|Sheila B. Keetharuth was appointed last year to the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.|
“I urge the international community to keep Eritrea under close scrutiny until meaningful change is evident,” Ms. Keetharuth said during the presentation of her first report to the UN Human Rights Council. “It will be important to increase efforts to constructively engage with Eritrea and neighbouring countries to improve the situation of human rights in the country.”
Despite repeated requests,
theSpecial Rapporteur has not been granted access to Eritrea since her appointment in November 2012. As a result, her first official mission to the field was carried out from 30 April to 9 May 2013, when she conducted interviews at Eritrean refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia and Djibouti, which host large Eritrean refugee communities.
|patriarch Abune Antonios,under arrest since 2006|
The Special Rapporteur noted with alarm the situation regarding mass round-ups, forced conscription and the indefinite national service, as well as the country-wide arming and military training of the civilian population, which started last year.
“Excessive militarisation is affecting the very fabric of Eritrean society, and its core unit, the family. The indefinite national service is depriving the women and men of Eritrea of their most productive years,” Ms. Keetharuth said. “Many of those I interviewed told me that their families would be unable to live in dignity without direct remittances from family and friends living abroad.”
“Severe curtailment of freedom of movement, opinion, expression, assembly, association and the right tofreedom of religion warrant serious concern,” she noted. “The restrictions of these rights, which are the very cornerstones of democratic societies, create a climate of fear fuelled by rumours, propaganda and suspicion. The result is an all-encompassing feeling of fear and distrust, even within families.”
In her report, the independent expert warns about the arbitrary use of power by the State, which violates the most fundamental principles of the rule of law, and a complete absence of accountability mechanisms to bring those responsible for the human rights violations to justice.
“The alarming human rights situation in Eritrea is triggering a constant stream of refugees to neighbouring countries,” she said. “Although there is a shoot-to-kill policy targeting those attempting to flee, many thousands of Eritrean citizens have fled over the past decade. The numbers are on the rise, with more than 4,000 Eritreans fleeing the country every month, despite the extreme dangers along escape routes and an unknown future.”
Eritrean Refugees in Ethiopia
“The increasing number of these unaccompanied minors not only poses major protection challenges but is indicative of the scale of despair these children are facing at home,” the human rights expert warned.
Ms. Keetharuth acknowledged Eritrea’s active participation in the universal periodic review in 2009/10, noting that the Government has reportedly initiated a follow-up process. “Eritrea’s second universal periodic review in January 2014 will provide another opportunity to engage on the human rights situation with the HRC and it will be interesting to see which concrete steps Eritrea has taken to honour its commitments under the UPR, she said.
“I would welcome the opportunity to engage in a frank and open dialogue with the Government of Eritrea to discuss these recommendations, as well as a range of issues and challenges linked to the full realization of human rights in Eritrea,” the Special Rapporteur reiterated.
Click here to Check the SpecialRapporteur first report to the Human Rights Council