March 24, 2019 News

Risks to Peace Between Ethiopia and Eritrea

Source: Stratfor 2019 Second Quarter Forecast

Normalization between Ethiopia and Eritrea will likely deepen in 2019, but key components of the relationship remain unsettled. Matters including trade, the use of ports and Ethiopia’s handing over of the border town Badme will need to be formalized to prevent backsliding in the months ahead. Furthermore, lingering distrust between Eritrea’s leadership and the Tigray region of Ethiopia will be a festering problem and important to watch. Poor relations between the two sides could risk flare-ups along the border between Eritrea and the Tigray region that cause ties between Addis Ababa and Asmara to deteriorate, an issue not only for the quarter but the year ahead. For more on the continuity of Ethiopia and Eritrea’s peace deal, read our latest assessment.


Will Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace Last?

History warns the relationship between these two countries could suddenly turn sour again.

When Eritrea won its independence in 1993 after a thirty-year struggle against Ethiopia, there was optimism that peace would hold. Long-time dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam resigned on May 21, 1991, and fled into exile in Zimbabwe. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and the new Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi had been comrades-in-arms against Mengistu’s regime. It looked like the two would lead their respective countries into a period of both peace and prosperity. In a book review for the Financial Times , British writer John Ryle recalled a 1995 celebration in the northern Ethiopian town of Mekelle:

“The two guerrilla movements had fought together to defeat the Derg, then – unprecedentedly – agreed to an amicable secession. In western diplomatic circles, Meles and Isaias were being touted as a new breed of African statesman. That evening on the outskirts of Mekelle, I watched as Meles, Isaias and other guests, serenaded by Mahmud Ahmed, a veteran Ethiopian pop star, danced together in the moonlight.”

Such episodes would not last. Just three years later, a series of skirmishes between Eritrea and Ethiopia over relatively minor border disputes would erupt into a full-scale conflict. The land they disputed had no real resources. It seemed so irrelevant that the conflict was often described as “two bald men fighting over a comb.”

Whereas Isaias and Meles once danced at Mekelle, soon Eritrean aircraft were bombing it . Sniper fire, artillery barrages, tank fire, air raids, and land grabs slowed into a stalemate and World War I-like trench warfare replete with human wave assaults. By the time both sides agreed to a ceasefire, at least one hundred thousand Ethiopians and Eritreans had died in combat. The peace was cold, however, and at times it appeared as if hostilities might again erupt.

Both countries used the crisis as an excuse to clamp down. Whereas once diplomats and analysts hoped Eritrea might become a democracy, it quickly descended into autocracy. In 1999, Freedom House lowered its rating to “not free.” Isaias used the conflict to institute near-indefinite conscription—lasting decades and often indistinguishable from slavery . Ethiopia, meanwhile, while never quite as extreme, also slipped back into repression .

That Eritrea and Ethiopia have been a hairs’ trigger away from renewed conflict made their sudden 2018 rapprochement all the more remarkable. Many observers credit the Ethiopian parliament’s appointment of Abiy Ahmed, a young former guerilla fighter and intelligence officer who had previously led Ethiopia’s equivalent of the National Security Agency. His political work—efforts to address both youth unemployment and the plight of the displaced as well as his ability to build cross-ethnic coalitions—shot him to prominence.

Abiy called for peace upon his inauguration and wasted no time to pursue it. Even seasoned veterans in the region, however, were surprised by the speed with which Isaias reciprocated his efforts. In September 2018, the two leaders signed a peace agreement in Saudi Arabia. The rapprochement has been rapid , as Ethiopians and Eritreans reunite families and resume trade. There is widespread speculation that Abiy could win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alas, while Abiy appears sincere, it is far from clear Ethiopia-Eritrea peace will last. Here’s the problem. The seventy-three-year-old Isaias sees himself less as an equal to the forty-two-year-old Abiy than as a father figure and guide. Even at the best of times, Isaias’ concept of diplomacy is dictating his position and then waiting for opponents to accept it without any compromise. When the adversary or partner is a generational younger, the chances that Isaias will compromise recede from miniscule to nonexistent. Bilateral issues will inevitably arise, and it is unclear whether ordinary Ethiopians—let alone a fictitious political coalition—will back repeated Abiy’s concessions. After all, from the Ethiopian perspective, they are now Africa’s second most populous country after Nigeria and, with more than 100 million, they dominate East Africa. Isaias sees Eritrea and Ethiopia as equal, but Ethiopians will never accept equality with a country whose population is just one-twentieth of their own.

So, when Isaias raises a complaint and Abiy has no room to maneuver, what Isaias do? In the past, Isaias has shown a willingness to subordinate regional security and his country’s economic health for the sake of his own twisted sense of personal honor. Just as Isaias and Meles went from comrades and friends to enemies within just a few months, so too could Isaias and Abiy. Add into the mix that Ethiopia is growing more democratic while Eritrea has become the North Korea of the African continent, and Isaias has personal reasons to put the brakes on or even reverse the peace. Isaias may temporarily welcome the economic infusion that peace brings his devastated and impoverished country, but he will not continue it at the expense of his own power.

Is peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea a good thing? Certainly. But optimism should not cloud diplomats and analysts to reality, nor do dictators like Isaias suddenly change their stripes or behaviors overnight. Realism dictates not only rightly celebrating progress, but also recognizing just how tenuous it may be and planning proactively for the chance that the rapprochement might be fleeting.

Source=https://eritreahub.org/the-future-of-eritrean-ethiopian-relations-two-warnings

 

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

March 26, 2019 Ethiopia, News

“Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel and Head of Office, stressed on the need to institutionalize the process of the normalization. “The move to normalize relations with Eritrea is commendable by itself, but it needs to be institutionalized to become sustainable. One way that could be achieved is by ironing out the agreement details,” she said.”

Country urged to pursue a multilateral approach in engagement with Eritrea

Home 2019 March 25 , Country urged to pursue a multilateral approach in engagement with Eritrea

Country urged to pursue a multilateral approach in engagement with Eritrea

Ethiopia should pursue a more multilateral approach to further amplify its voice in its relation and engagement with Eritrea and other neighbouring nations, an analyst says.

Speaking at the ‘Addis Wog’ forum held on 22 March in Sheraton Addis, Abdul Mohammed, the chair of InterAfrica Group, an Ethiopian civil society organisation, said that Ethiopia’s long-standing multilateral approach to deal with regional issues and neighbouring countries should be preserved in the evolving relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea and with its other nearest neighbours.

Commenting on Ethiopia’s foreign policy and position in Africa in the forum, organized by the Office of the Prime Minister, Abdul said the following course of action for the country should be to build on the positive momentum of normalization of relations that started with former rival Eritrea through a multilateral approach. “There would always be bilateral relation but multilateral approach is critical. Ethiopia has a greater responsibility than other countries. Its responsibility is not only for one country but for the stability of the whole region. Ethiopia should treat Eritrea the way it does other neighbouring countries,” he said.

The chair of InterAfrica Group talked of the significance of the normalization and reopening of the country’s border with Eritrea, saying it was a tremendous diplomatic triumph. “Bold diplomacy is usually needed to break through and settle long-standing conflicts. In this regard, the high-risk Dr. Abiy Ahmed has taken to normalize relations with Eritrea has wider significance and impact and it will be cited as an example of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the continent for years to come. There would be a dearth of researches that would be conducted in the African Union,” he told the audience.

Abdul said in diplomacy, unilateralism could be crucial when negotiations do not advance or tend to get protracted. He said there has precedent in other countries, alluding to the example the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev’s move in taking unilateral decision to defuse a dangerous international situation and to democratize his country’s political system. “By taking unilateral action, leaders could create a new situation that rivals could not ignore, and achieve some objectives,” he said.

Soft border

One of the vital elements of the rapprochement is the people-to-people ties, Abdul Mohammed stressed, noting that the hard border between the two nations is demolished, and what remains is the soft border. “The Ethio-Eritrea demarcations has been considered as one of the hard borders in Africa, disrupting trade and investment. We have to make concerted efforts so that the normalization does not slide back.”

Cautious neutralism

Ethiopia should not treat its relation with Eritrea any differently than it does with other Horn of Africa nations, the analyst stressed. “Treating Eritrea separately from other nation would present its own problem. As Ethiopia is the pivotal power of the horn of Africa and all the other countries want a better relationship with it, abiding by its policy of cautious neutralism would be of paramount importance.”

“The contribution of Ethiopia in the last two decades in the peacekeeping operations has been tremendous and the country has been the top troop contributing country to the UN. Ethiopia has long kept multilateralism tradition in the realm of diplomacy. Starting from the Emperor’s time, which continued through the Derg and the EPRDF’s leadership, sticking to multilateralism policy has been the consistent policy. That is why Ethiopia had been a founding member of the African Union and IGAD.”

Hiroute Guebre Sellassie

Another speaker Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel and Head of Office, stressed on the need to institutionalize the process of the normalization.

“The move to normalize relations with Eritrea is commendable by itself, but it needs to be institutionalized to become sustainable. One way that could be achieved is by ironing out the agreement details,” she said. Hiroute said the tasks that are being overseen by the joint commissions have to be institutionalized and the two communities on the border area have to be an indispensable part of the peace process.

The two-day ‘Addis Wog’ forum held on 22 March and 23 March in Sheraton Addis covered many domestic issues: employment, wages, economic growth, job creation, social inclusivity, democratization, but also focused on Ethiopia’s foreign policy and position in Africa. It was attended by various prominent personalities and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Source=https://eritreahub.org/un-calls-for-eritrea-and-ethiopia-to-get-on-with-formalising-their-peace-deal

Alganesh: finding hope in abyss

Tuesday, 26 March 2019 11:16 Written by

Lia Giovanazzi Beltrami and Marianna Beltrami’s film, Alganesh, follows four Eritrean refugee camps in Ethiopia, following years of deadly conflicts between the two countries. It is an hour-long Italian-Ethiopian documentary. Fleeing Eritreans faced increased hostility in several countries. For example, Sudan forcibly returned over 100 asylum seekers, including about 30 minors to Eritrea in 2017. …

Lia Giovanazzi Beltrami and Marianna Beltrami’s film, Alganesh, follows four Eritrean refugee camps in Ethiopia, following years of deadly conflicts between the two countries. It is an hour-long Italian-Ethiopian documentary.

Fleeing Eritreans faced increased hostility in several countries. For example, Sudan forcibly returned over 100 asylum seekers, including about 30 minors to Eritrea in 2017. The UNHCR criticised the expulsions as “a serious violation of international refugee law.” In 2016, Sudan had repatriated 400 Eritreans who were promptly arrested upon their return, according to a UN Commission of Inquiry report. Whether any of them have been released, is speculative because of the government’s secrecy and the absence of independent monitors.

The protagonist of the film is Alganesh Fessah, an Italian-Eritrean Ayurvedic doctor and co-founder of a charity group, who has been devoted to helping refugees. The film, which is named after Alganesh, documents her commitment and struggle in securing refugees’ rights, while trying to secure them the basic necessities of life such as water, as there was a lack in those necessities for refugees in Ethiopia.

Fessah also had her struggles with freeing refugees from prisons or captivity in Egypt’s North Sinai, as she says her group and the Ethiopian government were able to free about 8,500 people. In Sinai, they are subjected to brutal violence and inhumane treatment during attempts to extract ransom payments from their families. The significant majority of the victims are Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers, who make up the vast majority of the population of the Shagarab camps.

The film documents the torture, abuse, and rape that refugees go through whether by officials or by smugglers, when travelling from one country to another. The filmmaker does not force melodrama in the film, even though it is a film about refugees, as she films the daily colourful life of people, despite them being in a refugee camp. The close-up footage of food and coffee brings life into the flow of the documentary.

The two nations fought a bloody border war in 1998-2000, and Ethiopia occupies territory identified by an international boundary commission as Eritrean, including the town of Badme. President Isaias uses the “no-war, no-peace” situation with Ethiopia in order to continue his repressive domestic policies, including protracted national service. The national service conscription still often entails work going beyond military duties, with many conscripts assigned to a wide range of civilian roles, including agricultural work, construction, teaching, and civil service.

However, in 2018, Eritrea improved its relations with neighbouring Ethiopia, with a hope that the refugees’ crisis gets solved in a manner where displaced individuals can get a decent and a humane life. A predominant factor in asylum applications made by Eritreans is the indefinite conscription into the national service. This system, established by law in 1995, requires every adult Eritrean to undertake an 18-month period of national service. However, in practice, conscription has been extended indefinitely for a significant proportion of conscripts.

In the film, Alganesh says that she sees a lot of sad eyes and a lot of horrible scenes, but she also sees hope in these same eyes of refugees, who, despite the ill treatment, abuse, and violations which they are subjected to, are still hopeful to live, study, and reunite with their families, and even dream of going somewhere else where their humanity will be respected. Despite everything, there is hope at the end of the tunnel; or in this context, there is hope at the other side of the border where new opportunities and maybe new struggles are ahead.

Source=https://dailynewsegypt.com/2019/03/25/alganesh-finding-hope-in-abyss/

March 22, 2019 News

Assena Satellite TV, produced by the seasoned and vibrant journalist Mr. Amanuel Eyasu, is the First Opposition Satellite TV to make a Breakthrough into the Eritrean Airspace, and the region. Mr. Eyasu, former fighter in the struggle for Independence of Eritrea himself, has an extensive journalistic experience. At some stage – before his exile to the UK – he was employed at the Only National Media in the country. Mr. Eyasu is known for expressing criticism of the Eritrean Government, such is the new Satellite TV – Assena – orientation. The TV is Donor Funded, ordinary Eritreans in diaspora are making it their mission to commit to a monthly fund, that would in turn enable them to communicate with their people inside their country.
Eritrean People have now an Alternate TV channel – the First for an Independent Eritrea. Even though the shows are short at the moment – hourly content – Eritrean people are tuning in, in masses. People discuss Assena episodes casually at caffe’s in the lively Harnet Avenue of Asmara.
 
Assena TV now airs everything but Government content. Coincided with the ongoing “Enough!” Campaign for reform by diaspora Eritreans, Assena TV found itself broadcasting the Campaign extensively. People inside Eritrea had a different perception of the Eritrean Opposition groups outside Eritrea. People have been deliberately misinformed to think the oppositions were comprised of old men of ‘grudges’. When Assena started broadcasting the “Enough!” Campaign videos and contents, that started changing the Eritrean people’s perception about the opposition. They could see their young sons and daughters, conveying a message for reform and solidarity with the people inside the country.
 
Sources told Eritrea Watch the Satellite Dish sales inside Eritrea have grown dramatically since the launch of Assena TV and anticipation of another Satellite TV, to be launched soon. Eritrea Watch’s attempt to get the estimated viewership has been futile, owing to the difficulty of gathering data and secretive nature of the Government in power.
Eritrea Watch wishes to compile another report when another Satellite TV launches its first broadcast. ERISAT, a new Satellite TV have issued a statement, that they are to start broadcasting to Eritrea on April the 1st, 2019. The channel did not explain the said ‘delay’ in launching the Satellite TV.
Viewers Sentiments
Assena TV coverage has grown rapidly and extensively, since its inception in January 2019. Eritrea Watch set on testing these claims, contacted people inside Eritrea – different parts of the country and different age groups.

Assena TV coverage has grown rapidly and extensively,

Of the general sentiment and opinion are Excitement and Joy at the idea of having a New Alternate TV channel. The Satetllite TV is now viewed by people from Tesenei and Barentu (West of the country), Mendefera and Segeneyti (in the south), Keren (in the North) and Asmara the capital city.
The National TV has dominated the Eritrean Airspace for the last 25 years, in a clear rejection to its content, people claim they would switch to Ethiopian Channels as soon as Assena shows finish.
Many contacted were unable to hide their excitement. Yohanes (not real name), 17 from Asmara, claims that “no one is really watching ERI-TV anymore. We are so exited we have another channel now, a better one (sic)”.
An exiled opposition member commends the idea of having another channel, and bemoans the opposition group’s failure to come up with the same idea years before.
“What we opposition groups failed to do, ordinary citizens are doing. The Eritrean government, for years, has denied people their right to Information. The National TV, is just a propaganda tool for the only Party in the country. People could now realize.” Asked what this would mean for the many opposition groups in exile, he explains “ The Eritrean Government declares to the world that it does not have any opposition groups – it has never recognised any. To the Eritrean people, it conveys a message the opposition groups are terrorists, killers and they would bring chaos and civil war, if in power. It has been spreading fear in the general public. The new channels would change all that perception.”

…Now I watch Assena TV every day hoping I catch the repeat..

Mrs. Makda (not real name) 27, from Senafe, claims to have seen her brother on one of Assena TV broadcasts. Her brother is a refugee in Germany, she saw him participating in the Peaceful Demonstration held in Geneva, Switzerland. She states, “ Joy ,Joyful, My brother left Eritrea seven years ago, I miss him! I could not believe my eyes when I saw him on TV! Now I watch Assena TV every day hoping I catch the repeat.”

We are very excited! We want more!

One Elderly gentleman from Asmara, seems to agree with the general sentiment. “We are very excited! We want more!” People inside the country are bemoaning the fact the shows are short, “ If only it has more content, and less of songs.” He adds. Seeing that Assena TV is only few months in operation, his criticism is meant to be constructive and valid at the same time

Eritrea & Freedom Of Expression

Eritrean Government has a blanket ban on All Independent Media inside the country. There are currently only two (2) Media outlets on Eritrea’s Airspace – the National Radio and Television programs, Government controlled and narrated.
 
When Eritreans started enjoying the First of their free Independent Newspapers in the late 1990’s – the First Ever for Post Independent Eritrea – the Government seemed to enjoy it less. The Government in 2001, would respond by Shutting down all the Newspapers and arresting ALL its journalists. Sadly, 18 years later, those journalists continue to languish in detentions – without A day in court, held Incommunicado. This despite the pleas and pressure from their families, the public and International Human Rights Organizations.
The Government in Eritrea is a One Party regime. It has never conducted an election, and Never allows any Opposition Party – or it’s media – inside the country. Eritrean opposition groups have been forced to dig deep – in creative ideas and financially – should they wish to broadcast to Eritrean people inside the country. Albeit, from Abroad.

Government Reaction

Anonymous sources, close to the Ministry of Information have explained that the Government in Eritrea seems to have panicked on the emergence of these new TV channels. In December, 2018, the Government set up a Task Team to specifically to deal with these issues. A Special meeting was held at the Ministry of Information offices, comprising many different security apparatus in the country. The sources claim to have knowledge of the participants and their resolution. Representatives from the President’s office, the National Security, seasoned journalists at the Ministry of Information were said to have attended the meeting. Among the resolutions reached were; to spread fear to public from watching the TV’s and Jamming the airwaves to disrupt the shows. Interestingly, they are said to have asked the Ethiopian Counter Intelligence Agency to assist in the matter.
 

 

Ethiopia, Eritrea to Sign EU-Sponsored Road Rebuilding Deal in Coming Months - Addis Ababa

Ethiopia and Eritrea will sign an agreement to rebuild the road infrastructure connecting the two countries as part of an EU-funded project in a few months, Mehreteab Mulugeta, the director general for European affairs at the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, told Sputnik in an interview

 MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 21st March, 2019) Ethiopia and Eritrea will sign an agreement to rebuild the road infrastructure connecting the two countries as part of an EU-funded project in a few months, Mehreteab Mulugeta, the director general for European affairs at the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, told Sputnik in an interview.

Back in February, the European Union earmarked 20 million Euros ($23 million) for a project to rebuild the road connection between the two countries. The announcement came several months after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed a peace deal that put an end to the two decade-long Ethiopian-Eritrean territorial conflict.

"The two sides are discussing now and as soon as the preparation of the agreements is ready, then, we will sign these project agreements between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Then, we will proceed and that I think will be soon, in the coming months, in a month or two," Mulugeta said.

He specified that work on revamping road infrastructure had not yet started, with both sides anticipating to restore traffic as well as free movement of people and goods.

"For the last 20 years, [roads] have been useless, so we have to repair them and make them ready or usable again. We are preparing our roads; they are doing their part in Eritrea.

But we need assistance because we need to build roads, expand roads to make them usable by big trucks. We need to build railways and other facilities so we can have smooth people-to-people movement. Goods should come and go out," Mulugeta explained.

The diplomat added that the "involvement of any partner, not only the European Union, including the Russian government is welcome."

According to Mulugeta, such projects will be "very useful" for strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries in the wake of the years-long conflict.

In early June, Ethiopia's ruling People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) decided to fully accept and implement the ceasefire deal concluded by the governments of the two countries in 2000. The Algiers Agreement, as it was called, recognized some disputed areas, including the town of Badme, as Eritrea's territories. As part of the agreement, Ethiopia had to withdraw its forces from the territories that the agreement considered as Eritrean, a process it began in late 2018.

Eritrea split from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, leaving the parent nation landlocked. This sparked a war between the two countries in 1998-2000, which killed around 80,000 people.

Source=https://www.urdupoint.com/en/world/ethiopia-eritrea-to-sign-eu-sponsored-road-r-575276.html

Oromo regional state security authorities link the gunmen to militant wing of Oromo Liberation Front (it is also called SHANE in the region) but no parties responsible for the attack is in police custody so far.

Nedjo _Ethiopia _ Oromo militantCredit : Google map

borkena
March 19,2019

Five people are killed on Tuesday morning, around 7 a.m. local time, near Nedjo -Wellega-, in Oromo region,Western Ethiopia when gunmen opened fire on a vehicle, Oromo regional state authorities confirmed.

Two of the victims are foreigners – Japanese and an Indian – according to a report by DW Amharic service which cited sources from the area.

And all the victims are employees of a company licensed; by the Federal government of Ethiopia, to undertake copper mining in the area, reported FanaBC citing Ministry of Petroleum and Mining. Some of them were management staff.

The vehicle carrying the deceased was traveling from Mendi to Tolla Waqo when the gunmen opened fire in Humna Waqeyo, about 5 kilometers from Nedjo town.

The vehicle was in a blaze after it was hit with grenade explosion following the death of the five people who were in it. When law enforcement unites arrive in area, and it is unclear as to when they arrived, they found about 56 bullets, according to a report by FanaBC.

On Tuesday, DW Amharic cited Nedjo town communication officer, Tolera Suki, to report that bodies are in Nedjo hospital. But they could not be identified for they are disfigured, according to the report.

Oromo regional state deputy police commissioner, Retta Belachew, told Ethiopian state broadcaster, EBC, that the gunmen were armed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) Shane group who refused to disarm through a negotiation process that involved traditional elders in the region known as Abba Geda.

A militant wing of OLF has been operating in the region for many months now. In January 2019, the group robbed 17 bank branches (both private and state banks) in a span of two days.

The Federal government deployed armed forces to the region and there were claims of improved security situation thereafter.

In May 2018, Dagonte Ethiopia cement general manager, Deep Kamra, was killed along with his secretary, among others, in Adaberga district, Oromo region, about 85 kilometers west of the capital Addis Ababa.

Prime Minister Abiy’s government has been criticized in connection with the way it handled the militant group.

Source=https://borkena.com/2019/03/19/oromo-gunmen-claimed-lives-of-three-ethiopianstwo-foreigners/

Jean-Jacques Cornish
March 19, 2019

Eritrea

FlagDespite making peace with its neighbors and being elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Eritrean regime of Isaias Afwerki continues severely to repress his people.

Human Rights Watch lists violations that include enslavement of young people.

Isaias Afwerki used Eritrea’s  20 year war with Ethiopia to justify his oppression.

This includes indefinite conscription that amounts to the enforced labour of young people.

Parliament, political parties, an independent judiciary and a 1997 constitution are prohibited.

Government opponents are jailed without trial and held incommunicado.

Signing a peace deal with Ethiopia last year and re-establishing diplomatic relations with Djibouti have been hailed internationally.
But according to Human Rights Watch, they’ve not changed Afwerki’s  oppressive measures.

Tags: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch, Isaias Afwerki, slave labour

 

March 18, 2019 News

Last week a Dutch delegation led by Migration Minister Mark Harbers visited several camps in Libya. But his trip did not include Zintan, a detention centre with an atrocious conditions, seldom visited by international dignitaries. This information has been received from inside Zintan detention centre.

Migration Minister Mike Harbers

Over 700 refugees have been imprisoned in Zintan, of whom 165 refugees have been there since October 2017. The detention camp is 180 km from Tripoli. The refugees report that the situation is dire: there is little food; hygiene and their health is very poor.

It is reported that in the last five months 17 refugees detained in Zintan have died, among them one young woman who was driven to commit suicide. Most are said to have died of TB; thirteen of them were Eritrean.

The refugees say that the issue most worrying the refugees is that they have no information about their fate.

One of the refugees, has appealed for international protection. He was imprisoned in Eritrea before fleeing the country and is in real danger. His name is being kept confidential for his safety.

47 refugees have been moved from Zintan to another camp – Gharyan where they are still imprisoned. The refugees there are locked-up and held incommunicado. Four people are reported to have died in Gharyan in the last five months from TB.

What action from UNHCR?

The UN refugee agency has been made aware of the circumstances in which the refugees are being held. The detainees say they have tried to contact UNHCR, but with little success. The refugees are asking why the UNHCR has not visited the Zintan camp.

The plight of the Eritreans was underlined by the findings of the UN Deputy Human Rights Commissioner, Kate Gilmore. Speaking in Geneva last week she that Eritrea’s human rights record has not changed for the better since the government signed a peace agreement with Ethiopia last year, formally ending a two decades-long border conflict. Ms Gilmore was participating in a U.N. Human Rights Council interactive dialogue on the current situation in Eritrea.

Kate Gilmore said Eritrea has missed a historic opportunity because the government has not implemented urgently needed judicial, constitutional and economic reforms. She explained that the continued use of indefinite national service remains a major human rights concern.

“Conscripts continue to confront open-ended duration of service, far beyond the 18 months stipulated in law and often under abusive conditions, which may include the use of torture, sexual violence and forced labor,” she said.

Source=https://eritreahub.org/dutch-minister-misses-worst-libyan-detention-centres

 
 
 
 
Un requérant d'asile montre un lieu sur une carte du monde
Thousands of failed asylum seekers cannot be sent back and refuse to return home voluntarily. Many continue to live in Switzerland with emergency assistance, with no prospect of a future. Young Eritreans share their stories.

Mewael* lives in Geneva on CHF10 (around $10) a day. He is not allowed to train or work. To occupy his days, he plays football, does small jobs at the reception centre where he lives or cooks at a local charity. He is among thousands of people who have not been granted asylum, but who cannot return home and find themselves trapped in Switzerland. In 2017, more than 8,000 people received emergency assistance, mostly in the form of shelter or food.

Mewael is in his twenties. He fled Eritrea and arrived in Switzerland almost three years ago. He filed his asylum application and learned French while waiting for the decision that came through only two years later. His application was rejected and Mewael had to leave the country. He has appealed the decision and is clinging to the slim hope of a positive answer. The young man aspired to an apprenticeship as an electrician or mechanic, but no longer sees the merit in that.

"Life is complicated in Switzerland," sighs his friend Samson. "It's not complicated, it's dead," interjects Mewael, tears in his eyes.

Removal ordered but not executed 

Eritreans are particularly vulnerable to such situations because the Swiss government has not signed a readmission agreement with Eritrea. It cannot therefore forcibly expel the unsuccessful applicants. "At the international level, Switzerland stands out by issuing removal decisions: no European State carries out expulsions to Eritrea," says a very detailed report by the Observatory of the rights of asylum and foreigners in French-speaking Switzerland (ODAE)
Observatory of the rights of asylum and foreigners in French-speaking Switzerland (ODAE)  on the pressures faced by the Eritrean community.
 
Rejections without provisional admission for Eritrean asylum seekers
 
Diagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Samson has already been in Switzerland for four years. The inability to work adds to his suffering.
 
 "I am stuck, I don't know what to do. It's very stressful," he tells swissinfo.ch.

To get out of this situation, some have tried to apply for asylum in another country. Yonas went as far as Germany, but was sent back to Switzerland because of the Dublin agreement. He has also been in Switzerland for four years and dreams of becoming a mechanic, gardener or even a lawyer. "When I left home, I thought my problems were over, but in fact they followed me here," Yonas says.

All these young Eritreans speak French, but can no longer find the words when they talk about their life in Switzerland and their future prospects. "I feel bad, I have problems sleeping and concentrating," says Robel, who has been in Geneva for two years. "Here I thought I would find happiness, freedom, and I found nothing."

Impossible to get back
 
When they inform unsuccessful applicants of their obligation to leave Switzerland, the authorities offer them return assistance, but none of the Eritreans swissinfo.ch spoke to have plans to return.

Eritrea is not a safe place for its citizens, according to the United Nations (UN).

"Eritrean officials have been attacking civilians in a persistent, widespread and systematic manner since 1991. Since then, they have consistently committed crimes of slavery, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and torture, as well as other inhuman acts, persecution, rape and murder."

"We don't come here for money, we're just looking for freedom.”

Hayat wants to tell us what happened to him. He explains that in his country, everyone must serve in the army for an indefinite period. The population is not free to train or work as they wish. And many people vanish into thin air, without families ever being informed of their imprisonment or death.

Hayat's father disappeared in this fashion. And Hayat found himself in prison when he was only 16-years-old. He was beaten, tied up and locked in a cage. During a transfer, the young man managed to escape and cross Sudan, Libya and finally the Mediterranean. Initially, they were a group of 25 people. Only three of them reached Italy.

"We don't come here for money, we're just looking for freedom," says Hayat, who has just received good news: his appeal has been successful, and he has been granted temporary admission. The young man will be able to continue his training with an electrician, something he would have had to give up overnight had the decision been negative. It is a bittersweet victory given that all his friends are still waiting for a court decision or have been definitively rejected.

More than 1,500 Eritreans demonstrated in the Swiss capital last May for a more humane asylum policy.
(© Keystone / Peter Schneider)
 
A "Kafkaesque" system

"It's complicated for them, because at first they find a haven of peace and then they are told they have to leave," says a volunteer who tries to help these young people but feels powerless in the face of a fragmented system. "There is no global vision of the person, everything is always divided: there is one person responsible for care, another for housing, etc. The responsibility is always shifted to another department and it becomes Kafkaesque."

Temporary admission would at least allow applicants with a negative asylum decision to receive training and work. However, it can only be issued if the removal is contrary to Switzerland's commitments to international law. In other words, if it puts the individual in danger, or if it is not physically feasible to carry out the decision.

 "Failed Eritrean asylum seekers who are subject to a removal decision are legally obliged to leave Switzerland," explains the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).” Forced removals are not currently possible, but voluntary returns are."

"Forced removals are indeed not possible, but voluntary returns are"

End of quote

The SEM therefore considers that it would be wrong to give provisional admission to individuals who refuse to leave the country, simply because Switzerland cannot make a forced return. "This would reward people who, from the outset, make it clear that they will not comply with their obligation to leave the country, even though they do not need Swiss protection and would be forced to leave."

Limited support

The SEM explains that an individual who decides to stay despite everything is no longer entitled to social assistance, but only to emergency assistance. The objective is "to ensure that the persons concerned voluntarily comply with their obligation to leave Switzerland by no longer providing material incentives to stay. "

The cantons are responsible for providing emergency assistance and managing these unsuccessful applicants. Cantons cannot do much for this population, which cannot work or receive training. "It's complicated to stay positive and keep these young people motivated," says a social worker in Geneva.

A conference on the issue of training rejected asylum seekers was held in early February in Lausanne. Apprentices, employers, asylum professionals and teachers called on the cantonal and federal authorities to allow young people to complete their training, even in the event of a negative asylum decision.

Signatures are also being collected in Geneva for an online petition that asks the canton not to exclude Eritrean asylum seekers from social assistance and to allow them to train and work.

More restrictive asylum policy

However, the trend towards a tightening of asylum policy at federal level in recent years does not seem to be coming to an end. In 2016, the SEM published a new report on the situation in Eritrea and carried out a review, confirmed by recent decisions of the Federal Administrative Court. Judges now consider that Eritrean asylum-seekers can be sent back to their country, even if they risk being recruited into the army upon their return. The SEM has undertaken a review of more than 3,000 files of Eritrean applicants with temporary admission to assess whether a removal is required.

Migrant advocacy groups and the Eritrean community are mobilising against this tougher stance. A demonstration of 1,500 people took place last May in front of the parliament in Bern and a petition with more than 12,000 signatures was submitted for asylum to be granted with immediate effect to anyone threatened with ill-treatment. But the Senate refused to act on this petition because it overwhelmingly supporters the harder line taken by SEM.
 
*Name chosen by journalist to preserve anonymity.
 
 

Published on 12 Mar 2019

Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that this year’s dialogue came at a pivotal moment for Eritrea, as, after a 20-year military stalemate, the signing of the peace agreement with Ethiopia could lay down foundations for resilient peace. Despite these positive developments, the Office of the High Commissioner had not seen any improvements in the actual situation of human rights. This was a historic opportunity to lift up the human rights of the people of Eritrea and for the Government to demonstrate that peace yielded true dividends for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Daniela Kravetz, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, welcomed Eritrea’s move to join the Council in 2019. Despite making progress, Eritrea had yet to put in place an adequate legal and institutional framework to uphold minimum human rights standards. The country had not implemented its 1997 Constitution, had no national assembly, and no independent judiciary or free press. Last year’s declaration of peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia had created an expectation that Eritrea would implement reforms.

Tesfamicael Gerahtu, Head of the Eritrean delegation to the fortieth session of the Human Rights Council, said that despite challenges of peace, security and development, including under the pretext of human rights, Eritrea’s ground reality attested that there had never been any systematic crisis. The lifting of the United Nations sanctions on Eritrea was a welcome development. The Council was called on to terminate its confrontational approach that had existed for the past seven years, as there was no crisis that warranted a special mandate on Eritrea.

Vanessa Tsehaye, Founder, One Day Seyoum, said that the Government’s official response to everything that happened post 2001 was that it was because Ethiopia had no demarcated border, the so-called “no war, no peace” situation. The standoff at the border could not justify the horrible rape, torture and crimes committed. It did not justify the fact that the only university in the country had been shut down, that there was no free press, and that tens of thousands of people had been imprisoned without a trial.

Daniel Eyasu, Head of International Relations and Cooperation of the Union, National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students, said that Eritreans, particularly youth, had paid a huge price for the 20 years of instability. The national service was critical for nation building and its characterization as modern slavery was unwarranted, unjustified and unacceptable. It was incumbent on all to recognise the need for the whole of society to participate in burden sharing responsibility and thus to extend the duration of national service.

In the ensuing discussion, delegations welcomed the peace process and expressed hope that the peace declaration and the various commitments signed by countries in the Horn of Africa would contribute to the protection of human rights. Eritrea was urged to engage with the Special Rapporteur; reform its military service and place limits on its terms; release all political prisoners; stop the continuing practice of arbitrary arrests; and end torture and inhumane detention conditions. Eritrea was called on to use recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review as a roadmap. Some speakers expressed concern that although Eritrea was now a member of the Council, it would not improve its human rights situation.

Speaking were European Union, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Ethiopia, Sudan, United Kingdom, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, Somalia, Australia, Venezuela, Russian Federation, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Iceland, Iran, China, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Hungary and Algeria.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: Europe External Programme for Africa; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project; Advocates for Human Rights; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; Jubilee Campaign; Christian Solidarity Worldwide; Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association; and Human Rights Watch.

Lebanon spoke in a right of reply.

The Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 March, to hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission on South Sudan.

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea

Opening Remarks

COLY SECK, President of the Human Rights Council, reminded that in its resolution 38/15, the Human Rights Council had decided to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, with the participation of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, civil society and other stakeholders.

Keynote Statements

KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the dialogue came at an important moment, pivotal for the Horn of Africa and for Eritrea, as after a 20-year military stalemate, the signing of the peace agreement with Ethiopia could lay down foundations for resilient peace. It was a moment that could be seized by the Government to propel forward urgently needed and long-awaited reforms that would lift up human rights for the people of Eritrea, including reforms to its indefinite national service, adoption of a human rights based Constitution, and reforms to enable the introduction of private enterprise that could contribute to the country’s economic and social development. The Deputy High Commissioner appreciated Eritrea’s election to the Human Rights Council, as it signalled new openings for the authorities to fully embrace the responsibilities of the Council membership, including their obligations to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, who could provide expert guidance on ways to advance human rights in the country. Eritrea had participated in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in January 2019, with 261 recommendations issued to the Government. Those combined with the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights provided an authoritative roadmap to improve the human rights situation in Eritrea. However, it was regrettable that despite these positive developments, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Eritrea had not seen any improvements in the actual situation of human rights for Eritreans on the ground in the past year.

Eritrea’s 1997 Constitution had not been enforced, Ms. Gilmore reminded. For the sake of the dignity and protection of its people, the Deputy High Commissioner urged Eritrea to immediately take the necessary steps to correct that. The Government should tackle rampant impunity, release all those who had been subjected to unlawful and arbitrary detention, and allow civil society and human rights defenders to operate freely. The right to a fair trial must be respected while information should be provided to family members on the whereabouts of disappeared persons, with families provided access to justice as appropriate. Eritrea’s ranking in the 2018 world press freedom index remained unchanged compared to last year, whereas the continued use of indefinite national service remained a major human rights concern. Conscripts continued to confront open-ended duration of service, far beyond the 18 months stipulated by law and often in abusive conditions, which may include the use of torture, sexual violence and forced labour. Eritrea should bring its national service in line with the country’s international human rights obligations, the Deputy High Commissioner emphasized. In September 2018, the opening of the border with Ethiopia had led to an exodus of Eritreans. In the absence of promising signs of tangible progress, the flow of asylum-seekers was not expected to drop.

Presenting the Office of the High Commissioner’s actions on Eritrea, Ms. Gilmore reminded that following its last mission to Eritrea in October 2017, the Office had submitted a proposal for technical cooperation focused on reforms that Eritrea could adopt to bring its system of justice in line with international standards. It had further requested permission to visit Eritrea again and it looked forward to hearing back from the authorities on that. The Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peacefulassembly and of association had also sent requests to visit Eritrea, whereas Eritrea had invited the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education to carry out visits. It had also expressed interest in extending invitations to the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, as well as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Office was ready to visit Eritrea to engage with the Government so that it could provide all the necessary assistance to help improve the human rights situation for the people of Eritrea. The recent international developments were an historic opportunity to lift up the human rights for the people of Eritrea, Ms. Gilmore stressed. It was a moment the country’s leadership could seize to demonstrate to the people of Eritrea that peace did indeed yield true dividends in respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

DANIELA KRAVETZ, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, welcomed Eritrea’s membership in the Human Rights Council, which showed a recognition by the Government of the central importance of that United Nations body. As a member of the Council, Eritrea was duty bound to respect the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. Eritrea’s membership in the Human Rights Council represented an opportunity for the Government to ensure that its nationals enjoyed all of their rights, including their civil and political rights. It was also an opportunity to strengthen its rule of law. Despite making progress, Eritrea had not yet put in place an adequate institutional and legal framework to uphold minimum human rights standards. It had yet to implement its 1997 Constitution, or to finalize the drafting and adoption of a new Constitution. Eritrea continued to have no national assembly to discuss and adopt laws regulating basic rights. There was no independent judiciary to enforce the protection of and respect for these rights. The country did not allow freedom of press, freedom of association, or freedom of expression. Freedom of religion, which was central to the ability of people to live together, was in practice not guaranteed for all faiths.

The situation of detainees was particularly concerning. Many had received no information as to why their relatives had been detained, where they were being held, or when they would be released. Some had spent over a decade looking for their relatives. Under international law, detainees had rights. Those included the right to be brought before a judge, the right to legal counsel, the right to be informed of the charges against them, and the right to family visits. Those were basic minimum standards. Last year’s declaration of peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia had created expectations within Eritrea and in the international community that Eritrea would implement reforms. That had not yet happened. In particular, there had been no public announcement about a reduction of the duration of the national service or about any demobilization plans. Progress in promoting civil and political rights must be a critical part of Eritrea’s road to development, and Eritrea must take concrete steps to enable such progress. The Special Rapporteur urged Eritrea to live up to its international commitments as a member of the Human Rights Council. She remained willing to engage with Eritrean authorities in a constructive dialogue and cooperation.

TESFAMICAEL GERAHTU, Head of the Eritrean delegation to the fortieth session of the Human Rights Council, said that despite challenges to peace, security and development, including under the pretext of human rights, Eritrea’s ground reality attested there had never been any systematic crisis. Eritrea was participating in the enhanced interactive dialogue during an important historic development for both Eritrea and the Horn of Africa region. Eritrea wanted to appraise the Human Rights Council of a ground reality that had been neglected for the last seven years. There was a people-based political process of nation building, a people-power nexus, in the country. The negative effect of the last 20 years on the peace, security and development of the Horn of Africa region had been unprecedented, Mr. Gerahtu emphasized. Eritrea and Ethiopia had signed a peace, friendship and cooperation agreement, intending to harmonize efforts and policies and ensure peaceful coexistence. The lifting of the United Nations sanctions on Eritrea was a welcome development. The Government was now focused on three interrelated dimensions: macro-economic stability, comprehensive reorganization, and consolidation of institutions. Exerting pressure on Eritrea would be counterproductive. Nevertheless, Eritrea was committed to further strengthen its international cooperation. In the past eight years, Eritrea had been targeted by protracted country-specific resolutions and mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, which had not created any dividend in the promotion of human rights. In fact, they had undermined the engagement of Eritrea in the Universal Periodic Review as a viable way to address human rights concerns. In closing, Mr. Gerahtu called on the Council to terminate the confrontational approach that had lasted for the past seven years because there was no crisis that warranted a special mandate on Eritrea.

VANESSA TSEHAYE, Founder of One Day Seyoum, spoke as niece of Seyoum Tsehaye, a journalist and photographer who had been imprisoned without a trial in Eritrea since 2001. He was one of the members of the guerrilla group who had fought for the country’s independence and after the war had been won in 1991 he had expected democracy. In 2001, he had been imprisoned alongside other journalists because he had publicly demanded changes. The Government’s official response to everything that happened after 2001 was that it was because Ethiopia had no demarcated border. Without attempting to downplay what the Government had to deal with when facing threats to national security, Ms. Tsehaye said that the response was neither legal nor proportionate. There was no legal declaration of emergency and the standoff at the border could not justify horrible rapes, torture and other crimes committed, crimes that the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea had classified as crimes against humanity. It did not justify the fact that the only university in the country had been shut down, that there was no free press, and that tens of thousands of people had been imprisoned without a trial. It was hard to understand that anyone could take the Government’s justification seriously. Eight months after the peace deal, the Constitution was still not implemented, and the border was still not demarcated. There was no transparency about details of the peace agreement. Hope had an expiration date, and in the case of Eritrea, it was long overdue. The language of hope was being used to camouflage self-interest at the expense of the wellbeing of the Eritrean people. Ms. Tsehaye urged the Council to think about the Eritrean people, and the impact that its support had on prolonging their suffering.

DANIEL EYASU, Head of Cooperation and International Relations of the National Youth Union & Eritrean Students, thanked the Human Rights Council for the opportunity to present the voice of Eritrean youth. With more than 3,000 members, the organization’s aim was to ensure the responsible participation of Eritrean youth in national-building process, national unity and citizenship, and in Eritrea’s future. The broad, mass-based, extensive nature of the youth network gave it the liberty to provide a concrete representation of the situation in the country. The organization had provided follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review recommendations to Eritrea, and it had been involved in the preparation and compilation of reports. Mr. Eyasu noted that the Eritrean people, particularly youth, had paid a huge price for the 20 years of instability. The national service was critical for nation building and its characterization in the reports of the Council’s special procedures as modern slavery was unwarranted, unjustified and unacceptable. It was incumbent on everyone to recognize the need for the whole of society to participate in the responsibility of burden sharing. The Government had demobilized over 100,000 members of the national service in 2003, Mr. Eyasu pointed out. The Council should recognize that Eritrea had achieved significant progress, despite many challenges. He reiterated that there was no human rights crisis in Eritrea and he urged the Council to consider any issues through the Universal Periodic Review process.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union said it stood ready to support Eritrea’s investment in jobs, in support of efforts to demobilize the military. It encouraged Eritrea to support the establishment of an office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country and to engage with the Special Rapporteur in her work. Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, considered the peace agreements between the Horn of Africa countries as an essential development in the region. It called on Eritrea and the United Nations mechanisms to continue their ongoing cooperation in a constructive manner. Ethiopia stated that the peace declaration and the various commitments signed by countries in the Horn of Africa would contribute to the protection of human rights. It encouraged Eritrea to engage with the international community, including with the Human Rights Council, to ensure that human rights were upheld.

Sudan believed that the optimal way to promote human rights was through a non-biased and non-politicized approach, and through the provision of technical assistance. It encouraged Eritrea to continue its engagement with the international community, and it called for technical assistance to be extended to Eritrea. United Kingdom urged Eritrea to engage with the Special Rapporteur, given its obligations as a member of the Council, and to address the large scale detentions in the country, as set out by the Special Rapporteur. It also urged the Government to reform its military service to place limits on its terms. Belgium welcomed the recent efforts made by Eritrea in normalizing its relationship with Ethiopia, and expressed hope that the normalization would encourage Eritrean authorities to undertake reforms. Those should address the unlimited length of military service, human trafficking and violence against women.

Croatia was pleased to see an improvement of Eritrea’s relationships with other countries, but called on the Government to expedite work on reforms. Croatia called on Eritrea to use recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review as a roadmap for achieving that goal. Germany welcomed the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which offered a unique chance for regional stability. It called on Eritrea to end involuntary conscription, release all political prisoners, stop the continued practice of arbitrary arrests, and end torture and inhumane detention conditions. Czech Republic urged the Government of Eritrea to organize general elections in accordance with international democratic standards, as the last elections were in 1993. Had the Rapporteur witnessed any improvement in Eritrea’s cooperation with her mandate?

Somalia noted that a new chapter of regional cooperation was taking place in the Horn of Africa and it acknowledged Eritrea’s progress in improving the standard of living. However, more needed to be done to improve women’s representation in decision-making process and Somalia encouraged Eritrea to cooperate with the human rights mechanisms. Australia remained concerned about reports of forced labour and indefinite national service. Reports of torture and arbitrary and indefinite detention were alarming, and Australia thus called on Eritrea to uphold the international human rights conventions and to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. Venezuela opposed the imposition of country-specific mandates, noting that the Universal Periodic Review was the best mechanism to improve the human rights situation in countries. The United Nations had to provide support to Eritrea in order for it to fulfil the recommendations.

Russian Federation observed that the discussion of the human rights situation in Eritrea was not objective, noting that it was led by outside forces who had an interest in destabilizing the region. The steady development of relations between Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti was welcome, and any issues of human rights should be discussed in a constructive setting, such as the Universal Periodic Review. Netherlands remained concerned about the human rights situation in Eritrea, particularly the indefinite national service, allegations of arbitrary detention, and allegations of the use of illicit means by Eritrea to collect diaspora tax from its nationals abroad. Netherlands urged Eritrea to build on the positive momentum and to accelerate necessary domestic reforms. France noted that despite some improvements in education and health policies, Eritrea should take all measures to improve the human rights situation in the country, put an end to the national service, and improve the respect of fundamental freedoms of its citizens.

Switzerland said that despite the signing of the peace agreement, the human rights situation in Eritrea remained worrying. It urged Eritrea to grant access to the Special Rapporteur, to demonstrate a real intention to cooperate with all the human rights mechanisms, and to act on all the recommendations in its Universal Periodic Review. Iceland stated that for progress to be made in Eritrea, comprehensive domestic reforms were needed and the 1997 constitution should be fully implemented. Iceland urged Eritrea to grant access to all international human rights mechanisms and instruments. Iran voiced its opposition to the politicization of human rights by singling out countries through non-constructive mandates. The Government of Eritrea faced many challenges in attaining international human rights standards; the role of the Council should be supportive rather than punitive.

China believed that Eritrea had improved the living conditions of vulnerable groups, including women and children. China understood the challenges it faced as a developing country, and it called on the international community to view Eritrea’s human rights situation in that context. Greece called on Eritrea to ensure the unimpeded work of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society in general. It expressed concern about the indefinite and compulsory nature of its national service. Luxembourg stated that the recent reconciliation between Eritrea and Ethiopia had given rise to hope, and it called on the authorities in Eritrea to bring about human rights changes. The indefinite military service was a human rights issue that greatly damaged the international image of the country and discouraged international investment.

Norway believed that the new dynamics in the Horn of Africa had raised hope for peace and normalization of relations, including improved human rights. It welcomed the willingness of the Government of Eritrea to engage with the international community. Saudi Arabia welcomed the positive developments between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which had culminated with the signing of the Jeddah Peace Accord of 2018, heralding the new era of peace and stability in the region. Saudi Arabia commended Eritrea’s efforts to promote human rights, in spite of multiple challenges. Djibouti believed that the opportunities provided by the peace and reconciliation developments in the Horn of Africa were significant. Djibouti had authorized the review of all individual cases of Eritrean prisoners of war held in Djiboutian prisons, but it remained concerned about the lack of information about the 13 remaining Djiboutian prisoners of war in Eritrea.

Hungary said that the election of Eritrea to the Council could be an opportunity for it to strengthen cooperation with human rights mechanisms. How could the Government of Eritrea be engaged to take forward institutional and legal reforms in the human rights area? Algeria welcomed positive dynamics in the Horn of Africa and urged countries involved to continue on the path of peace. Authorities were invited to constructively engage with the Office of the High Commissioner and the international community to provide adequate technical assistance.

Europe External Programme for Africa said that in 2018, the long-standing stalemate with Ethiopia had been resolved. This situation had been persistently cited by the Eritrean Government to supress rights and freedoms. Concern was expressed that the election of Eritrea to the Council might be used as a shield to hide the problematic record of human rights violations. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said that the opening of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border was positive for people of the region. However, grave concerns remained over Eritrea’s domestic human rights situation and Eritrea was urged to engage with the United Nations human rights system. Advocates for Human Rights drew attention to the forced military service and arbitrary detention, as many asylum seekers continued to flee from such situations in Eritrea. Arrests and detentions, without clear legal charges, solely due to connections to those that criticized the Government, were regularly reported. International Fellowship of Reconciliation noted that nothing had changed on the human rights front since Eritrea became a member of the Council and signed the peace agreement with Ethiopia. Peace had removed the only justification for the indefinite military and national service, but there had been no end to the endless forced conscription and over 10,000 prisoners of conscience were incarcerated in inhuman conditions.

Jubilee Campaign drew the Council’s attention to the lack of freedom of religion and belief in Eritrea. It highlighted the imprisonment of civilians for belonging to unregistered Christian denominations, including Jehovah Witnesses, Pentecostal Christians and Seventh Day Adventists, and called for their immediate release. Christian Solidarity Worldwide welcomed the improved relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia but was surprised that Catholic priests were not able to leave the country to participate in a church summit. It called for the immediate release of all those detained because of their religious beliefs and the creation of judicial mechanisms to hold identified perpetrators accountable. Maat for Peace, Development, and Human Rights Association stated that in addition to national service, shrinking civil society and crack downs, grave human rights violations against thousands Eritreans were perpetrated when then tried to leave the country. It recommended that Eritrea elaborate a strategy to promote the safe return of displaced people and to grant access to international human rights mechanisms and non-governmental organizations. Human Rights Watch regretted that there was little evidence that oppression in Eritrea had subsided since the signing of the peace agreement and highlighted that the Council’s Commission of Inquiry had labelled Eritrea’s national service as enslavement. It asked the delegation to outline a timetable for the demobilisation of its conscripts and to indicate whether it would allow the Special Rapporteur access to carry out her mandate.

Concluding Remarks

KATE GILMORE, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she understood the need to extend the technical cooperation with Eritrea, adding that the Office of the High Commissioner had met with the delegation of Eritrea last week. The commitment was in place by the Office of the High Commissioner to extend support to Eritrea and work together in the administration of justice. Further meetings were expected to discuss details. The Government’s outreach to the Special Procedures was welcomed.

DANIELA KRAVETZ, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, said that peace with Ethiopia represented a chance to put an end to the indefinite national service and to focus on institution building and empowering civil society. The lack of an adequate institutional and legal framework was the major barrier; the lack of a constitution, of a national assembly, and of a system of checks and balances. As she only started her mandate in November, the Special Rapporteur said she had made a few requests to meet with the delegation and so far no response was received, but she hoped that this would change soon. The situation of detainees was a particularly important issue, and it had to be a top priority. Human rights should be at the centre of development and economic projects, and States were urged to consider a human rights perspective when initiating international cooperation. The mandate included the development of benchmarks and a time plan for Eritrea going forward, so States were invited to share their inputs, and the delegation of Eritrea was particularly called on to share their input.

TESFAMICAEL GERAHTU, Head of the Eritrean delegation to the fortieth session of the Human Rights Council, disagreed with the way Eritrea was portrayed in the interactive dialogue. Eritrea was ready to seize the opportunity presented by its membership of the Council, but he regretted that the difficult situation that the country had been in over the past 20 years had been downplayed, which was unacceptable. The repeated comments made by some speakers, who expected changes overnight, were unrealistic. The offensive language used regarding forced conscription was wrong, and did not recognize that the military service had served to assert national survival in a time of hostilities. Nevertheless, transformation was underway to make changes to the national service in Eritrea, such as efforts to reintegrate national service recruits, even though these were not mentioned in the interactive dialogue. The membership of Eritrea in the Council was about responsibility for everybody. They were not in the Council to defend themselves, but to make modest progress, to detoxify the atmosphere in the Council, and to work with others to bring about changes. In addressing the criticism that Eritrea had not engaged with the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Gerahtu indicated they had requested to meet her here in Geneva.

VANESSA TSEHAYE, Founder of One Day Seyoum, addressed the issue of the politicization of human rights. The Eritrean delegate had created a false dichotomy between the Government and the international community, and he forgot one important group, the Eritrean people. The Eritrean people had no interest in politicizing their situation, or the human rights abuses that they were being subjected to. The Eritrean delegate spoke of the national service programme as part of his reality, but he was not the one in the camps, and was not the one serving his country indefinitely. The Eritrean people should remain front and centre of this discussion, and they should not get stuck in the hypocrisy of countries that was well known before and after the Council.

Right of Reply

Lebanon, speaking in a right of reply in response to allegations made by Israel during the interactive dialogue on Iran, said Israel was taking advantage of the debates in the Council for its own agenda, to disguise that they were occupying territories, including parts of Lebanon. Groups in Lebanon operated in line with the law and they were not terrorist groups.

For use of the information media; not an official record

Source=https://reliefweb.int/report/eritrea/human-rights-council-holds-enhanced-interactive-dialogue-situation-human-rights-0