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.