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Eritrea and the Human Rights Council: six years of membership, six years of scrutiny

The UN Human Rights Council extended its scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation by renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the country, a decision DefendDefenders wel­co­med today. In a resolution addressing the situation of human rights in Eritrea (53/L.21), the Council expressed grave concern over violations and abuses Eritrean authorities continue to commit at home and abroad, including in Ethio­pia’s Tigray region. 

“As avenues for accountability at the national level are non-existent, the international community has a res­ponsibility to support Eritrean victims and survivors by shining a light on their plight,” said Hassan Shire, Exe­cu­tive Direc­tor, Defend­Defen­ders. “Eleven years on, Human Rights Council scrutiny of Eritrea remains vital.” 

The resolution adopted today highlights a range of violations and abuses committed by Eritrean authorities, inc­luding arbitrary detentions, enfor­ced disappearances, torture, and the near-total closure of the country’s civic and democratic space. The resolution also mentions, with grave concern, “lack of transparency and accoun­tability […] regarding reported violations committed by Eritrean military forces,” which is an indirect way of ad­dressing the atrocities Eritrean forces committed in Ethiopia’s Tigray region since November 2020. 

This strengthened resolution is a departure from annual resolutions the Council adopted in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, which were exclusively focused on renewing the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and did not contain a substantive assessment of Eritrea’s human rights situation. Previous resolutions (adopted from 2012 to 2018) condemned Eritrean government violations, some of which may amount, as found by a commission of inquiry in 2016, to crimes against humanity. 

Prior to the Council’s 53rd session, dozens of civil society organisations called on states to depart from a “business as usual” approach and to support the adoption of a strong resolution that clearly describes and con­demns Eritrean govern­ment violations. 

The Human Rights Council, the UN’s top human rights body, is holding its 53rd regular session (HRC53) from 19 June to 14 July 2023, considering a number of thematic and country-specific resolutions. A resolution focused on Eritrea was first adopted 11 years ago, in 2012. The Council will hold two debates on Eritrea in 2024 (at its March and June sessions), and the resolution adopted today also requests the Special Rapporteur to present a report to the UN General Assembly in the Fall of 2023. 


For more information, please contact:

Estella Kabachwezi
Advocacy, Research and Communications Manager, DefendDefenders
[email protected] or +256 782 360 460 (English)

Nicolas Agostini
Representative to the United Nations for DefendDefenders
[email protected] or +41 79 813 49 91 (English and French)