GENEVA (15 June 2017) – Eritrea must stop delaying action to tackle the severe human rights abuses meted out to its citizens, a United Nations rights expert has warned in a new report to the Human Rights Council.
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, stressed that citizens continue to suffer arbitrary arrest, incommunicadodetention, enforced disappearances, and a national service system that amounts to enslavement.
“I regret to report that, as of now, the Government has made no effort to end ongoing human rights violations, which the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea described as amounting to crimes against humanity,” she said.
“The time for Eritrea to take bold action for human rights protection is long overdue, and the Government has not delivered on any of its promises,” the expert stressed, while urging the authorities “to rise above the rhetoric it has used over the last five years when addressing the Human Rights Council.”
“The Government of Eritrea must put its obligations under human rights treaties into effect,” Ms. Keetharuth said.
The Special Rapporteur underlined that while Eritrea has increased its interaction with some human rights bodies, nothing has substantially changed on the ground. In her report, she has suggested a list of areas with the intention to assist the Human Rights Council in developing specific and time-bound benchmarks to assess substantive change.
“Such specific, time-bound targets would help Member States assess Eritrea’s progress. I hope that, as of next year, we will be able to celebrate the first steps of tangible improvements that will make a change in people’s life in Eritrea,” she said.
Eritrea still has no constitution and lacks fundamental institutions that underpin a society based on the rule of law, the Special Rapporteur noted. It does not have an independent judiciary, democratically elected parliament or legislative assembly, opposition parties, an independent media or civil society organizations, other than government-affiliated organizations.
“The Eritrean authorities have refused to engage with me for yet another year, but various groups and notably Eritreans have seized the opportunity offered by the mandate. They have used the space to voice their opinions, express their ideas, and highlight their concerns on human rights – a space that the Government continues to deny them at home,” Ms. Keetharuth said. “It is incumbent on the Eritrean authorities to dialogue with the Eritrean people while respecting and protecting their rights.
The Special Rapporteur also noted that the Government had shown no willingness to tackle impunity, despite calls by the Commission of Inquiry to ensure accountability for past human rights violations and crimes against humanity.
She urged other States to take action against Eritreans implicated in the commission of crimes against humanity, if the alleged offenders were on their territory.
Ms. Keetharuth said human rights in Eritrea would continue to be watched closely despite a lack of access.
“The Government refuses to open its doors for international experts to undertake a comprehensive review of the human rights situation,” she said.
“Remote monitoring is the only way to shed light on a country that continues to shield itself from scrutiny. Increased engagement with the international community is a welcome development, but it cannot be a substitute for human rights progress and scrutiny.”
Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth (Mauritius) was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea in October 2012. From 2014 to 2016, she also served as a member of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. Since May 2014, Ms. Keetharuth is an expert member of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Until 2012, Ms. Keetharuth was the Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa in Banjul, The Gambia. In 2017, Ms. Keetharuth was awarded with the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award by the University of Leicester, in recognition of her human rights work.
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 organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page: Eritrea
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