The Commission of Inquiry’s report substantiates what has long been known about the Eritrean government’s repression of the Eritrean people. As the commission noted, based on over 500 interviews, the government continues to engage in “systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations.” The conclusion that some of the violations may amount to crimes against humanity is deeply worrying, and the Council should support further investigation into these allegations.
It is unfortunate that the government has ignored the Council’s urging that it facilitate “unrestricted access to visit the country” and provide “information necessary for the fulfilment of its mandates.”
In recent months, some Eritrean government officials have suggested that the government is ready to implement some policy changes. Officials have told visiting immigration officials and some foreign diplomats that it intends to limit national service conscription to 18 months for recent – but not long serving -- conscripts.
Implementation of this pledge would be welcome but to date there is no confirmation that any policy change has been enacted, nor has there been any public notification within Eritrea of such a shift.
In fact, very recent Human Rights Watch research with Eritreans who fled recently, including some conscripted last year, confirms the Commission’s finding that there has been no perceptible improvement in the government’s practices on indefinite conscription. None of the people interviewed by Human Rights Watch had heard of a change in policy or were aware of an increase in discharge rates.
On the contrary, our interviews revealed that since 2014 there has been increased conscription of men previously released from national service (some as old as 75). Some were returned to military training, others given expanded duties in local militias, and others conscripted into the “people’s army.”.
The Council should renew the monitoring mandate of the special rapporteur on Eritrea and extend the mandate of the commission to ensure that the Commission can collect most recent information and further determine whether violations it documented amount to crimes against humanity.It should also demand that the Government of Eritrea provide full, unhindered access to independent human rights investigators and implement the commission’s and the council’s previous recommendations.
In the absence of substantial human rights reforms verified by the Commission and by other independent human rights monitors, no country should close its doors to Eritrean asylum seekers or send them back to almost certain abuse.
As part of any discussion on how Eritreans may fall victim to traffickers in North Africa, HRW recommends States analyse how Ethiopia's and Sudan's free movement and work restrictions on Eritreans leaves them with no option but to leave the region and head to Libya and the EU in search of protection and a sustainable future.