The annual report from the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, makes sobering reading.
It should be read in full and can be found here.
These are some highlights:
- Once again, the Eritrean government has denied the Special Rapporteur access to Eritrea.
- In November 2020, the Special Rapporteur received a number of allegations indicating the participation of Eritrean troops in the conflict in Tigray alongside the Ethiopian army. The town of Himora, Eritrea, was reportedly subjected to indiscriminate shelling by Eritrea-based artillery…Eritrean forces reportedly committed extrajudicial executions of civilians and widespread sexual and gender-based violence and looting, and transported the looted goods to Eritrea on stolen trucks.
- On 19 November 2020, after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front forces had allegedly withdrawn from Aksum, Ethiopia (declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1980), the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and Eritrean troops reportedly conducted indiscriminate shelling of the city, leading to many civilian casualties, and subsequently took control of the city. According to reports received, Eritrean soldiers carried out house searches, harassing residents and summarily executed those perceived as Tigray People’s Liberation Front fighters or sympathizers. In addition, reports indicated that Eritrean soldiers shot indiscriminately at civilians and killed patients in Saint Mary’s Hospital.
- On 28 November 2020, the Ethiopian National Defence Forces reportedly carried out artillery attacks on Mekele, the capital of Tigray, striking civilian structures such as homes, markets, hospitals and schools, and killing and injuring civilians, including children. The Ethiopian National Defence Forces and Eritrean troops subsequently entered the city. The Special Rapporteur received numerous reports of allegations of summary executions, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence and widespread looting of markets, hospitals, laboratories and homes by Eritrean troops.
- Eritrea has not yet put in place an institutional and legal framework to uphold minimum human rights standards in a democratic society. To uphold such standards, the country requires – and currently lacks – the rule of law, a constitution and an independent judiciary to enforce the protection of and respect for human rights. Eritrea still has no national assembly to adopt laws, including those regulating fundamental rights and the right of the Eritrean people to participate freely in the public life of their country.
- The Special Rapporteur is concerned about the complete lack of proper administration of justice in Eritrea. He remains concerned about the practices of indefinite and arbitrary detention and arrest. It is of the utmost importance that all cases of arrests and pretrial detention are lawful, and that effective legal avenues are in place to address any concerns in this regard. Unlawful and arbitrary arrest and detention risk opening the door for other kinds of human rights violations, including torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.
- The Special Rapporteur is also concerned that the police, the military police and internal security in Eritrea regularly arrest and detain citizens without due process of law. According to information received, detainees are held in underground prisons or in metal shipping containers, in extreme weather conditions, or in secret places of detention.
- The Special Rapporteur remains concerned about the situation of detainees and political prisoners who were arbitrarily detained and held in secret prisons without charge or trial in violation of human rights standards. The situation of detainees and political prisoners is particularly concerning. It is also unacceptable for Eritrea to arbitrarily detain political opponents in secret prisons without charge or trial in violation of human rights standards.