NEW YORK (27 October 2022) – Eritrea poses a real challenge to the UN system and the international community a UN expert said today, warning that the country’s human rights situation was deteriorating drastically.
“Eritrea was elected to serve in the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2022-2024. However, its continuous failure to fully cooperate with his mandate and implement the recommendations of human rights bodies calls the credibility and integrity of the entire UN human rights system into question,” said Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, in a report to the General Assembly.
“The intensification of the armed conflict in Tigray, the de facto blockade by Eritrean forces, secret places of torture called “villas” and the forced indefinite national conscription, all contribute to violations of human rights in Eritrea,” the Special Rapporteur said.
The expert made note of the fact that Eritrea had used its Human Rights Council membership to oppose international scrutiny over violations in the Tigray Region and voted against the establishment of an international commission of experts to investigate allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations in Ethiopia.
Eritrea has been fighting alongside Ethiopia’s central government troops since the civil war broke out in Tigray in late 2020.
Babiker’s report to the General Assembly also noted that Eritrean journalists, political opponents and disappeared persons had been detained in the country for more than 20 years. “They are the longest detained persons in the world, languishing in jails and incommunicado detentions,” the Special Rapporteur said. December 2022 will mark 10 years since the arrest of Ciham Ali Abdu, an American-Eritrean child who had been held incommunicado since the age of 15. According to the UN expert, there had been a recent and worrying uptick in arbitrary arrests and detentions against clergymen in the country.
“The Government of Eritrea should release children, political prisoners, hundreds of disappeared persons and those imprisoned for their religious beliefs and allow all Eritreans to exercise their right to freedom of religion,” the UN expert said.
The Special Rapporteur said he had received information that people from the Afar region of Eritrea were being denied access to asylum procedures especially at the Asayita refugee camp in Ethiopia.
“Immediate action is imperative to protect refugees and other vulnerable populations. Humanitarian actors face difficulties operating in Tigray due to the complex security situation and lack of access, impacting humanitarian delivery to refugees,” he said.
In September 2020, the Human Rights Council appointed Dr. Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker of Sudan as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. Dr. Babiker is an Associate Professor of International Law at the University of Khartoum and founding Director of its Human Rights Centre. He is also a practicing lawyer, has conducted international investigations in the Horn of Africa on human rights and international humanitarian law and has published extensively.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
Source: UN Human Rights Council