UN expert seeks probe over ‘crimes against humanity’ in Eritrea

United Nations- image source climateactionprogramme

United Nations- image source climateactionprogramme

A UN expert on Thursday called for a probe into whether the Eritrean government should face justice for alleged crimes against humanity following a damning report on sweeping rights violations.

The nearly 500-page UN report, released after a year of investigations, details how the Horn of Africa nation, under Isaias Afwerki’s iron-fisted regime for the past 22 years, has created a repressive system in which people are routinely arrested at whim, detained, tortured, killed or go missing.

It said violations were taking place on a “scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere”.

“There is also an issue as to whether the extent of the sorts of abuses we identified comprise crimes against humanity,” Mike Smith, who headed the UN commission of inquiry, told reporters.

Smith said the commission did not have the mandate to investigate this, but added: “We did leave in our recommendations several suggestions on areas we thought the international community and the Security Council should follow up on.”

“We didn’t have the time, the resources (or) the possibility to be able to make any determination on (crimes against humanity) and we simply recommended that some mechanism could be judged to look at that issue,” he said.

The report provides a list of government and state entities responsible for the abuse, including the military, police, justice ministry and Isaias himself.

Eritrea has dismissed the report and defended its controversial policy of decades-long national service from which about 5,000 people flee each month, saying it has “no other choice” due to threats from long-standing enemy Ethiopia.

Eritreans make up the second-largest number of people risking the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, after Syrians, running the gauntlet of ruthless people smugglers and dangerous waters in the hope of reaching the European Union.

Smith also rejected criticism that the commission of inquiry had obtained a skewed report by speaking to asylum seekers with an agenda.

He said most of the people interviewed in Europe already had legal status and jobs.

Moreover, “their stories very much reflect those of people who left more recently,” he said. “We don’t believe we were duped.”

Tens of thousands of young Eritreans brave razor wire, minefields and armed border guards to sneak out of the country every year in order to escape repression and avoid years of conscripted military service.

The UN commission report was based on 550 interviews with Eritreans living abroad, and on 160 written submissions.

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  • unedited11

    Simple question: If Eritrea (the least aid-dependent Nation on the content) is maintaining its national service program due to Ethiopia (the most aid-dependent Nation on the continent), why not the UN focus on getting the aggressive Ethiopian military behavior to stop and apply some pressure to get Ethiopia to comply. I mean, surely it is not due to lack of leverage. Just some food for thought. Good for Eritrea for not cowing down and giving up its independence in the face of overwhelming power.

    • RufaelW

      In all due respect, do you really believe, if Eritrea had Bademe in it’s possession, ISIAS would release the hostages (the Eritrean people) to freedom and allow the people govern themselves????

      • unedited11

        Silly comment. It does not matter what you think of Isaias and his “hostages”, as you put it. The point is, if it is true that people are leaving due to National service and the Eritrean government is holding them in National service with the “excuse” of national security, then why not remove that excuse and get Ethiopia to stop breaking international law. If the Eritrean people still are held “hostage” after that, the government will have no excuse and will be forced by the people to change. However, I dont follow your illogical line of thought. The Eritrean people are defending their nation today and when peace comes, the people will be free to develop their nation and prosper in the way they have always wanted. Also, National service has little to do with people leaving since as of recently, 80% of people only serve 18 months. All new sawa graduates only serve 18 months. Yet, they still opt to leave for Europe. Why they do it does not require explanation if your thoughts are rooted in common sense.

        • RufaelW

          Is this Isaias himself in disguise? Nice attempt to defend self.

          • unedited11

            LOL. Thanks for that compliment.

    • Zeray Haben

      Simple answer: The issue at hand is the government’s treatment of its own citizens, not Ethiopia. Why don’t you stick to the issue and try to be fair to your own citizens who are suffering inside and outside the country?

      • unedited11

        I’m sorry, I did not realize my simple question was actually difficult to understand. You see, there are hundreds of thousands of people suffering as a result of Ethiopia’s occupation of Eritrean land and also proving to the Eritreans that the threat is real by actually openly admitting to attacking positions inside of Eritrea. So Ethiopia has proven to be a real threat and in the eyes of many Eritreans, justifies added vigilance in the defense of the Country. Any objective observer would agree that Ethiopia’s belligerent stance is what is causing suffering in the horn of Africa. In fact, the stance hurts Ethiopia and Ethiopian people more than it does the Eritrean people. So I say we all, Ethiopians and Eritreans should all be concerned and address the issue at its root and not just the side-effects of the issue as the COI is trying to highlight. Besides, we can both at least admit that most of the other accusations in the report are cooked up for political reasons. Or maybe you would not openly agree with me but we all know the truth of the matter.

  • Prime

    Once the world was and is talking about a conspiracy of a secret occult organization called the Illuminati, but this situation in Eritrea is much worth of that. Issaias Afewerki is son of the devil. The Eritrean people is Brain Washed With Curses Inscribed False Story’s, Tales, News and Justifications of the supernatural and Anti Humanity acts of Issaias Afewerki and his regime.The first fact wich the eritrean people don’t want to admit – ” The war with Ethiopia was pioneered by Issaias Afewerki Him self”. i was one of the most pride full young members of PFDJ Till i had to open my eyes for the truth on my hand which i (and all eritreans) don’t want to see. Eritrean Elite Brothers open your eyes.

  • Bahaablom Berhe

    Dear the Guardian, You must make attention, Why On Eritrean since 1950 focusing and harsh policy by US, ┬┤there was sancting Eritrea in 2009 because of supporting Al-shebab in Somalia, But No Evidence. and now Humantiy, this is lame reasen . this is the ambition of US come true in Eritrea like Iraq, Libya… and so….. Because Eritrea is self reliance, This means ” Good Example of the Bad “…..