We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report and her identification of specific benchmarks which, if implemented, could set Eritrea on a path to meaningful human rights reform.
It is therefore all the more disappointing that, despite the Special Rapporteur’s constructive approach, there has been no cooperation from Eritrea, no access, and no change on the ground.
This echoes the assessment of the Office of the High Commissioner when, at the recent March session, the Deputy High Commissioner noted: “the actual human rights situation for the people of Eritrea has not improved in the past year.”
Eritreans continue to face arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and violations of freedom of expression, assembly and religion. Individuals continue to be held incommunicado and detained indefinitely, denied basic due process rights, without access to legal counsel, judicial review, or family visits, some for decades. No steps have been taken to end or reform the country’s notorious open-ended national service requirement, which all Eritreans are forced to undergo, for years and often with no end in sight, and in which abuses are rife. Women and girls continue to risk sexual harassment and exploitation with little chance of redress.
We had hoped that when Eritrea was elected to this Council, it would seize the opportunity of a historic peace accord with Ethiopia, a new mandate-holder, a benchmarks report and international goodwill, to turn the page, acknowledge that all countries have challenges, and commit to addressing them. Instead, it has doubled down, continued to restrict legitimate criticism, and misrepresented its election to the Council as international endorsement of its abusive rights record. There is little doubt it would similarly seize on any termination of the resolution or weakening of the mandate as “proof” that nothing needs change.
In the meantime, Eritreans, many of them children escaping indefinite service, will continue to flee across the border, risking serious reprisals if caught, until their government addresses the root causes that make life in the country untenable for so many.
This Council – by consensus – adopted a resolution last year, that “condemns in the strongest terms the reported systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that have been and are being committed by the Government of Eritrea in a climate of generalized impunity,” and asks the Special Rapporteur to identify reform benchmarks. It would make a mockery of that consensus resolution - and of this Council - if scrutiny were discontinued before even one of those benchmarks had been met.