NGOs oral statement to the Human Rights Council 32nd ordinary session the report of UN Inquiry commission into human rights in Eritrea

21st June 2016

Mr. President, I deliver this statement on behalf of  the Centre for Global Nonkilling and Release Eritrea.

The COI has uncovered heinous crimes against humanity being committed in detention facilities, military facilities and other locations inside Eritrea since 1991. The catalogue of crimes include: enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, persecution, rape, murder, torture, and other inhumane acts.

Amongst other findings, the report cites extrajudicial mass executions carried out by the regime against disabled veterans in 1994, Muslim teachers in 1997, conscripts in Adi Abeito Prison in 2004, and killings in Wia military training camp in 2005.

These crimes have been committed in a persistent, widespread and systematic manner, as part of the government’s policy to instill fear and maintain control over the civilian population and in the context of the absence of independent judiciary, national assembly, and other democratic institutions; creating a context of lawlessness and an associated culture of impunity.

Mr President, Despite the abject nature of these crimes the response from the regime has been total dismissal, we therefore support the recommendations of the COI. On the recommendation of referral to the ICC, it should be taken into consideration that from our perspectives, the essence here is to ensure accountability for the violations taking place by ending the culture of impunity and consequently improving respect for human rights in Eritrea.

HRC 32 - Agenda Item 4 COI on Eritrea

Speaker: Elizabeth Chyrum

Title: The situation of human rights in Eritrea

Date: 21 June 2016

Thank you Mr. Vice President,

We thank the Commission of Inquiry for its final report.  We also take this opportunity to thank the hundreds of women and men who bravely came forward with evidence for the Commission's report, risking government reprisals.  This report is their voice as it is for the millions of other ordinary Eritreans, our brothers and sisters.

Mr. Vice President,

Many years ago, when I first started attending this Council, I found there was limited knowledge of the reality of Eritrea's human rights situation.  Diplomats were deeply moved when they heard about the tragedy, but often felt powerless to act through a lack of substantive international documentation.

It is now four years since this Council established a Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, and two years since it established a Commission of Inquiry.  Both mechanisms have left us no more room for ignorance.  In particular, the Commission's report has captured the voice of my people, crying out in their agony and their suffering.

However, the report has not just provided cast iron evidence of government-sponsored atrocities.  It has also mandated and empowered this Council to end them.

The report concludes that crimes and violations occurring in my country are of the highest order and almost certainly constitute crimes against humanity.  It also says that the Eritrean government is not in a position to ensure accountability for these crimes.  However, the report empowers this Council to seek justice at a higher level.  Diplomatic friends and colleagues can - and now must - act.

Listen to the voices of Eritreans in the report.  The grandparents, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters: act for them, act for their futures, and act for the good of Eritrea.  Do all that you can to ensure their voices are now heard at the Security Council and beyond, and let us bring an end to this suffering.

Thank you.

Speaker: Daniel Mokenen Rezene

Mr. Viችe-President,

I am an Eritrean human rights activist, and I am honoured to make this statement on behalf of UN Watch.

We commend the Commission of Inquiry, and its Members, for their very important report.

The report depicts a broad range of crimes against humanity that are being perpetrated in Eritrea in a persistent, widespread and systematic manner, with the knowledge or acquiescence of high-ranking government officials. The list of crimes includes: enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder.

The Eritrean government has shown no interest in ending its pervasive culture of impunity. It is now incumbent on this august Council to adopt a robust accountability mechanism to facilitate access to justice for victims of crimes against humanity in Eritrea.

In order to achieve this, I call on the Council to adoption a resolution that shall:

Firstly, renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, with a revised scope that shall include the responsibility of overseeing implementation of recommendations of the COI.

Secondly, call for the establishment of a structure by OHCHR with a protection and promotion mandate, to assist in ensuring accountability for crimes against humanity, as well as periodic reporting by OHCHR on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

Thirdly, these measures need to be supplemented by the imposition of targeted sanctions against the most responsible individuals for the perpetration of crimes against humanity in Eritrea.

Mr. Vice-President,

Our call is dictated by the obligation of the international community to say “no to crimes against humanity” and also by the plight of victims. It is high time for the international community, through this Council, to act accordingly.

Thank you, Mr. Vice-President.