Eritrean refugees hold placards during a protest against the Eritrean government outside their embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel May 11, 2015.

Repeated Human Rights Council resolutions have condemned “in the strongest terms” the “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” by the Eritrean government.  The Council has condemned violations including arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, religious oppression, denials of the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly.  The Council has also expressed grave concern over the unlimited conscription of Eritrea’s citizens and the use of conscripts in forced labor.  

Council resolutions have urged Eritrea to end these practices and allow international and regional human rights bodies, including Special Rapporteurs, unhindered access to the country to monitor progress.

Unfortunately, the Eritrean government has repeatedly ignored the Council’s resolutions.  Little change, if any, has occurred.  Prisoners remain jailed without trial, indefinitely and sometimes incommunicado.  Torture in captivity continues to be a major concern. No independent press is allowed.  Endless conscription and its abuses still control the lives of Eritreans, especially the young.  

The government continues to refuse to give UN and international human rights monitoring bodies access to the country.  It has made no effort to hold violators of human rights accountable.

In the absence of willingness by the Eritrean government to end its abuses and bring the abusers to justice, we urge the Council to recommend to the international community to implement the principle of universal jurisdiction.  As we said here over the last two years, “all states should investigate and, evidence permitting, prosecute in a fair trial, individuals found on their territories who are alleged to be responsible for human rights violations in Eritrea amounting to crimes under international law.”

We continue to urge the Council to recommend that all countries permit fleeing Eritreans to lodge asylum claims and then assess those claims fairly.  For many Eritreans, a flight to freedom remains the only way to avoid the Eritrean government’s rampant brutalities.