HRC37: Enhanced Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea

UN Human Rights Council: 37th Session
Item 4: Enhanced Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea

Oral Intervention
CIVICUS and DefendDefenders

Delivered by Estella Kabachwezi on 12 March 2018

Mr. President, on behalf of CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, Eritrean Law Society, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Information Forum for Eritrea and One day Seyoum, I would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for her dedication to furthering human rights in Eritrea.

We also thank the panelists of this Enhanced Interactive Dialogue for their contributions. Mr. President, pursuant to resolution L.13, we would like to enquire whether the Office of the High Commissioner can share results of its engagement with the government of Eritrea.

The government of Eritrea was requested to strengthen its cooperation with OHCHR, to communicate pertinent information regarding detained journalists and opposition members, and to consider establishing an office in Eritrea. Has OHCHR seen any progress on any of these requests?

In November 2017, a rare protest broke out in Eritrea at the Al Dia Islamic School in Asmara after a member of the School’s board was arrested following a speech he made criticizing government interference in the private school’s affairs. In the footage that emerged from the scene, dozens of shots could be heard although it is unclear if there were any casualties. No transparent or credible investigation was conducted, and no information emerged about the crackdown, the number of casualties or number of arrests. Was OHCHR able to conduct an investigation into the circumstances of this protest?

The Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE) called on the Government of Eritrea to ensure accountability for past and persistent human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity. So far, civil society has not recorded any significant institutional or legal reforms required before the domestic legal system can hold perpetrators of international crimes to account in a fair and transparent manner.

Mr President, we wish to underline our support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and highlight its necessity until a time where the human rights record in Eritrea sees genuine improvements.



Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.