Eritrea: HRC Must Establish a Commission of Inquiry

25 June 2014

We the undersigned are writing to call on the UN’s Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Eritrea given the ongoing gross and systematic human rights violations being committed by the government of Eritrea against its own people with total impunity, and its continuing policy of non-cooperation with the UN’s human rights mechanisms, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.

We believe that the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry is imperative given the human rights violations recorded by the UN Special Rapporteur, as well as those attested to during each of Eritrea’s Universal Periodic Reviews, and in the extensive documentation compiled by NGOs and civil society groups over many years.

A Commission of Inquiry would significantly increase the international exposure and understanding of the situation in Eritrea, giving a voice to the vast numbers of suffering Eritreans, and ensuring that those complicit in these terrible yet hidden crimes are exposed and called to account.

In Eritrea:

  • There is no independent judicial process, unions cannot be formed, and political parties cannot be created.
  • There is no press freedom and all independent media organisations were closed in 2001 and journalists imprisoned.
  • Thousands of Eritreans are detained arbitrarily in inhumane conditions and on the flimsiest of pretexts, suffering routine deprivation, torture and extrajudicial execution.
  • There are no universities and young people face compulsory conscription into the military.
  • Army conscripts, including the under-aged, endure indefinite terms of service and suffer forced labour in development projects, farms, or the mining sector while receiving a negligible wage.
  • Female conscripts endure sexual abuse and harassment from senior army officers, and family members of national service absconders are targeted, extorted or imprisoned.
  • There is no religious freedom.
  • There are an estimated two to three thousand Christians detained indefinitely in Eritrea without charge or trial, and all are held pending a denial of faith.
  • In addition, Eritreans living abroad are obliged to pay 2% tax on all earnings to the authorities.

Eritrea’s continuing refusal to cooperate with the mandate is deeply unfortunate as doing so would indicate a genuine commitment towards improving its human rights record. Instead Eritrea indefinitely delays the implementation of UPR recommendations and persists in excusing its lack of progress by referencing the “no war, no peace” border situation. However, as stated in the recent Pastoral Letter issued by four of Eritrea’s courageous Catholic Bishops, “The true enemy of peace is injustice. Respect for persons, for their dignity and their rights is the corner-stone of peace.”

Thousands of Eritreans continue to flee the country each month, with unknown numbers falling victim to traffickers or suffering privations in detention centers in the Middle East and North Africa. Hundreds more continue to risk their lives crossing deserts and seas in pursuit of sanctuary from an all-encompassing repression.

In light of this situation, we strongly urge the Human Rights Council to adopt by consensus its draft resolution, including the provision for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.

Action de Development Suiss-Afrique
Action International for Peace and Development
Article 19
Associazione per la Tutela dei Diritti Umani del Popolo Eritreo
Burmese Rohingya Organisation U.K.
Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Conectas Direitos Humanos
CSW Nigeria
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Eritrean for Human and Democratic Rights in U.K.
Eritrean Global Solidarity
Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights
Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change
Espace Afrique International
Guardavanti: per il futuro dei bambini ONLUS
Habeshia Agency Cooperation for Development
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
Human Rights House Foundation
Human Rights Without Frontier
Insieme per l’Africa ONLUS
International Committee for the Respect & Application of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
International Fellowship of Reconciliation
International Humanist and Ethical Union
Jubilee Campaign USA
Liberi di Credere
OCAPROCE International
Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network
Release Eritrea
Réseau des Défenseur des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale
Stop National Service Slavery Campaign
UN Watch