An appeal to the UN from Dr John R Campbell

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6 March 2020


(1) Parfait Onanga-Anyanga,

Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa

(2) The UN Office in Eritrea

(3) Rosemary A. DiCarlo

Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs

Response to the UN meeting on Eritrea, 9 and 10th March 2020

I write regarding the meeting to be held in Kenya later this month to discuss the UNs policy towards Eritrea. I am concerned that the United Nations, the European Union and other international organizations are setting aside valid concerns about the ongoing and pervasive nature of human rights violations in Eritrea in favour of ‘dialogue’ and forms of political and economic support following the rapproachment between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2018,

It is my opinion, based on decades of research on the Horn of Africa and extensive work as a ‘country expert’ who has provided written and oral testimony to the courts in the United Kingdom, the US, Canada, Israel, The Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, that the Eritrean Government continues to violate the human rights of its citizens. The constitution is still suspended (nor have elections been scheduled), children are still rounded up and placed in Sawa military camp and processed to serve in the military/national service, thousands of nationals are arrested and held in incommunicado detention in horrible conditions, the police and military operate as an extension of the Office of the President and citizens continue to be compelled to undertake indefinite national service.

In my view the UN and other international organizations should recognize that the findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights has provided a valid assessment of the situation inside Eritrea and that the international community should pursue every means at its disposal to pressure the Eritrean government to abide by internationally recognized legal norms. As the European Commission has recently found, the Eritrean authorities have, regardless of policy dialogue, continued to use unpaid national service conscripts on an EU-funded road project while diplomatic discussions have taken place in Asmara. It is time for the international community to acknowledge that the Eritrean authorities have no intention of complying with even the most aspects of the rule of law and constitutional government. The UN should recognize the intransigence of the government in Asmara and their obligations to the people of Eritrea by refusing to provide any further assistance to the regime and by insisting on an immediate return to civilian government from which the ruling political party and its many officials will be excluded.


Dr John R Campbell

Emeritus Reader in the Anthropology of Law & Africa

Department of Anthropology & Sociology

School of Oriental and African Studies, London


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