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.
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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.
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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: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.