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UN Human Rights Council: Deterioration in Mali; Widespread and Systematic Violations in Eritrea

Oral Statement under Item 2 - General Debate

Human Rights Watch is concerned about the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in Mali, resulting from the January 2012 resurgence of armed conflict, the March military coup, and the on‐going political crisis. Research carried out by HRW in Mali found that Separatist Tuareg rebels, Islamist armed groups, and Arab militias who seized control of northern Mali in April 2012 have committed numerous war crimes, including the use and recruitment of child soldiers, looting and the pillaging of hospitals, schools, aid agencies and government buildings. Islamist groups have also been implicated cases of cruel and inhuman punishments associated with the application of Sharia Law such as public floggings and amputation, while Tuareg forces and Arab militias were responsible for the rape and abduction of girls and women.

Human Rights Watch also received credible information that Malian army soldiers have arbitrarily detained and, in some instances, summarily executed ethnic Tuareg members of the security services and civilians.

Human Rights Watch is concerned about the potential for further abuses, as well as the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and restrictions on humanitarian access. We encourage OHCHR to work closely with the UN to prevent any further deterioration of the situation. At the same time we call on the Council to keep a close watch on the human rights dimensions of this crisis. We recommend that the Council request the High Commissioner to alert it in case of serious threats of large scale violations in Mali and to act in accordance with its mandate to prevent human rights violations.

Human Rights Watch shares the High Commissioner’s concerns on the situation in Eritrea. Violations in Eritrea extend beyond the horrific treatment of political prisoners and include forced labor; arbitrary arrests and disappearances; torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; religious persecution; and restrictions on freedom of movement.

In September 2001, 21 senior officials and journalists were arrested on the order of President Isaias Afewerki because they had criticized him. Ten years after, the government has provided no information about the whereabouts or conditions of this most prominent group of political detainees. Ten of the twenty‐one have reportedly died in prison, while the others remain in solitary confinement. Further, it is estimated that there are currently between 5,000 and 10,000 prisoners whose “crime” is that they are suspected of not being fully loyal to the regime. Thousands of prisoners are also detained because they violated the extremely severe terms of their national service by deserting or attempting to desert. Many conscripts are used in forced labor for government party commercial enterprises or in businesses owned by high‐ranking military commanders. Since 2001 no independent domestic media has been allowed to exist and even government journalists have been arbitrarily jailed.

The Human Rights Council should address the long‐lasting situation of widespread and systematic violations and appoint a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

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