Bringing Isaias Afwerki to justice – the first steps have been taken

A momentum to be seized: The Foundation of Human Rights for Eritreans has taken the initiative to end the reign of terror in Eritrea

By Petros Tesfagiorgis

Date: 17 June 2022

On Tuesday 10 May, during a press conference, the Netherland based Foundation of Human Rights for Eritreans called on the international community to take immediate action to bring to Justice President Isaias and his associates for human rights violations in Eritrea and beyond. The Foundation accused the Government of Eritrea of committing widespread atrocities for years. It is also using all legal means necessary to demonstrate discriminatory neglect by the European Union and other international bodies. European Union will discuss the case in their next meeting at the end of June.

However, more than anyone else, it is the UN that should be blamed for the discriminatory neglect. In July 2014 UN Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry to report on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. Presenting the findings of the Commission, Mr. Mike Smith said “the many violations in Eritrea are of a scope and scale seldom seen anywhere else in today’s world”, with regard to torture, religious persecution, extrajudicial execution, indefinite national service tantamount to slave labor and other forms of human right violations. The Commission concluded: “Since 1991 crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea by Eritreans Officials” The Commission recommended referral to ICC but the UN ignored it. The UN has let down the people of Eritrea. The Diaspora justice seekers did not protest effectively.

The Foundation’s move marks a remarkable milestone in the campaign to end the repression in Eritrea. It is a momentous occasion for the Eritrean democratic movements in Diaspora to join the campaign and bring the repressive regime of Eritrea to the ICC. Mr. Steven Walker, US Charge d’Affairs in Eritrea, in his address to Eritreans during the successful ERISAT June 2022 Symposium, stated that it is the responsibility of Eritreans to work for change in Eritrea. Yes indeed, we have an added urgency to do our part.

The situations in the battle ground in Ethiopia’s civil war are changing rapidly. Abiy Ahmed agreed to make peace with Tigray and as a precondition he is letting aid Lorries pass through Afar region to Tigray unhindered. On the other hand Isaias and Amhara elite opted to carry on the fight. PFDJ trained more than 40,000 (forty-thousand) Amhara troops from the youth militia (Fano), and Isaias is playing a leading role in the execution of the war. By pursuing war Isaias is gambling with the lives of so many young Eritrean troops as well as Fanos.   To make it sensational PFDJ planned an attack on Tigray to coincide with the celebration of 31 years of Eritrean independence.

It is reported that PFDJ started shelling civilian areas in Badme and surrounding areas. In Shiraro a 14 year girl was killed and 18 wounded. The shelling was followed by fierce fighting. It is also reported that Eritrean troops are suffering heavy losses. Fano is becoming a threat to Abiy’s authority and ordered an attack on them.  The Fanos are losing, thousand have surrendered, many more are on the run, some crossed to Eritrea and others went to the bush to carry out guerilla warfare. This is a bad news for Isias. He adamantly is creating an excuse to continue the war by saying Tigray is preparing to attack Eritrea. But continuing the war means more deaths from all sides. In any case It has been proved that for Isaias the life of Eritreans does not matter.  An article in the Economist states that young Eritreans are afraid to leave their homes, as round-ups intensified and a new military training camp was opened.  Hundreds of people continue to flee from Eritrea to Sudan every month. Tea rooms and other public places in Eritrea are empty of young people. It is tragic. That makes it more urgent to seriously campaigning to bring  Isaias to justice so that peace and justice can prevail.

Another worrying reason for Isaias is the USA President’s pledge to hold accountable those who pose a threat to peace and stability in Ethiopia. On top of that Eritrea has become a pariah state by being the only African country that supported the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This is not the choice of the Eritrean people, and the democratic movement in exile has to make it clear that the people of Eritrea have nothing to do with sabotaging the peace nor supporting Russian invasion of Ukraine. On the contrary they have always advocating for peace, justice and the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray.

The Eritrean democratic movements have to seize the momentum and join the campaign that the Foundation of Human Rights for Eritreans is championing. The European Union willingness to discuss the matter in its meeting at the end of June is good news indeed.

It is because UN failed to honor the referral of the Inquiry Commission to bring Isaias to ICC that gave Isaias the opportunity to invade Tigray. And commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. The people of Eritrea should not be let down for the second time.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate ERISAT for the successful symposium they launched on June 11, 2022, in Washington DC. It is a significant new development to have Mr. Steven Walker, the US Charge d’Affaire in Asmara, to give a lengthy talk exposing the gross Human Rights violations taking place in Eritrea. It is heartwarming to hear him express his respect for the people of Eritrea for being humble, cordial and welcoming to visitors.

Mr. Steven Walker’s speech was one of those defining moments not only framing future relations between USA and the Eritrean democratic movements, but also for affirming that it is the responsibility of the Eritrean people to seek and bring the change that they want to see. But they have to work effectively in order to be believed.

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