UN Special Rapporteur’s Report 2020: Human Rights Situation in Eritrea

Summary:

The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 41/1, in which the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for one year and requested the mandate holder to present a report on the implementation of the mandate to the Council at its forty-fourth session. As in previous years, the Special Rapporteur was not granted access to Eritrea to conduct in-country visits.

The Government of Eritrea remains opposed to engaging in cooperation under the mandate. The Special Rapporteur has continued to monitor the human rights situation in the country by conducting field missions to third countries and by engaging with a broad range of stakeholders.

During the period under review, the Special Rapporteur has found no evidence of a substantial improvement in the situation of human rights in the country. While Eritrea has increased its engagement with regional and international actors throughout the reporting period, this engagement has not yet translated into tangible reforms in human rights. A telling sign is that Eritreans continue to flee the country in large numbers. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur provides an update on the situation of human rights in the country, highlights specific areas of concern and sets out recommendations for the Government of Eritrea for achieving sustainable progress in human rights.

Full report can be found here or below. Followed by some extracts.

UN Special Rapporteur’s Report 2020


Extracts:

  • 24. The Special Rapporteur remains concerned about the use of the practices of indefinite and arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance to suppress dissent, punish perceived opponents and restrict civil liberties. These practices significantly undermine progress in the rule of law. Scores of individuals continue to disappear in the Eritrean prison system. Basic due process rights are not guaranteed for all persons in custody, as many are not allowed access to legal counsel, judicial review, family visits or medical attention. As described in the present report, during the reporting period, the Special Rapporteur received numerous reports of arbitrary arrests that targeted, among others, practitioners of various religious congregations, persons suspected of opposing the Government, and members of marginalized ethnic communities. In one incident in late November, security forces reportedly arrested at least 20 Muslim men in Mendefera and in neighbouring localities. Those arrested included local businessmen, religious teachers and community leaders. Many of these men remain unaccounted for, and the reasons for the arrests are not known.
  • 26. The Special Rapporteur deplores the indefinite detention of Ciham Ali Abdu, a national of both Eritrea and the United States and the daughter of a former information minister, who has been held incommunicado since the age of 15. She was arrested in December 2012 as she tried to cross into the Sudan, shortly after her father requested asylum in a third country, and has not been heard from since.
  • 32. The open-ended national/military service remains in place in Eritrea. Last year, in the context of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sawa military camp, the Eritrean authorities referred to upcoming reforms in the duration of the national/military service. The Eritrean authorities also announced a new remuneration scheme and an increase in the salaries of the civil service and of new conscripts. The Special Rapporteur has, however, found no indication of an improvement in conditions compared to previous years (A/HRC/41/53, paras. 28–29). She has also found no indication of a reduction in the duration of the national/military service for those who have already served more than 18 months, or any changes regarding exemptions from conscription.
  • 32. The open-ended national/military service remains in place in Eritrea. Last year, in the context of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sawa military camp, the Eritrean authorities referred to upcoming reforms in the duration of the national/military service. The Eritrean authorities also announced a new remuneration scheme and an increase in the salaries of the civil service and of new conscripts. The Special Rapporteur has, however, found no indication of an improvement in conditions compared to previous years (A/HRC/41/53, paras. 28–29). She has also found no indication of a reduction in the duration of the national/military service for those who have already served more than 18 months, or any changes regarding exemptions from conscription.
  • 33. In April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, various international appeals were made to the Eritrean authorities to release students at the Sawa military camp and allow them to return home to avoid the spread of the disease. However, the authorities did not heed the appeals.
  • 43. Since May 2019, the Eritrean authorities have carried out a crackdown on nonrecognized Christian congregations. The arrests of members of various congregations have disproportionally affected women and children.15 For example, in May, approximately 140 Christians were reportedly arrested during a private prayer gathering in Asmara, including some 100 women and 30 children. While some of those arrested have since been released, many remain in prison.16 On 23 June 2019, security forces reportedly arrested about 70 members of the Faith Mission Church of Christ in Keren, including some 35 women and 10 children. Also in June, more than 30 Pentecostal Christians were reportedly arrested during prayer gatherings in various locations in Asmara. On 18 August 2019, security officials reportedly arrested some 80 Christians at a prayer gathering on the outskirts of Asmara, and a further 6 Christians from Keren were reportedly arrested earlier that month. According to various sources, at least 200 members of Christian congregations remain in detention at different prisons and police stations around the country, and some are held at military facilities. Some 40 Christians, including 15 women, are reportedly held at the Dahlak Kebir island prison. The Special Rapporteur has received reports that the conditions of detention are unsanitary and cramped, and that some prisoners are subjected to mistreatment and forced labour. In the first half of 2019, one Christian man died at the Mai Serwa prison and one Christian man died at Dahlak Kebir prison, leaving behind young families.
  • 47. The authorities have imposed restrictions on the activities of the Catholic Church, negatively affecting the rights to health and education of the population. In June 2019, the Eritrean authorities seized 21 health facilities belonging to the Catholic Church. 20 The authorities defended this measure indicating that they were enforcing a 1995 regulation21 that banned religious institutions from carrying out development activities. However, the authorities decided to enforce the regulation weeks after the Catholic bishops in Eritrea issued a pastoral letter calling on the authorities to adopt a comprehensive truth and reconciliation plan, promote dialogue and implement reforms to prevent further mass departures from the country. Most health facilities were located inside religious houses, and in some instances, security forces removed church staff by force and ordered patients to vacate the facilities. Many facilities provided services to remote, rural communities, including essential services aimed at reducing mother and infant malnutrition and mortality rates. In September 2019, the authorities seized three secondary schools run by the Catholic Church.22 Some of the Catholic health facilities and schools have since reopened under government control and are being run at a more limited capacity with less trained, national service personnel.
  • 48. On 22 February 2020, Catholic Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew, of Ethiopia, and his delegation were prevented from attending the jubilee of the Cathedral of Mary Kidane Mehret in Asmara. The delegation was held overnight at the Asmara airport, despite having appropriate entry visas, and was forced to return to Ethiopia the next day.
  • 54. The subsistence and livelihood of Afar communities remain under threat in the Dankalia region. The Special Rapporteur has received reports of harassment, arbitrary arrest and disappearance of members of Afar communities. In one incident in November 2019, a naval commander from Marsa Fatuma reportedly instructed the Afar elders of the island communities of Baka, Hawakil, Aluli and their environs, south of Massawa, to gather their belongings and vacate the area because the navy needed to conduct training exercises there. After the elders refused to comply, the naval commander’s men reportedly destroyed several fishing boats and arrested five local Afar fishermen, who have since been missing. Around mid-March 2020, naval troops reportedly arrested at least five Afar fishermen who were selling their fish in the port of Massawa, seizing three of their boats. These men are missing. Additionally, over 20 Afar fishermen who went missing in separate incidents in February 2018 and February 2019 remain unaccounted for (A/HRC/41/53, para. 51). These reiterated acts of harassment have instilled fear in coastal Afar communities, prompting many to flee.
  • 64. The Special Rapporteur remains concerned by the high number of Eritrean women and girls who are exposed to trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation, in particular by Eritrean-led networks operating in the country and abroad. While the Government has strengthened its efforts to combat human trafficking through police training and regional cooperation, such efforts have yet to translate into an increase in domestic prosecutions. The Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to enact adequate legislation and a comprehensive policy to curb trafficking in persons, in particular of women and girls, promote domestic accountability and protect the rights of victims.
  • 72. In March 2020, the Ethiopian authorities announced the closure of the Hitsats refugee camp in the Tigray region. The camp hosts over 26,000 Eritrean refugees, including approximately 1,600 children. At the time of writing, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs has put on hold the announced closure of the Hitsats camp due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the timeline for the closure is unclear. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that those currently settled at Hitsats may be unable to relocate to other camps due to the lack of infrastructure and services. In her letter of 29 April 2020, the Special Rapporteur urged the Ethiopian authorities to involve the refugee communities in the decision-making, to only relocate refugees on a voluntary basis and to not relocate any refugees from any camp until the COVID-19 crisis was resolved.
  • 73. In April 2020, following the decision to temporarily close all land borders to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs suspended the registration and border screening of asylum seekers. By early April, over 400 Eritrean new arrivals were under a 14-day quarantine at the Endabaguna reception centre.

 

 

3 comments

  1. All appeals for improving the humanitarian situation in Eritrea have always fallen on deaf ears. There will not be any exception this time too. The regime despises the language of reason. It can be induced to civility and compliance only through the language of force and coercion, the only language it respects and understands best. But, of course, this is something the Eritrean people themselves shall have to shoulder coupled with the support and solidarity of the international community. Time will show how circumstances shall develop in the near future.

  2. This true the situation is still bad but I don’t know why the new immigration rule is so tough and is deport rule for Eritreans who are scaped from the government and asked asylum in the United States of America no body is fighting them so many Eritreans still in the USA detentions some of them stayed more than two years at the detention and on the frustration of deportation.

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