact the three men took an oath signed in their own blood. They carved an E on their right arms—symbolizing their determination to live or die for Eritrea.

It was an act that marked Isaias out as the kind of driven revolutionary with real leadership potential. Not for him the slow climb through the ranks. Isaias would use secretive structures and personal dedication to take him to the top.

In 1967, Isaias and four others left for China to further their political and military studies. This was at the start of the Cultural Revolution and China was in ferment. President Liu Shaoqi was removed from power. Beaten and humiliated, Liu died in prison two years later. Factions of the Red Guard movement were battling for supremacy on the streets and the country was only saved from anarchy when Mao used the army to restore order.

The young Eritreans must have looked on amazed—but for someone of Isaias’s calibre there was much to grasp. Mao, an authoritarian leader, had turned his society upside down to strengthen his hold on power.

By the time Isaias returned to Sudan in 1968, the ELF was in turmoil. Isaias was sent to be political commissar of his mainly Christian home region, which surrounds Asmara. Isaias was deeply opposed to the religious segregation of the ELF and he joined a reform movement.  

Its members were younger, more educated activists—including those who had been trained abroad. Isaias decided to leave the ELF, leading his group into an alliance with other breakaway factions.

Yet away from prying eyes, in the deserts of eastern Eritrea, an even more important event was taking place. This was the founding of a clandestine movement that became known simply as the People’s Party. Founded on April 4 1971, with a secret membership and a Marxist ideology, it would be the instrument through which Isaias would exercise control.

Even at this early stage he did not have things all his own way. Before Isaias could assert his supremacy he had to rebuff internal challenges. His old comrade, Mussie Tesfamikael, led a left-wing faction calling for more radical policies and more open decision-making. Mussie and his supporters met in secret late at night—earning them their nickname:menqa—the bats.

They underestimated Isaias. Denouncing his critics, he put themenqaon trial. The principle of innocent until proven guilty was reversed, becoming guilty until proven innocent. Up to eleven were jailed—some for years. Mussie and a colleague were executed.

Isaias had shown his true colors. Faced with internal challenges he was utterly ruthless, disposing of his closest associates. His supporters should have learnt from this, but few did. Instead, confronted with the exigencies of a long and bitter fight for independence, they rallied behind his charismatic leadership, suppressing concerns about his lack of accountability.

This is the background to the emergence in 1974-75 of the public movement Isaias used to lead the country to independence: the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. Brave and resourceful, its fighters would trounce the much larger Ethiopian army, despite their foes being armed first by the United States and then the Soviet Union.

Eritrea tankAn Eritrean tank destroyed in a battle with Ethiopian troops, near Barentu, Eritrea, May 20, 2000. Eritrea fought a 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia, and clashes occasionally flare up on the border between the two countries.ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/GETTY

It was an extraordinary achievement, which owes much to its president. But he is deeply flawed, with a personality aptly summed up in a leaked diplomatic cable from former U.S. Ambassador Ronald K. McMullen, on March 5, 2009: “Isaias is an austere and narcissistic dictator whose political ballast derives from Maoist ideology fine-tuned during Eritrea’s 30-year war for independence.”

This piece is an extract fromUnderstanding Eritrea: Inside Africa’s Most Repressive State,by Martin Plaut andpublished by Hurstin October.



IT IS a birthday present he may never hear, but it reminds the world he is alive – campaigners have released a song to mark 15 years in captivity as Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak turns 52 in jail.

Arrested for reporting on a series of letters calling for advances in democracy in the African nation, Isaak has been held without trial or contact with loved ones or legal representation since he was 36.

His first birthday under incarceration came shortly after and on Thursday his latest celebration was marked by friends and family campaigning for his release. This includes brother Esayas Isaak, who lives in the family’s adopted home of Sweden, where Dawit holds joint citizenship.

Now the Sweden-based Free Dawit campaign has released an English-language song to remind the world of his plight.

Meanwhile, The National, which has agreed to take up Dawit’s case, is inviting readers to add their voices to calls for his release.

Campaigners from the Glasgow group of human rights charity Amnesty International have repeated petitioned leaders in capital city Asmara, also asking for news of Dawit’s location and condition.

Letters can be sent to President Isais Afewerki, Justice Minister Fawzia Hashim and Estifanos Habtemariam Ghebreyesus, the country’s ambassador to the UK. Emails can also be sent to the Eritrean embassy in London.

Activist Alex Jackson, who spent many years in the country and was himself detained by officials before returning to Scotland, said: “If we do nothing then we are allowing bad things to go on with impunity, with no comment.

“We know the effect letters can have. Worldwide, we have examples where the decision makers say ‘there is a large body of opinion out there that we have got to listen to’. You never know which drop will cause the dam to burst.

“There is evidence that the dam is cracking. There are signs of the Eritrean government being willing to negotiate, debate and discuss.

“They are talking to the European Union, they are talking to the United Nations. Recently they allowed the UN to inspect a prison. It was a small step but a significant one. Eritreans are the single largest group of refugees coming into the UK. That fact alone makes what happens in Eritrea significant for people here.

He added: “Even if there is no sign that the door is moving, you should keep pushing it. Maybe it will open.”

Meanwhile, the newly-released song, titled Bird Song, urges Dawit to “hold on” from his cell, where is understood to be in solitary confinement, asking: “Can you see the moonlight? Tell me, are there even windows? Do you hear bird noise?.

Recorded under the name Together For Dawit, the piece follows a Swedish-language version and features vocals by musicians from Senegal, Mali, Sweden and America and is available on YouTube, iTunes and Spotify.

Campaigners said it is “about love, being deeply missed, freedom and to speak up for those who been silenced”.

Responding, Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director, said: “We appreciate The National highlighting the campaign to free disappeared Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak on the weekend of his birthday.

“He has been unfairly imprisoned since September 2001 after being arrested with nine other independent journalists – some of whom have died behind bars.

“Dawit Isaak has endured hunger strikes and grave illness during his time in prison but the Eritrean government refuses to confirm any details of his case.

“Amnesty Local Group activists in Scotland are campaigning for his release as well as for other journalists who have been persecuted for reporting human rights abuses. We hope National readers will join them and help us free prisoners of conscience.”


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.- Leading religious freedom advocates called for the release of all “prisoners of conscience” worldwide on International Religious Freedom Day.

“For the sake of these and other prisoners of conscience we dare not be silent,” wrote Fr. Thomas Reese and Daniel Mark, chairman and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“We call for their immediate release, and we ask free people everywhere to urge Pakistan, Iran, and Eritrea to release every religious prisoner of conscience they hold,” they stated.

Oct. 27 is International Religious Freedom Day. The day marks the 18th anniversary of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, a bill that helped solidify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy.


The law created an office within the State Department for international religious freedom. Additionally, it created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as “an independent, bipartisan federal body to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad and provide policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress.”

“The rights to exercise one’s freedom of thought, conscience, and religion are fundamental human rights and bedrock American principles,” John Kirby, Assistant Secretary of State, said on Thursday. “We believe everyone deserves these freedoms.”
However, “nearly two decades later, standing for religious freedom worldwide is as important as ever,” Fr. Reese and Mark insisted, noting that billions of people worldwide “live under governments that perpetrate or tolerate serious abuses against freedom of religion or belief.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) defines a “prisoner of conscience” as someone “whom governments hold for reasons including those related to religion.”

Common instances of this type of imprisonment include governments jailing dissident clerics and members of non-state sanctioned faiths, and convictions on “blasphemy laws,” which in some cases don’t carry a punishment for false accusations, and which are often used to persecute religious minorities.  

USCIRF’s 2016 annual report noted that “the incarceration of prisoners of conscience” still “remains astonishingly widespread, occurring in country after country” like China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan.

For instance, 80 year-old Abdul Shakoor, an Ahmadi Muslim living in Pakistan, was “falsely accused of selling to an undercover police officer an Ahmadiyya commentary on the Qur'an and other publications,” which is against the law in the country, Fr. Reese and Mark noted, adding that Shakoor received “concurrent sentences of five years and three years in prison” in January.  

There is also the case of the “Baha’i Seven,” members of the Baha’i minority religious sect in Iran. Two of them were arrested in 2008 and “given 20-year sentences on false charges of espionage, propaganda against the ‘Islamic Republic,’ and establishment of an illegal administration.”

“The plight of these prisoners highlights the abysmal status of religious freedom in the countries that persecute them,” the op-ed insisted.


The U.S. can also do more for these prisoners, Fr. Reese and Mark insisted.

For instance, the State Department could “compile a comprehensive list of religious prisoners which would better enable State to advocate” for their liberation.

They added that the State Department should “follow USCIRF's long-standing recommendation to designate Pakistan a country of particular concern (CPC), marking it as one of the world's worst abusers of religious freedom.”

The CPC list identifies countries where the worst persecutions of religious freedom take place, either at the hands of the state or by non-state actors in states that do not stop the abuses.

The list is used to pressure these countries to improve their human rights records. Currently, the State Department lists Burma, China, Eritrea, North Korea, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia as CPCs.

USCIRF has recommended more countries be added to the list: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

“As we mark International Religious Freedom Day, let us stand for the freedom of all people to practice their religion alone and in groups, in public and in private, and let the United States and the international community hold governments accountable for the protection of this inalienable human right,” Fr. Reese and Mark concluded.



Non-compliance on the part of States had hindered the ability of human rights rapporteurs to investigate violations in countries under their purview, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today during its first day of interactive dialogue on area-specific situations.

Of the five Special Rapporteurs presenting reports to the Committee, only one, assigned to Myanmar, had been granted access to the territory under her mandate.  In the absence of access, the other four — covering human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belarus and Eritrea — had gathered information remotely.  The cooperation of all States was a fundamental obligation of United Nations membership, two of the experts recalled.

Sheila B. Keetharuth, Member of the Former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea and Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in that country, said there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that its officials had committed crimes against humanity since 1991. The Government had failed to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and the Commission from the beginning.  She encouraged the General Assembly to adopt a resolution submitting the Commission’s report to the Security Council for possible referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

In Belarus, there had been no substantial improvements in the human rights situation over the past decade, despite numerous United Nations recommendations, reported Miklós Haraszti, Special Rapporteur on that situation.  The “smooth-looking” conduct of recent parliamentary elections should not eclipse the underlying systemic violations, he said.  In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a deepening occupation was stifling the economy and fostering an atmosphere of despair and hopelessness, reported Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur for the territory.

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, there were mixed signs of progress, the Committee heard.  Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana said political tensions and the prospect of instability continued to impede progress on the human rights agenda.  However, there were positive signs, such as a five‑year economic plan to improve living standards and a new strategy to increase life expectancy at birth.

Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, commended the Government for its progress in recent years, while stressing that many human rights challenges remained.  In Kachin and Shan states, humanitarian access to conflict areas was the worst it had been in recent years, while in Rakhine state, discriminatory policies and practices continued to deny Muslim communities of their most fundamental rights.  “This is not what peace should look like,” she said.

During the discussions, several delegates expressed opposition to the raison d’être of the Special Rapporteurs, arguing that country-specific mandates and resolutions violated the principles of universality, impartiality and non-selectivity.  Such interventions used human rights as a pretext to interfere in States’ internal political affairs and were better left to existing mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, several said.

Making that point, Venezuela’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the selective adoption of country-specific resolutions exploited human rights for political purposes and that such matters were better left to existing mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council.  Many called instead for engagement in a spirit of cooperation and dialogue.  In that spirit, Singapore’s delegate said no draft resolution against Myanmar would be tabled in the Third Committee.

The observer of the State of Palestine spoke in a point of order.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 28 October, to continue its discussion of the promotion of human rights.  It is expected to start with an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its discussions on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4172.

Dialogue on Human Rights in Myanmar

YANGHEE LEE, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, commended the Government for progress it had made in recent years and thanked it for its cooperation throughout her mandate.  Hundreds of political prisoners had been released, repressive laws had been rescinded and a major peace conference had been held.  Yet, many human rights challenges remained, including the curtailment of the rights to assembly, association and expression.  Despite a growing democratic space, she expressed concern about the continuing dominance of the military in politics.  It still held 25 per cent of parliamentary seats and controlled several powerful ministries.  Without constitutional reform — which would be challenging given that it required military approval — the transition from a military to a fully civilian Government would not be possible. 

She also voiced concern that landmines continued to be laid, noting that Myanmar was the third most heavily mined country in the world.  In Kachin and Shan states, humanitarian access to conflict areas was the worst it had been at any point in recent years.  “This is not what peace should look like,” she said.  In Rakhine state, discriminatory local orders, policies and practices continued to deny Muslim communities of their most fundamental rights.  Restrictions on freedom of movement had impacted every area of life:  access to education, livelihoods and health services.  Birth registration had not taken place in conflict-affected areas in several years, placing children at risk of underage recruitment, trafficking and child labour.  Ending the institutionalized discrimination of Muslim communities and accountability for alleged systematic human rights violations were urgent priorities.

The representative of Myanmar reiterated his opposition to country specific mandates, as they ran contrary to the principles of non-selectivity and non-politicization.  Yet, Myanmar had fully cooperated with the Special Rapporteur and was the only country under the Human Rights Council’s agenda item 4 that had received the Special Rapporteur’s visits.  Acknowledging that all the recommendations had been made in good faith, he expressed hope that Myanmar would receive the necessary international support to continue its efforts to promote the fundamental rights of all people and to uphold the rule of law.  Describing the country’s progress, he also elaborated on persistent challenges in fostering peace and national reconciliation after decades of internal armed conflict.  On the situation in Rakhine state, which had attracted international attention, he said Government actions had been taken in response to a violent armed attack on its security forces.  He rejected distorted information reported in the media about the use of excessive force, explaining that security forces had been ordered to use maximum restraint unless confronted by armed resistance.

When the floor opened, several representatives, including those of Japan and Republic of Korea, asked the Special Rapporteur which of her extensive recommendations should be considered priorities.  Others, such as the representatives of Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Cuba, among others, expressed their opposition to country-specific mandates.  The United Kingdom’s representative, who noted that “Burma’s” relationship with the United Nations was changing, asked what the Special Rapporteur saw as the optimum level of support to the country’s authorities.  Several delegations, including Norway’s representative, asked for reflections on how the international community could help improve the situation in the State of Rakhine. 

Ms. LEE, responding, said the new Government had inherited many negative legacies from the military dictatorship, and underlined that the international community must be cognizant of that.  Regarding attacks in some states, she said she had advocated for access to many areas but humanitarian access had been blocked.  Where non-State media had been allowed some access, they had been prevented from reporting on the situation under the pretext of national security.  Turning to the citizenship laws, she said they had to be reviewed, but the Government had not indicated any interest in that.  She had raised objections with authorities about outdated and discriminatory laws, which required reform.

Protection of civilians was her major concern, she said, adding that humanitarian access had worsened in several states and that the human rights implications of increased military conflict were of great concern.  Clashes had occurred in jade-mining areas, another sign that natural resources and conflict were linked.  Opening an office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Myanmar with a full mandate was crucial and had been promised by the previous Government, yet not delivered.  The last General Assembly resolution had included some benchmarks for the Government to address the rule of law and other issues.  By discontinuing the resolution, she expressed concern that the Third Committee had signalled that Myanmar had met those benchmarks.  She said she did not feel they had been met.  

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the United States, China, Thailand, Australia, Switzerland, Egypt (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Jordan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam, and Iran, as well as the European Union.

Dialogue on Human Rights in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

TOMÁS OJEA QUINTANA, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in his new capacity, said political tensions and the prospect of instability continued to impede progress on the human rights agenda amid reports of two nuclear tests and several missile launches by the Government, as well as increased military readiness among other countries and implementation of Security Council sanctions.  As Council measures to deter nuclear proliferation should also protect civilians from the impacts of sanctions, he urged support for national relief efforts in the wake of Typhoon Lionrock, which had affected 140,000 in the country’s northeast.  Describing a pattern of civil and political rights violations, he cited severe restrictions on freedom of movement, the conditions and treatment of prisoners and structural deficiencies in the public food distribution system.

He went on to note signs of a positive change in recent social and economic policies, including a five-year economic plan to improve living standards and a new strategy to increase life expectancy at birth.  He also welcomed programmes in the health sector developed with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), noting that all such initiatives should be carefully monitored.  He encouraged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the international community to explore all venues for cooperation, conscious that a balance must be achieved between “situating” responsibilities for rights violations and engaging with duty bearers.  Next month, he would visit Japan and the Republic of Korea, and anticipated future trips to China and the Russian Federation, with the aim of building regional and international platforms for cooperation.  He regretted that the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not in the room for the interactive dialogue.

When the floor was opened for questions, several countries expressed reservations about the practice of country-specific resolutions, which violated the principles of universality, impartiality and non-selectivity.  They said such interventions used human rights as a pretext to interfere in States’ internal political affairs, arguing that such issues were better addressed through the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council.  Many who supported the Special Rapporteur’s mandate wanted to know what more he could do to engage the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and gain access to the country.  Several asked what could be done to ensure accountability for human rights violations.

Mr. QUINTANA expressed concern that the divergence of opinion had hindered genuine dialogue on human rights and said the General Assembly should bear the opinions of the Non-Aligned Movement in mind as part of a fruitful dialogue with delegations that supported such resolutions.

To questions about his ability to engage with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he acknowledged that engagement would take time, patience and dedication.  There were, as several delegates had pointed out, alternative human rights mechanisms.  The Universal Periodic Review had made a series of recommendations, which he urged the Government to review.  Thematic rapporteurs, such as the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, could also be used to engage the Government on human rights issues.

To the concern raised by many delegates about accountability, he pointed to a forthcoming report by two independent experts on guidelines for accountability related to human rights.  He stressed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not in a period of political transition and thus accountability there should not be dealt with in the same way as it was in transitional justice programmes.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Venezuela (also speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Syria, Japan, Australia, Lichtenstein, Netherlands, United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Belarus, Switzerland, Czech Republic, China, Republic of Korea, Germany, Cuba, Norway, Maldives, Iran, Ireland, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Argentina, as well as the European Union.

Human Rights in Belarus

MIKLÓS HARASZTI, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, discussing his findings, said that while had been only very few positive developments, one of them was the signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Much of his report focused on human rights in electoral processes in Belarus, especially parliamentary elections on 11 September 2016, which he said had been held without the violence by law enforcement that had marred previous elections.  However, there had been no steps to either change the oppressive legal framework or modify restrictive practices, and the “smooth-looking” conduct of those polls should not eclipse the underlying systemic violations, he said.

The “guided” nature of electing a “token” opposition party member and an independent cultural activist to Parliament had made those choices a selection by the Government, he said.  There had been no equal access to the media for the contestants.  Neither the voter turnout nor the votes were verifiable, and the Chair of the Central Election Commission had been in place for 20 years.  Describing a legal and administrative system of human rights restriction, he said the freedoms of expression and media continued to be violated.  Belarus was the only country in Europe that lacked a privately-owned national media.  Suppression of the freedoms of association and assembly persisted.  Despite recommendations by various United Nations bodies, there had been no substantial changes in the human rights situation in the last decade, he said, urging Belarus to stop its use of the death penalty and engage with the Special Rapporteur.

The representative of Belarus said country-specific discussions could only “rip up controversy” and overburden the international community’s agenda.  There was no need or context for such attention and Belarus had constantly conducted a dialogue with the human rights machinery.  A national plan on human rights had been put in place based on recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies, but that information had been distorted in the report.  The views of observers had also not been taken into account.  “We do not need to be taught how to live,” she said, stressing that after the Second World War and the Chernobyl nuclear accident, Belarus had created a strong State.  It would remain a contributor to peace and agreement.

When the floor opened for interaction, a number of representatives, including those of Ecuador and Bangladesh, protested the existence of any country-specific mandates, while delegates of Eritrea, Venezuela and Lao People’s Democratic Republic suggested that the Universal Periodic Review was the correct venue for such discussions.  Representatives of Norway, United Kingdom and Germany meanwhile, urged Belarus to place a moratorium on the death penalty as the first step toward abolition.  Several others asked about space for civil society in Belarus, with Poland’s representative requesting an update in the context of elections.

Mr. HARASZTI, responding, described steps that could have “miraculous” effects on the human rights situation, such as the repeal of article 193.1 of the penal code, which was the chapter that criminalized all activity not permitted by the State.  Under it, the most important human rights organizations had been made de jure criminal in everything they did because they were not registered.  To questions on improving elections, he noted that although Belarus had invited observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), parliamentary elections had not been complied with and only unimportant procedural recommendations had been heeded.  Cooperation with OSCE should go beyond inviting observers into complying with their recommendations.

He expressed agreement with the representatives of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that dialogue should be the basis for improving human rights, and urged those delegations to believe him and the Human Rights Council that his mandate was about cooperation, not about the other accusations lobbied at him.  It would be a very important step forward if Belarus would send him their action plan, he said, adding that he would take it as a good gesture toward cooperation.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the United States, Czech Republic, Cuba, Russian Federation, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland, Iran, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Syria, and Bolivia (also speaking on behalf of Nicaragua), as well as the European Union. 

Dialogue on Human Rights in Eritrea

SHEILA B. KEETHARUTH, Member of the Former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea and Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, presented that body’s final report (A/HRC/32/47), which had found reasonable grounds to believe that Eritrean officials had committed crimes against humanity since 1991, including enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder.  Eritrea’s military/national service programmes included arbitrary and indefinite detention, often for years.  The Commission documented extensive use of arbitrary arrest and detention, and numerous cases of enforced disappearances and rampant torture.  There had been no material changes in the situation.  The country still had no Constitution or Parliament, and indefinite national service persisted.  While Eritrea had refused to allow the Commission to visit and have unhindered access to sites and locations, the Commission had been able to corroborate information provided by witnesses.

Turning to her mandate as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, she stated that the Government had failed to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and the Commission from the beginning.  The Commission had requested that the African Union establish an accountability mechanism to investigate, prosecute, and try individuals believed to have committed crimes against humanity.  Additionally, it had recommended that Member States provide Eritrean nationals seeking protection with refugee status.  “It is not safe to forcibly return those who have left Eritrea,” she said.  She would continue to implement her mandate over the coming months, and expressed hope the General Assembly would adopt a resolution submitting the Commission’s report to the Security Council for a possible referral of the human rights situation in Eritrea to the International Criminal Court.

The representative of Eritrea said he saw little value of entering into dialogue with a biased Special Rapporteur.  He preferred an approach marked by dialogue and understanding and which took note of Government achievements.  The country mandate was unwarranted for Eritrea and an insult to Africa.  The most appropriate venue for such discussions was the Human Rights Council and he rejected a politicized approach.  The Government’s priority was to protect its people, live in harmony and build its political system.  Political participation, including of women, was high.  Eritrea was committed to development.  It was an independent and modest regional actor and favoured engagement.  Further, national ownership was an undeniable pillar for nation-building.  Women’s and children’s rights were protected and remote areas were being developed.  He acknowledged that achievements were modest and that Eritrea had a long way to go, but the Government shouldered its international obligations and cooperated with international human rights mechanisms.  Yet, it was being treated unfairly, singled out for human rights violations, while those in other countries went unnoticed.

During the ensuing dialogue, delegates raised questions and concerns about ongoing human rights violations, impunity and engagement with the international human rights mechanisms.  Several asked about follow-up to issues and recommendations, while others reiterated their opposition to the selective and politicized nature of country mandates, stressing that the Human Rights Council, particularly the Universal Periodic Review, were the most appropriate venues for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The representative of Ethiopia said the mayhem in his country was the result of the deployment of Eritrean terrorists.  Eritrea had destabilized the Horn of Africa and committed crimes against humanity.  Eritrea was on the Committee’s agenda, he said, not Ethiopia.

Ms. KEETHARUTH reiterated her commitment to “look at all comments” in the implementation of her mandate.  She welcomed Eritrea’s engagement with the international community, which should lead to tangible improvements for its citizens, such as improved treatment of detainees.  Building trust was required, internally and externally.  Regarding forced labour, she said citizens must have a choice as to whether and how they wished to work.  Development, while important, did not give license to violate human rights.  Any engagement with the United Nations must work towards ending impunity, with human rights violators punished.  Engagement with United Nations bodies should not be selective.  Access to Eritrea had only been given to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to a model prison and only for 15 minutes. More time was needed for a proper assessment.

Participating in the discussion were representatives of Venezuela (also on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Myanmar, Djibouti, United States, Zimbabwe, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Ecuador, Ethiopia, China, Norway, Cuba, Belarus, Bolivia, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Switzerland, the Russian Federation, Pakistan, Burundi, Iran and Egypt, as well as the European Union.

Dialogue on Human Rights in Palestinian Territories

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, presented his first report to the Committee, which was based on interviews with human rights non-Governmental organizations, Palestinian officials and United Nations officers in Jordan, as he had been unable to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territories due to Israel’s noncompliance with his mandate and refusal to grant him access to the territories.  He also had been unable to meet with activists in the Gaza Strip due to Israel’s restrictions on their movement.

He highlighted three areas of particular concern:  violence and lack of accountability, collective punishment and forcible transfers and the right to development.  On the first issue, he observed that, too often, Israel used lethal force as a first choice, rather than the last resort.  In only the rarest instances did cases brought before Israeli military law enforcement result in indictment.  Israel was increasingly using administrative detention and imprisoning Palestinian children.  It continued to collectively punish Palestinians, through home demolitions, geographic closures, infringements on freedom of movement and the decade-long blockage of Gaza.  Forcible transfers, in the form of repeated demolitions of Arab Bedouin communities, the refusal of housing permits to Palestinians and destruction of humanitarian aid facilities, also violated international law.  Finally, the Israeli occupation was a violation of Palestinians’ right to development.  “No other society in the world faces such an array of cumulative challenges,” he said, adding, “the result has been a stifled and disfigured Palestinian economy that Israel, the Occupying Power, decisively controls and exploits for its own benefit.”

For information media. Not an official record.

EPDP North America Fourth Congress Resolution

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 02:05 Written by


 EPDP North America (NA) 4th Congress

15-16 October 2016

Chicago, Illinois, USA

On the Eritrean Common National Heritage

Understanding that the Eritrean Nation-State is a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that the Eritrean people have made in the past and those that the Eritrean people are prepared to make in the future,

Recognizing the fact that Eritrea is a plural society characterized by diverse social cleavages that go along linguistic, religious, cultural and regional/geographic divisions,

Further recognizing the fact that during the long political evolution of Eritrea as a nation-state, the diverse Eritrean social groups coalesced into one entity in search of freedom, liberty and national sovereignty,

Mindful of the fact that the Eritrean Nation-State is the ultimate realization of the sacrifices of generation of Eritreans in search of nationhood and national identity,

Noting that 1991 is a watershed in the long history of the Eritrean struggle in search of nationhood and sovereignty that should have laid the ground work for the struggle for socioeconomic and political development to ensue,

Further noting that instead of reconciliation, the dictatorial regime has been promoting a process of political and economic exclusion and elimination and as a result chaos and degree of entropy has been increasing with lasting and drastic impacts on the inner-societal stability and the fabric of the Eritrean society,

Cognizant of the fact that there are some elements in the Eritrean Diaspora, who recently have been active in the cyber in the mischaracterization of and delegitimization of the Eritrean liberation struggle,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Declares that trying to delegitimize the history of the liberation struggle, which is equivalent to insulting and disrespecting Eritrean martyrs and war disabled Eritrean Tegadeliti, is a red line that must not be crossed;

Encourages EPDP to spearhead an intensive campaign to defend and safeguard the legitimacy and righteousness of the Eritrean quest for national identity in general and the liberation struggle in particular;

Urges the Eritrean people to reject the nihilistic and pessimistic attitudes towards the history of the Eritrean liberation era;

Calls upon all elements of the Eritrean society – all Eritrean civil societies, youth groups and political organization as well as prominent individuals, both academicians and religious personalities- to protect, maintain and promote the Eritrean Common National Heritage;

On the conditions of the Eritrean youth and Refugees

Realizing the fact that the youth is most vital and dynamic force of the Eritrean society,

Noting the critical roles that the young play in any socio-economic and political development of Eritrea,

Cognizant of the fact that the youth is the most betrayed and the one, which endures the brunt of the injustices of the dictatorship in post-independent Eritrea,

Further cognizant of the fact that forced labor and indefinite national service are imposed with detrimental effect to its future upon this group,

Recognizing the fact that fleeing the country in droves has become the last resort of the Eritrean youth and yet at the expense of risking its life and in the face of the “shoot-to-kill” policy of the regime;

Noting that the predatory regime in Eritrea is the root cause for the continued influx and displacement of our people, which is resulting in the loss of hundreds and thousands of Eritrean lives across the world,

Recalling that many Eritrean young perished while crossing borders, great deserts, and deep and wide seas and oceans and at the hands of human traffickers and organ harvesters;

Further recalling the fact that many Eritrean young are languishing in refugee camps of their host countries without access to education, training, adequate basic life necessities as well as physical and mental health services,

Appreciating EPDP’s efforts and commitments to the cause of Eritrean refugees,

Recognizing the efforts taken by a number of Eritrean organized groups and individuals to address the problem Eritrean refugees are facing, and mainly Eritrean refugees in the Horn of Africa, Middle East, and in the Mediterranean Sea rim countries who are becoming the victim of human traffickers,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Encourages EPDP to continue to support the Eritrean refugees and defend the Eritrean refuges’ rights in international forums, including assisting them to obtain political asylum in their host countries or to resettle to a third-party country;

Urges all Eritrean civil societies, youth groups and political organization as well as prominent individuals, both academicians and religious personalities in the Diaspora to understand the uniqueness of the “Eritrean Refugee” and to work to promote the welfare, the humanity and dignity of the Eritrean refugees in their host countries;

Calls upon the host countries to provide the Eritrean refugees with the necessary physical and mental health services, psychological counseling, education and training services as well as legal and communities services;

Further Calls upon the international community, the United Nations refugee agencies, and the host countries to protect and assist Eritrean refugees according to the provisions established in the various refugee conventions and protocols;

Urges the Eritrean opposition forces and civil society organizations to work in unison to get rid of the root cause of the unspeakable plight of Eritrean refugees – removing the Eritrean dictatorial regime from political power;

On the Integrity of Eritrea as a Sovereignty Nation-State

Reaffirming the preservation and maintenance of Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is fundamental for Eritrean people,

Recalling that Eritrean people paid heavy sacrifices against successive foreign occupiers for their self-determination, national identity, and national sovereignty that was achieved after a long armed struggle in 1991,

Opposing all threats or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Eritrea, or intervening in its domestic affairs,

Reaffirming the respect of the principles of international law regarding the conduct of relations carried out among states is crucial for the maintenance of peace and security of countries,

Opposing any foreign military or the conduct of foreign political coercion against Eritrea’s political independence and territorial integrity, or its political unity as a country,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Understands that the preservation of Eritrean sovereignty is a pre-condition to a democratic and prosperous Eritrea;

Declares that Eritrea’s territorial integrity and political independence is inviolable and that Eritrean people have the duty to protect it under any circumstances;

Further Declares that no part of Eritrea or its regions or its ports is to be split from the sovereign and territorial State of Eritrea;

Reiterates support of EPDP policy of decentralization system of government in Eritrea within the sovereign State of Eritrea. 

On Unity of the Eritrean Diaspora-based Opposition forces for change

Cognizant of the fact that many of the opposition groups which constitute the opposition camp have roots in the era of the liberation struggle with a legacy of constant splitting and internal feuds and consequently not only are they weak and divided but also they have divergent political and policy orientations,

Convinced that forging unity amongst all Eritrean opposition forces for change is an essential national foundation, which will enable us to remove the PFDJ regime in the immediate term and provides us an opportunity to create a ground conducive for establishing a united and democratic Eritrea in the long term,

Recognizing that unity amongst Eritrean opposition forces for change fosters and lays the foundation for peace and reconciliation among Eritrean people in post PFDJ Eritrea,

Noting that the primary responsibility of achieving unity rests with all Eritrean opposition forces for change and civil society organizations, including the Eritrean public at large,

Emphasizing the significance of taking action now to fulfill our obligation and responsibility on the question of unity is more urgent than ever before, given the deteriorating situation of our country,

Reaffirming once again the political determination and commitment of EPDP on national unity, and the efforts and contributions it has so far made to advance the cause of unity as a fundamental national project is recognizable and on a record,

Further reaffirming EPDP’s stand on unity is consistent with our national principles and values that promote peaceful coexistence amongst our diverse cultures, religions, and faiths, as well as a crucial position that ensures and safeguards our independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Calls upon EPDP to continue doubling its effort on achieving unity by establishing a framework that reflects the current state of affairs of the Eritrean opposition forces for change;

Encourages EPDP to continue maintaining mutual understanding and relationships, discussions, and confidence building between Eritrean opposition forces for change in an effort to alleviate the challenges and obstacles we face regarding unity;

Supports the stated principle of EPDP relating to unity: one that calls for the establishment of complete unity/merger between forces whose principles and political persuasions are similar, and the second that calls for the formation of coalition/umbrella within the framework of narrowing the differences through dialogue and confidence building measures down the road;

Calls upon Eritrean opposition members and civil society organizations to consider and address unity as a priority in our struggle and work transparently with a view to playing a positive role and strengthening the pillars of unity;

Urges Eritrean experts and scholars, especially those who have expertise in the field of conflict resolution and reconciliation, to play their professional roles - actively engaging and providing expertise advice through seminars and conferences to Eritreans.



On the Eritrean Diaspora Grass Roots Movement

Recognizing that grass roots movements at the local levels can promote effective leadership and can act as incubators of democracy,

Convinced that the Eritrean Diaspora grass roots movement that became more active during the last two-three years ago is a turning point in the democratic struggle Eritrean people are waging,

Noting that the mushrooming of world-wide grass roots movement is unequivocal demonstration and a strong rejection of the tyrannical system in Eritrea,

Stressing the importance of establishing and creating a world-wide leadership and organization of the grass roots movement,

Conscious that a world-wide leadership and coordination of grass roots movement would contribute positively to a common understanding, and coordinated mobilization and campaign against the predatory regime,

Keeping in mind that the measurable success so far registered by Eritrean grass root movements and the evidence of an increase in public support presents an imminent opportunity for boosting the democratic struggle,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Reaffirms that EPDP should continue strengthening, supporting and enhancing Eritrean Diaspora grass root movements, particularly in support of establishing local, regional, and international leadership and organization;

Calls upon Eritrean political groups, civil society organizations, experts, and others to give particular and timely attention to the development, cooperation, and guidance of the Eritrean Diaspora grass root movements;

Stresses the importance of mending the intergenerational gap (between the liberation era and the present generation) that exists among Eritreans by learning from each other and acknowledging the diversity of each other’s experience, perspective, and values, and embracing our common values, beliefs and expectations so as to create a culture of inclusion and understanding on how to work together against the tyrannical system of the predatory regime and how to ensure the continuity of our country through cultivating the current and future Eritrean generations;

Further stresses that each generation has a lot to offer to our country’s future, but this would only be productive if each generation engages in a positive discussion and debate aimed at solidifying the struggle against the PFDJ regime and securing the destiny of future generations.

Internal Resistance and Struggle for Democratic Change and Justice in Eritrea

Referring to EPDP’s strategy that the decisive force for change comes from inside Eritrea,

Noting the fact that the internal struggle suffered from an exceptionalism narrative, a political culture dominated by the reminiscences of the liberation era that dilutes the present reality inside Eritrea,

Deeply convinced that the internal struggle is established by sharing and focusing on the attributes of the values (such as national unity, the 1997 constitution, justice, territorial integrity, and relation with Ethiopia...etc) and political culture of the internal forces in relation to the type of change they desire,

Further deeply convinced that establishing an organized resistance and leadership inside Eritrea is crucial with a view to expediting the defeat of the predatory regime, as well as to adopting measures that would ensure unity and peaceful democratic transition in post PFDJ Eritrea,

Fully believing that the majority partners in the internal struggle are ex-EPLF freedom fighters, Eritrean Defense forces, and PFDJ members, including the general Eritrean populace, and emphasizing that the overall influence the internal forces have over the struggle for democracy is critical and decisive, 

Noting that the relation between Eritrean opposition and Ethiopia that operates under a structure of lack of transparency erodes the relationship between the internal resistance and the Diaspora opposition,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Encourages that EPDP adopts a policy statement on how to establish and connect the internal struggle to the outside opposition;

Endorses that the policy statement to identify partners of the internal opposition forces and empower them in a targeted and strategic manner against the repressive regime of PFDJ;

Further Endorses that the policy statement to promote the principle of peaceful and democratic resistance that EPDP advocates for as this guarantees a strong national unity and sustainable democratization process in Eritrea;

Decides that the Party to invest in communication, mobilization, and media that exposes and challenges all facets of tyranny, repression, injustice, and corruption of the predatory regime in collaboration with the internal opposition forces.

On Synchronizing the Inside Eritrea and the Diaspora Struggle for Democratic Change and Justice

Reaffirming EPDP’s position on the establishment of a solid connection between the struggles of the inside and outside Eritrea as its fundamental strategy to effect democratic change in Eritrea,

Further reaffirming that employing different approaches and means of engagement on how to coalesce these two fronts into the same page should be one of the underpinning strategies of the opposition,

Believing that establishing an organized resistance and leadership inside Eritrea is crucial with a view to expediting the defeat of the predatory regime, as well as to adopting measures that would ensure unity and peaceful democratic transition in post PFDJ Eritrea,

Further believing that the key and critical force for democratic change in Eritrea is a home-based democratic forces that can partner with junior Diaspora-based democratic forces,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Calls upon Eritrean opposition forces for change to formulate and implement a comprehensive action plan, indentifying steps and measures to connect the homeland and Diaspora struggles;

Urges Eritrean opposition forces for change to design and establish comprehensive news and media regime that will enhance, broaden, and raise awareness of Eritrean people on democracy and constitutional governance;

Further urges Eritrean opposition forces for change to use news and media as an instrument for integrated information campaign to expose and undermine the gross and systematic practice of terrorism and intimidation, violence and brutality, and repression being perpetuated by the predatory regime on our people while safeguarding the unity, political independence, and territorial integrity of Eritrea;

Emphasizes once again that the defeat of PFDJ is dependent upon founding a strong resistance organization inside Eritrea, which should be tied and work hand in hand with the Diaspora opposition in order to defeat the PFDJ, in addition to laying ground for a smooth transition to democracy in post PFDJ Eritrea

On the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF)

Acknowledging that the only organized institution in Eritrea is the EDF,

Further acknowledging that the duty and defense of the country falls under the responsibility of the EDF,

Strongly Supporting the EDF for its continued service in defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Eritrea,

Acknowledging that the EDF bears the brunt of the PFDJ repression and injustice, and that it continues to be deprived of its fundamental political and civil rights like the rest of Eritrean people, and that it is among the most impoverished sector of Eritrean society,

Further reminding that the EDF is part of the oppressed Eritrean society under the PFDJ regime, and that it has a national obligation to play its decisive role in the struggle for democracy in Eritrea against the repressive regime of PFDJ,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Affirms its confidence on the EDF to continue defending the country’s territorial integrity and its political and national unity;

Declares its Solidarity with the EDF in the struggle against the predatory regime;

Calls once more upon the EDF to organize itself and engage in the struggle against the predatory regime.

On The Question of International Relations

Reiterating noninterventionist policy ensures sustainable peace and cooperation between Eritrea and its neighbors,

Affirming the importance of support and assistance of neighboring countries to the Eritrean opposition forces,

Observing the support structure of neighboring countries to the Eritrean opposition forces undermines the independence of Eritrean opposition forces,

Deeply concerned that the current neighboring Countries’ policies contribute to division and disunity among Eritrean opposition forces, damaging the long established harmony and coexistence among all sectors of Eritrean society,

Alarmed at the effects of neighboring Countries’ policies in the Eritrean refugee camps in the Horn of Africa that nurtures tribalism, sectarianism, and regionalism,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Notes that the interventionist policies of neighboring countries on the Eritrean opposition forces has not been effective, creating many unsustainable splinter political groups unable to accomplish a concrete step towards rallying the Eritrean people against the predatory regime over the last quarter of a century; 

Emphasizes the need for neighboring countries to refrain from intervening and managing the internal affairs of the Eritrean opposition forces as an important principle to achieving peace and sustainable relationship between Eritrea and it’s neighbors;

Calls upon the Eritrean opposition forces and civil society organizations to revisit their relationships with would be assisting countries critically in a manner that ensures their independence and ownership of the struggle against the predatory regime;

Supports all the support and assistance from would be assisting countries’ governments anchored on facilitating the democratic struggle of the Eritrean people and promoting unity among the Eritrean opposition forces. 

On the Eritrean-Ethiopian Border Demarcation and the Algiers Peace Agreement

Recalling the Algiers peace agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in December 2000 that ended the border conflict between the two countries,

Further Recalling the establishment of The Hague based Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) to render a “final and binding” verdict on border conflict,

Reminding that the EU, AU, United Nations, and USA attended the signing of the Algiers peace agreement as guarantors of the agreement,  

Further reminding that the border has not been demarcated almost 15 years after the ruling was handed down due to the refusal of the Ethiopian government, and also stressing that the status quo is not sustainable between the two countries,

Realizing that demarcating the border between the two countries contributes to sustainable peace and stability both to the two countries and to the Greater Horn of Africa,

The North America (NA) EPDP 4th Congress,

Calls upon Ethiopian government to honor the Algiers agreement it signed and allow physical demarcation of the border by accepting the “final and binding” clause of the agreement;

Further calls upon the guarantors of the peace treaty to honor their commitment and pressure the Ethiopian government to allow the physical demarcation of the border between the two countries,