By Jamel Nampijja & Mutua Kobia / GICJ
The lack of democratic institutions, the absence of functioning rule of law and the prevalence of impunity exacerbate human rights abuses in Eritrea, stated Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. During the 3rd Meeting of the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council on June 20, 2023, Mr. Babiker presented his report on the human rights situation in Eritrea (A/HRC/53/20) covering the period from April 2022 to April 2023.
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea noted the lack of progress in the country and that the human rights situation remains dire with not much sign of improvement. He said there is no rule of law, and human rights violations persist. The report revealed grave human rights violations within the national service framework, including forced labour, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, and arbitrary detention within Eritrea. Thousands of Eritreans languish in arbitrary detention or have disappeared, often enduring years or decades of confinement without any legal process or human rights protections.
The Special Rapporteur raised concern over the restrictions on freedom of religion or belief and the detention of religious leaders. He also highlighted the serious situation regarding the country's national and military service that enforces forced conscription and the collective punishment of families where children are also rounded up and conscripted. Additionally, this situation has brought about a negative impact on the economic and social life of Eritreans including their private and family life that has been gravely affected.
Furthermore, Eritrean Afar Indigenous communities continue to face discriminatory treatment, persecution, and interference in their traditional ways of life.
Moreover, Eritrea's civic space remains completely closed, suppressing civil society participation, political opposition, critical expression, and the free exchange of ideas. Independent and international media outlets are prohibited from operating in the country.
Similarly, accountability is absent in many situations, including large-scale massacres and other humanitarian violations. The special rapporteur also brought to attention the challenges for refugees and asylum seekers who are left in highly vulnerable situations and urged neighbouring countries and the international community to exercise solidarity.
Speaking on behalf of the country concerned, the representative of Eritrea, Tesfamichael Gerahtu, stated that some countries persist in pursuing geopolitical interests and obstruct nation-building efforts by disseminating false allegations and biased reports.
He emphasised the significance of approaching such information with scepticism, avoiding sensationalism or engaging in witch hunts, and countering these deceitful tactics through objective analysis and professionalism while maintaining vigilance against external forces aiming to exploit political divisions and fragment the country.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) is concerned by the dire state of human rights in Eritrea and calls on its leaders to fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms, emphasising the significance of collaborative efforts in addressing the ongoing human rights crisis in the country. GICJ urges the government of Eritrea to adopt comprehensive reforms aimed at upholding freedom of expression and allowing independent media outlets to operate without fear of persecution.
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