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UN rights expert calls for further releases in Eritrea

GENEVA (6 May 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, today called on to the Government of Eritrea to put an immediate end to the widespread practices of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and persecution.

“I urge the Eritrean authorities to immediately release, or charge and bring before a court of law, all detainees, including the members of the ‘G-15’, the journalists arrested in 2001, as well as those arrested for their opinions or religious beliefs,” Ms. Keetharuth said.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the reported release of eight detainees in Eritrea, which took place in April 2014, but which has not been publicly acknowledged by the Eritrean authorities. “Their release is a positive development, which I hope will be followed by more systematic releases,” she said, expressing the hope that “Eritrea will abide by its obligations under international human rights law more consistently.”

Reportedly, most of those men released had been arrested in 2005/2006 in Keren, 90 km North West of the capital Asmara. Among them were several government officials and two medical doctors. It is unclear whether reasons have been provided for their arrest in the first place, or for their release. None of them has ever been brought before a court of law to review the legality of their detention.

The human rights expert expressed concern about the unknown number of Eritreans who continue to be held in Eritrea’s secret detention centres. Thousands are believed to be detained incommunicado at unknown locations, without charge or trial.

“Those detained incommunicado and in undisclosed locations are at high risk of being tortured or submitted to other forms of ill-treatment, “Ms. Keetharuth said. “I call on the authorities to disclose the whereabouts of all detainees held incommunicado and provide immediate access to their families, medical doctors and legal representatives.”

Eritrea’s human rights record was reviewed in February 2014 by numerous UN member States, recommending that the Eritrean authorities stop the prevalent practices of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and persecution in the country. (Check Eritrea’s Universal Periodic Review: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Highlights3February2014pm.aspx)

Special Rapporteur Keetharuth will submit her second report on the human rights situation in Eritrea to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.

Sheila B. Keetharuth was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea during the 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012.  She took her functions on 1 November 2012.  As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity.  A lawyer from Mauritius, she has extensive experience in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, advocacy, training and litigation in human rights in Africa. Learn more, log on to:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/ER/Pages/SREritrea.aspx

Check the Special Rapporteur’s first report to the UN Human Rights Council: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=201

UN Human Rights, country page – Eritrea: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ERIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Birthe Ankenbrand (+41 22 928 9465 / bankenbrand@ohchr.org) or write to sr-eritrea@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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