Last year’s Council resolution condemned “in the strongest terms” the “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” by the Eritrean government. The Council cited arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, religious oppression, denials of the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly, among others. The resolution expressed grave concern over the unlimited conscription of Eritrea’s citizens and the use of conscripts in forced labor.
The Council resolution urged Eritrea to end these practices and allow international and regional human rights bodies, including Special Rapporteurs, unhindered access to the country to monitor progress.
Unfortunately, as the Special Rapporteur’s report makes clear, the Eritrean government has ignored the Council’s resolution. Little change, if any, has occurred. Prisoners remain jailed without trial, indefinitely, and sometimes incommunicado. Torture in captivity continues. No independent press is allowed. Endless conscription and its abuses still control the lives of Eritreans, especially the young. Forced labor using conscripts remains common.
The government continues to refuse to give UN and international human rights monitoring bodies access to the country. It has made no effort to hold violators of human rights accountable.
In the absence of willingness by the Eritrean government to end its abuses and bring the abusers to justice, Human Rights Watch joins with the Special Rapporteur in urging the Council to recommend the international community to implement the principle of universal jurisdiction. As we said here last year, “all states should investigate and, evidence permitting, prosecute in a fair trial individuals found on their territories who are alleged to be responsible for human rights violations in Eritrea amounting to crimes under international law.”
The Council should renew the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, provide all necessary support, and urge the Government of Eritrea to allow unencumbered access.
Finally, we join the Special Rapporteur in urging the Council to recommend that all countries permit fleeing Eritreans to lodge asylum claims and then assess those claims fairly. For many Eritreans, a flight to freedom remains the only way to avoid the Eritrean government’s rampant brutalities.