The news that 160 nations’ representatives on 12 October 2018, voted for the state of Eritrea to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council must appall all who truly care about human rights and are working to see an end to abuses. Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) regards this as a betrayal of the fundamental principles which the UN exists to uphold.
It is widely known that the Eritrean government flouts the very purposes for which the UN Human Rights Council was created: to “uphold the highest standards, strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them”. Eritrea has consistently refused to co-operate with the UN Human Rights special procedures, including the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights in Eritrea. Eritrea has not implemented any of the recommendations from the first and second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.
Eritrea has denied access to independent experts and investigators, boycotted debates on its human rights situation and launched attacks against human rights defenders. In June 2016, the COI on Eritrea found reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity, including enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder – *have been committed in the country since 1991.
The appointment of Eritrea to membership is an indelible stain on the reputation of Human Rights Council. At a time when the operations and effectiveness of the UN are under increasing attack, the promotion to the Council of a state which is the worst offenders on in the African continent will only increase the disregard in which the United Nations is increasingly being held, and the mounting cynicism about its commitment towards promoting and protecting human rights.
There is an urgent need for the Human Rights Council to be reformed in a manner that bars states that refuse to cooperate with all of its mechanisms and that continue to violate human rights with impunity from contesting for membership. Only then can the credibility of the organisation be restored.