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UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea to meet Eritreans in USA

GENEVA (18 March 2015) – The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea will visit the United States of America (23–27 March) to hear first-hand testimonies from Eritrean refugees and migrants there. During its visit, the Commission will be based in Washington D.C.

The visit to the United States follows similar visits which the Commission has undertaken since its establishment in June 2014. The Commission has so far visited six countries in Europe and Africa and it has spoken to more than 400 Eritrean refugees and exiles about the human rights situation in their homeland. The Commission is visiting the United States to collect testimonies about human rights violations from the substantial Eritrean diaspora based in the country.

“The Commission has continuously sought permission to visit Eritrea as part of its investigation. However, four months into our mandate, we are yet to receive a response from the Eritrean government,” said the Commission’s Chairperson, Mike Smith.  “As I stated during the oral update to the UN Human Rights Council on 16 March 2015, we remain available to travel to Eritrea at any time should the Government extend an invitation.  However, in the interim, we will continue to gather information from the Eritrean population in the diaspora.”

The Commission invites all interested parties in the United States of America to cooperate with its investigation.  Eritreans based there who would like to speak to a representative of the Commission should contact the Secretariat at coieritrea@ohchr.org.

Mr. Smith reiterated that the inquiry is being carried out impartially and without preconceptions.  “We are keen to hear from anyone who has any information about the human rights situation in Eritrea,” he said.  “Anyone wishing to come forward to testify will be able to do so confidentially.”

The Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea was established by UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/RES/26/24 in June 2014.  It is examining a broad range of alleged violations since Eritrea gained independence.  These include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, and restrictions to the freedoms of expression and opinion, movement, assembly and religion.

The Commission will present a written report of its findings to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.  Further to the oral update on its work to the Council, which was delivered on 16 March 2015, the Commission will also provide an oral update to the General Assembly during its September session.

For more information, please consult the Commission’s website: http://www.ohchr.org/COIEritrea  

For media requests, please contact the Secretariat of the Commission of Inquiry by email: coieritrea@ohchr.org     

For use of the information media; not an official record