HRC38: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea

UN Human Rights Council – 38th regular session
Item 4: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea

Oral statement delivered by Mr. Nicolas Agostini

Mr. President, Madam Special Rapporteur,

We thank you for your final report to the Human Rights Coun­cil, which outlines that the situ­ation in Eritrea remains grim, with no meaningful progress to report. We salute you for the tremendous work you have carried out over the last six years.

It is of utmost importance for the Council to remain seized of the situation under its agenda item 4 and to keep on shining a light on the plight of the Eritrean people. We call on the Council to extend the dedicated country mechanism.

I now turn to the Eritrean government. While we note that appalling verbal attacks against UN experts, some of which verged on incitement to physical violence, we witnessed in the last few years seem to have stopped, we reiterate that the human rights violations for which the gov­ern­ment is responsible, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity, call for ac­count­ability. We urge all states that are will­ing to exer­cise jurisdiction over Eritrean ca­ses to do so, including through the use of uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion for crimes under inter­na­tio­nal law.

Regarding engagement with the UN, the ball is in the government’s court. Supporting your claim that there has been “opening” and “positive chan­ge” would not take much. A number of steps can be taken immediately. They include:

  • Inviting the Special Rapporteur for a visit to the country, with unfettered access to train­ing camps and detention places;
  • Accepting pending visits requests by special procedure mandate holders, including on civil and political rights;
  • Immediately and unconditionally releasing all political prisoners, including journalists and human rights defenders, as well as those who have attempted to evade national ser­vice or flee the country; and
  • Putting an end to indefinite national service, which constitutes enslavement.

A wind of change may well be blowing in the region. DefendDefenders urges you to change course, seize the hand that seems to have been extended by Ethiopia regarding the border issue, and prioritise respect for the human rights of your citizens, including their right to ac­count­ability and redress.

Thank you for your attention.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Veronica Almedom

Veronica Almedom is a poster child of successful immigration. A duo Eritrean and Swiss citizen, she was born in Italy, and grew up in Switzerland where she permanently resides. Her parents are some of the earliest victims of Eritrea’s cycles of violence. When Eritrea’s war of independence peaked in the early 1980s, they escaped the country as unaccompanied minors, wandering through Sudan, Saudi Arabia, before making the hazard journey across the Mediterranean into Europe. There, they crossed first to Italy, and finally, to Switzerland, where they settled first as refugees, and later, as permanent residents.