Time to stop Eritrean regime’s crimes against humanity

The international community lately realizes the rampant human rights violations have been committed inside Eritrea by its leadership since independence. Particularly, following the death of significant Eritrean migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in fishing boats and the subsequent refugee crisis in Europe, international media quickly begun to investigate the root causes behind the extraordinary influx of Eritrean migrants into Europe and come to the conclusion that the Eritrean regime is the main reason behind the exodus. The European Union troubled with the influx Eritrean refugees mistakenly granted the maffia regime in Asmara 200 million Euro to design development projects that could create employment opportunities to people assuming the source is poverty not political. That was a grave mistake where considerable Eritrean elites reacted emotionally.

It is true that the Eritrean government is one of the worst repressive regimes in the world, it has committed widespread crimes against humanity over the past 25 years, according to a report released on June 8, 2016 by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. President Isaias Afwerki, in power since Eritrea’s independence in 1991, has led an increasingly repressive authoritarian regime. The UN Commission found that enslavement, enforced disappearance, rape, murder, torture and religious persecution are systematically used to instil fear in Eritreans and maintain the regime’s power. These deliberate violations of international law clearly amount to crimes against humanity as widespread, and systematic attacks against civilian population.

The Eritrean maffia leadership’s cruelty is unmistakable manifested in its indefinite enslavement of up to 400,000 people, primarily through military conscription. This deprivation of liberty amounts to modern-day slavery and allows for inhumane treatment, which Eritrea currently has no legal mechanisms to redress. In military camps, conscripts are frequently subjected to torture, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour and domestic servitude. Recent developments could further exacerbate their situation. On June 21, Eritrea accused Ethiopia of contemplating full-scale war, strengthening the Eritrean regime’s justification for compulsory military service as a necessary response to perceived Ethiopian aggression.

Based on the testimony of 833 Eritreans in exile, the UN Commission also found that mass detainment and enforced disappearance are wielded as tools of control over the population, often in an arbitrary manner that flouts international law. In 2015, thousands of Eritrean prisoners of conscience, including politicians, journalists and practitioners of unauthorized religions, continued to be imprisoned without charge or trial. In a testimony to the Commission, a former detainee detailed the horror of incarceration in Eritrea: “There is a saying in prison: If you scream, only the sea will hear you.” The report did not specify individuals responsible for ongoing crimes, but indicated that they operate within the military, National Security Office, ruling party and the highest echelons of the regime.

Eritrea has no constitution, functioning judiciary, national assembly or civil society, free media; opposition to the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice Party is prohibited. The vacuum created by this lack of a coherent legal foundation generates a climate of impunity for human rights abuses, one incapable of protecting citizens and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Eritrea’s human rights record is not merely a domestic issue. The regime’s continued disrespect for human life poses an imminent threat to international peace and security through its role in the ongoing refugee crisis. The horrifying violence countless Eritreans face on a daily basis is a powerful force driving close to 5,000 citizens to flee the nation each month, contributing to a global humanitarian crisis. It was not without reason that Eritreans comprised the 2nd largest nationality after Syrians undertaking the dangerous journey in search of asylum and safety. The international community urgently needed to ensure the protection of the Eritrean people and to stem this alarming flow of refugees.

International mechanisms set in place by the Security Council and the ICC can play a pivotal role in ensuring the victims of the Eritrean government’s heinous abuses have their voices heard. No population should be forced to live in an atmosphere of fear while its oppressors are given broad latitude in their actions without facing consequences. Eritrea’s human rights abuses are still occurring today, and they must not slip through the cracks of global attention when they should be instead condemned and prosecuted for what they have been doing.

The resolution drafted by neighbouring Djibouti and Somalia recommended the necessity to take immediate action against the criminal leaders. However, the government of Eritrea denies everything and characterized the report of the Inquiry Commission as an opinion of three individuals who conducted the study outside Eritrea. However, the leadership did forget to mention that it blocked the inquiry body from entering Eritrea. Yemane Gebrab advisor to President Isaias Afwerqi and one of the top criminals attempted to deny the findings and admitted Ethiopia is doing the same thing which he meant that Eritrea is not alone to be blamed.

Nonetheless, the Human Rights Council has resolved to accept the COI’s recommendation to refer the report to all relevant bodies which certainly includes the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and the Security Council.

As of today, the report can no longer be dismissed as that of a “three-person panel.” The Security Council can expedite the issue by referring the case to the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bentouda.

The United Nations Rights Council on Friday called on the African Union to look into Eritrean leaders over alleged crimes against humanity after the damning report by a UN commission.

In that report, the UN’s Commission of Inquiry for Eritrea said the government of President Isaias Afwerki had committed heinous crimes since independence a quarter-century ago, including the “enslavement” of 400,000 people. Many of those abuses are allegedly linked to a harsh national service programme in the secretive Horn of Africa state, which for many is almost impossible to escape and which the COI compared to lifetime enslavement.

In a resolution that passed with consensus by the body’s 47 members, the Human Rights Council said it “strongly encourages the African Union to follow up on the (COI) report.”

The AU should set up “an investigation… with a view to examining and bringing to justice those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights identified by the Commission of Inquiry, including any that may amount to a crime against humanity.” The AU played a leading role in setting up a special court to prosecute former Chadian military dictator Hissene Habre, who was sentenced to life in May for war crimes and crimes against humanity over his brutal 1982-1990 rule.

The rights council resolution broadly endorsed the COI’s findings and urged Eritrea to resolve a range of systematic abuses. Those include extrajudicial killings, torture and indefinite detention allegedly committed by people at the top of Isaias’s government. Eritrea has rejected the COI’s findings.

The Dutch National Parliament tabled a resolution proposal that seems to target the activities of the sole ruling party in Eritrea, the PFDJ, and its Dutch and European affiliates.

Most of the clandestine activities of the PFDJ in the Western countries is handled by the young PFDJ (YPFDJ), a youth Diaspora clone of the ruling party which was formed and operates under the patronage of Yemane Gebreab, the adviser to Isaias Afwerki, the president of the Eritrean regime.

The Dutch National Parliament has proposed the investigation of the role of the Eritrean official emissaries in Holland as well as in the European Union. It also proposed the investigation of the activities of all affiliated entities of the PFDJ that operate as quasi-community organizations.

The proposal also curtails access of the PFDJ affiliate entities from accessing centres where asylum seekers stay. In financial aspects, the motion proposes the investigation of subsidies provided to the affiliated organizations.

In recent years, European countries have been paying much attention to the Eritrean situation because of the dire human rights situation in the country which has triggered an immense flow of refugees to Europe. Based on the proposal, Eritrean refugees will get extra attention to be able to participate and integrate in the Dutch society.

The most serious proposal, however, is the cancellation of asylum requests by PFDJ supporters and the investigating of the financial transactions and Eritrean embassy and affiliated entities in Holland. Our source stated, “this shows that the tolerance of the Dutch lawmakers towards the Eritrean regime has been depleted.”

Dutch and foreign observers and activists close to the events in Holland said that prior to the session, Eritrean activists have “met with Dutch Parliament members and have handed a petition signed by 10,000 people, demanding justice for their compatriots.”

Last week, the UN Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Eritrea has recommended to the Security Council to refer Eritrean officials to the persecutor of the International Criminal Court. It is to be recalled that following the damning report released last month by the UN Human Rights inquiry body in Eritrea, ten thousands Eritrean Diaspora demonstrated in Geneva in front f the UN Human Rights Commission office in support of the report and to demand help from the international community to bring Isaias Afwerqi who is masterminding the crimes be brought to ICC. Also tens of thousands Eritrean being sheltered in Ethiopia staged to African Union office in Addis Ababa to help support in bringing Eritrean leaders to ICC and ensure justice inside Eritrea.

Precisely, it seemed that opposing Eritreans outnumbers the supporters of the tyranny regime which gave full confidence the UN Human Rights Commission Inquiry Body in Eritrea human violation that it has been doing the right thing. Let us see what the AU, EU, UN will do against the criminal regime in Eritrea regarding the matter in hand.

After being troubled, the UN Human Rights Commission established an independent inquiry to probe the deteriorating human rights situations in Eritrea in 2014 where it came up with serious findings human violation crimes. In its second report, the inquiry commission concluded naked crimes against humanity were committed inside Eritrea and recommended that the criminal leaders of the tiny Eritrea be brought to justice.