CSW welcomes the resolution passed on 16 July by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for a further year.
The resolution, which was supported by 34 countries, was tabled by the Permanent Missions of Austria, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. As well as extending the mandate , the resolution requests the Special Rapporteur to present an oral report at the HRC’s 46th session, and to participate in an interactive dialogue during its 47th session, and at the 75th General Assembly session in September.
The resolution also calls on Eritrea, which has refused to cooperate with successive mandate holders, “to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur, including by granting access to the country and committing to making progress” on five human rights benchmarks initially articulated in the Special Rapporteur’s 2019 report, and reiterated in last year’s resolution.
Introducing the resolution on behalf of the core group of countries, the Netherlands stated that the group had stepped in to take the resolution forward “because we strongly believe for this Council to be credible, the scope, form and duration of a specific country mechanism should be subject to the level of progress on the ground.” Highlighting the indefinite national service, arbitrary detentions, the absence of a valid constitution and rule of law, and severe restrictions on the freedoms of religion or belief and expression, the core group concluded that “independent HRC scrutiny is essential.”
In its response, Eritrea alleged that “exclusive power blocs continue to undermine fundamental principles of law and fairness to advance their narrow, political interests” and requested "all Member States who wish to advance genuine and balanced dialogue on human rights as well as the integrity and credibility of the HRC to vote against the current resolution.” Following calls by Somalia and Venezuela for a vote, 24 of the 47 current HRC member countries voted in favour of the resolution, 10 voted against, and 13 abstained. Significantly, only three African countries joined Eritrea in voting against the resolution, while eight abstained.
Eritrea is one of the most repressive countries in the world. In 2016 an HRC-mandated Commission of Inquiry (COI) found that crimes against humanity have been occurring in the country in a ‘widespread and systematic manner’ since 1991. Although the violations detailed in the COI’s report constitute the gravest of international crimes, its findings are yet to be taken forward with a view to ensuring accountability.
Eritrea’s 2018 rapprochement with Ethiopia, which was used by several observers to request an end to human rights scrutiny despite a lack of tangible improvements, appears increasingly tenuous. On 8 July Eritrean Information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, tweeted in Tigrinya that the peace process was not going well and that Ethiopian troops were still in the “contested zone.” As the tweet began attracting attention, on 9 July he stated in a tweet in English that the peace deal had "catalysed a conducive climate of regional cooperation,” and that the “substantial challenges that still remain” would be overcome “through resolute and concerted action on the basis of a shared vision and prevailing political good will.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW welcomes the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. We are deeply appreciative of the core group for taking this important resolution forward and applaud the HRC Member States which stood with victims of the gravest violations articulated in international law. Eritrea is in its second year as a member of the HRC, yet its human rights crisis remains acute, and the work of the Special Rapporteur is the sole means of independent international monitoring. We reaffirm our commitment to fully support the work of the Special Rapporteur and urge all UN Member States to assist the mandate holder whenever requested. We also encourage the government of Eritrea to use its remaining time on the Council to advance the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people by cooperating with the mandate and making significant and tangible progress towards meeting the human rights benchmarks.”
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