The following is a full text of a statement made on 26 June 2018 at the 38th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the occasion of the Interactive Dialogue at the Council of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea (Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth). The statement, made on behalf of eight civil society organisations (including ELS), was read by Niat Hailemariam. The Interactive Dialogue was conduced following the publication of the fifth and most recent report of the Special Rapporteur, dated 11 June 2018, available here: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/ER/A_HRC_38_50_EN.docx
On behalf of CIVICUS, Reporters without Borders, the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, the Eritrean Law Society, Eritrea Focus, Network of Eritrean Women, Amnesty International, and the Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum, I would first like to express our deep-felt gratitude and appreciation to the Special Rapporteur for her unwavering support to Eritrean victims of human rights violations.
Today, her work is all the more important. The latest reports emerging from the country indicate that the human rights situation is not improving. Following the imprisonment and death in detention of respected Muslim elder Haji Musa in March 2018, Eritrean authorities have conducted mass arrests and disappearances of youth.
We are also concerned by the Special Rapporteur’s reports that individuals who dare to exercise their right to freedom of expression have been targeted with arrest and detention, while peaceful demonstrations in October 2017 following the arrest of Haji Musa were met with scores of arrests and night house raids without search or arrest warrants.
Since the publication of the UN Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) report, government officials have continued to torture, imprison, and arbitrarily detain people without notifying them of the reason for their arrest.
Mr. President, since the publication of the COI report, not a single individual has been held accountable for the human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, committed in Eritrea. Civil society remains forced to work outside the country and independent press is still not permitted to operate inside the country. Eritrea remains the largest jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Eritrean government has repeatedly ignored the Special Rapporteur’s requests for access to conduct investigations.
Mr. President, we urge the UN Human Rights Council to renew the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and maintain attention on some of the most egregious human rights violations in sub-Saharan Africa. The Human Rights Council has a responsibility to follow up on the COI’s serious findings and ensure that accountability for crimes against humanity committed in Eritrea remains a priority.