This year, Human Rights Day (10th December 2018) marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights of every human being. It is, therefore particularly important to look at how these rights are cared for and protected in every member state of the UN, and especially one which has just joined the UN Human Rights Council—Eritrea.
The Government of Eritrea proclaims that it truly believes in human rights and is proud of its human rights record. We note its statements in October 2017, at the Interactive Dialogue on Human Rights in Eritrea, with the Third Committee, at the General Assembly, that Eritrea “has taken on board the implementation of all human rights commitments Eritrea made, covering the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” It is strange that, in the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea, there is not a single shred of evidence of these commitments being implemented. The government of Eritrea says that Eritrea is engaging in “concrete actions that embody cooperative approach to the consolidation of human rights.”
Unfortunately, no one has yet been able to verify these “concrete actions”. Tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience remain incarcerated; extra-judicial killings and disappearances continue unabated; torture is widespread, and state officials enjoy impunity for crimes committed. The judiciary is totally controlled by the government, so that justice cannot be obtained; many hundreds of believers are imprisoned for their religious faith; and every Eritrean over 18 is enslaved in a rigid system of National Service without prospect of ever leaving.
Nothing has changed in Eritrea’s human rights record since the UN Commission of Inquiry concluded that crimes against humanity had probably been committed by those in power.
“Human rights objectives are best promoted in all countries through engagement, underpinned by cooperation”, the government of Eritrea avows. And “It is important that we don’t undermine the UN Universal Periodic Review mechanism in the promotion and protection of human rights.” Strange: if Eritrea is so committed to the UN human rights processes, it is odd that Eritrea has refused admission to every UN official or body of experts from the Human Rights Council who has requested to visit the country—hardly a glowing testimony to its “cooperation with the UN mechanisms”. Eritrea’s government claims that its purpose is “to expedite implementation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations it has accepted.” Yet there is still no evidence available of any major UPR recommendations being implemented by Eritrea.
Truly the 10th December Human Rights Day Anniversary cannot be celebrated in Eritrea, because none of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration are respected or protected in that country. The quoted statements by its government are nothing other than pretence, no nearer the truth than words to be found in “Alice in Wonderland.”
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)