Eritrea

 

  • CIVICUS at the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council

    The 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 18 June to 6 July 2018, will consider core civic space issues of freedom of association, assembly and expression. During this session, CIVICUS will be supporting advocacy missions on the grave human rights situations in Tanaznia, Ethiopia and Eritrea and Nicaragua, while also participating in reviews of citizen rights in Burundi, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the European Union. Additional areas to note:

    • The first week of the session will coincide with World Refugee Day (20 June)
    • Be the first session of the newly appointed Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly, Clement Voule
    • Process to renew and strengthen the Civic Space Resolution

    If you are in Geneva, please join us at the following events that CIVICUS is organising with partners:

    These events will be livestreamed on our CIVICUS Facebook Page and daily updates provided on Twitter.

     

  • CIVICUS Joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space

    Submissions on civil society space– Afghanistan, Chile, Eritrea, Macedonia, Vietnam & Yemen

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on six countries in advance of the 32nd UPR session in January 2019. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Afghanistan: CIVICUS, Afghanistan Human Rights Organization (AHRO), Civil Society and Human Rights Network and People’s Action for Change Organization explore the continued insecurity in Afghanistan, which has resulted in the closure of space for civil society, including through targeted attacks on humanitarian workers, protesters and journalists. We further discuss violence against women and the desperate situation faced by women HRDs in Afghanistan who are subjected to a heightened level of persecution because of their gender and their human rights activism.

    Chile: CIVICUS and Pro Acceso Foundation (Fundación Pro Acceso) highlight serious concerns regarding the persistent misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Law to silence members of the Mapuche indigenous community advocating for land rights. We are also concerned by the lack of government commitment to amend legislation regulating the right to peaceful assembly and by the violent suppression of social protests, especially those led by the student movement and indigenous communities. 

    Eritrea: CIVICUS, EMDHR and Eritrea Focus highlight the complete closure of the space for civil society in Eritrea to assemble, associate and express themselves. We note that there are no independent civil society organisations and private media in the country. We further discuss how the government selectively engages with international human rights mechanisms including UN Special Procedures. 

    Macedonia: CIVICUS, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network and the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation outline serious concerns over the institutional harassment of NGOs in receipt of foreign funding since 2016. Despite a recent improvement in respect for civic freedoms, the submission discusses several restrictions on investigative journalists and media outlets. We also remain alarmed over smear campaigns against human rights defenders and critics of the government orchestrated by nationalist groups. 

    Vietnam: CIVICUS, Civil Society Forum, Human Rights Foundation (HRF), VOICE and VOICE Vietnam examine systematic attempts in Vietnam to silence HRDs and bloggers, including through vague national security laws, physical attacks, restrictions on their freedom of movement and torture and ill-treatment in detention. The submission also explores strict controls on the media in law and in practice, online censorship and the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by the authorities.

    Yemen: CIVICUS, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Front Line Defenders discuss the ongoing extreme violence against and HRDs and journalists including regular abductions, kidnappings and detention in undisclosed location. We further examine restrictions on freedom of association including raids on CSOs causing many to reduce their activities drastically and even closed entirely. 

    See full library of previous UPR country submissions from CIVICUS and partners. For the latest news on civic space in all UN Member States, see country pages on the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Closed and repressed: No space for democracy to take root in Eritrea

    CIVICUS interviews a human rights defender from Eritrea, who speaks about the nature of the government and its complete disregard for fundamental human rights. The human rights defender asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

    1. What is the overall state of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Eritrea?

    Unlike in the neighbouring countries, the regime in Eritrea is unique and arguably has no match in the world. It is the most repressive regime in the world, ruling the country with no Constitution and national assembly. There is no political pluralism and no elections have been organised since independence. The ruling party exists only in name with most of its leaders in the executive and legislative arms of government are either languishing in unknown detention centres or have abandoned the party. Since 1994 the party has never held any congress or elected new leadership. Hence power has been concentrated in the hands of a single man, President Issias Afwerki, who rules the country alone and as he wishes.

    The absolute power he enjoys combined with his sadistic, cruel and arrogant character has driven him to the extreme. His regime violates every aspect of human rights and inflicts unbearable suffering on the Eritrean people. The regime has no regard for human rights and international law. Almost the entire population of Eritrea has been subjected to indefinite national service, forced labour and slavery. Families have disintegrated and societies destroyed by migration as citizens seek to escape the repression. Those who escape the country are exposed to human trafficking, hostage taking for ransom, torture and other inhumane treatment.
    The regime has made Eritrea a closed and an isolated country with no independent and foreign media outlets; civil society activities are banned in Eritrea thus there are no local CSOs or international NGOs of any kind in the country. In addition, the report of the UN Commission of inquiry on the situation of human rights in Eritrea in June 2016 revealed that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea by the Eritrean regime.

    2. What is the state of the media?

    Between 1997 to 2001 private press in the form of print media operated in Eritrea but this was under a restrictive legal domestic framework. There were eight private newspapers until September 2001. In 2001 senior government officials known as “G-15” demanded democratic reforms and the enforcement of the 1997 ratified Constitution. In September 2001, the government clamped down on 11 members of the “G-15” accusing them of treason and said they were a threat to national security. The government proceeded to close private newspapers and imprisoned 18 journalists for providing platforms to the “G-15” to express their views. Since then both the political prisoners and journalists have been held incommunicado in secret prison facilities without charges. Many of the journalists and writers are believed to have died in detention. In effect, since September 2001 no private media has existed in Eritrea. Only state-owned and state-operated media exists in the country. These include TV, radio, and print outlets.
    Freedom of expression, exchange of information and communication in public places such as tea shops, buses, taxis, restaurants, bus terminals, offices, schools and colleges, public, social and religious events are closely monitored by spys working for the regime. Even people who are out of the country are afraid to express themselves publicly for fear of reprisals against their relatives at home in Eritrea. Journalists who work for public media outlets and manage escape still fear that their families back home will be targeted as the Eritrean government punishes family members because of association.

    3. How does the compulsory national military service exacerbate human rights violations in Eritrea?

    According to the National Service Proclamation of 1995, Eritreans are required to serve 18 months of national service which includes six months of military training and 12 months of service in the army and civil service. The proclamation notes that military service is compulsory for males and females who are between 18 to 40 years old. However, contrary to the national proclamation, in reality the national service is indefinite. Those who were recruited in the first round, for example in 1994 have not been released up to now. The whole productive section of the society has been locked up in the national service without any pay, proper feeding or clothing. Even children are recruited into national service. All students have to go to the military training camp of Sawa to do their final year of education in the secondary level and complete military training. Conditions there are very miserable. The national service recruits are treated worse than slaves. They are deprived of opportunities to start families and from undertaking economic activities. They are deprived of moving freely, expressing themselves and from practicing the religion of their choice. In addition, those who desert and evade national service are detained, tortured or fined. Also women are used as sex objects by the military officers and work as house maids or slaves to provide forced services to the officers.

    4. Tell us about the failure of the government to implement the 1997 Constitution

    The government does not have any desire to implement the 1997 Constitution. In May 1998, one year after the ratification of the Constitution, the Eritrean government ignited a border war with Ethiopia. It developed into a full-fledged conflict that came to end in 2000 after the loss of about 100 000 lives on both sides and huge damages to properties and a huge humanitarian crisis and displacement. The Algeris agreement ended the war and a border commission was formed to delineate and demarcate the border but the border has not yet been demarcated. A “no war and peace state” prevails now. Although there are no links between the border and the Constitution, the Eritrean government claims that it is not implementing the Constitution because the border has to be demarcated first.

    5. What are three things that need to change for democracy to take root in Eritrea?

    For democracy to take root in Eritrea: there needs to be

    • Change of the existing government;
    • Crimes committed so far have to be addressed and perpetrators brought to justice;
    • The international community needs to support Eritreans both in the diaspora and those in Eritrea in leading a transition to democratic rule.

     

  • El Reino Unido responde a las preguntas realizadas por los miembros de CIVICUS al Consejo de Seguridad

    En el marco de sus consultas con la sociedad civil durante su presidencia del Consejo de Seguridad del mes de agosto, la Misión Permanente del Reino Unido de Gran Bretaña e Irlanda del Norte ante las Naciones Unidas respondió a las preguntas presentadas por los miembros de CIVICUS sobre la situación de seguridad en la República Democrática del Congo, Eritrea, Etiopía, Gaza y Birmania.


    La sociedad civil ocupa un papel importante en los programas del Consejo de Seguridad y CIVICUS desea agradecer al Reino Unido y a todos los miembros del Consejo de Seguridad por su compromiso constante con la participación de la sociedad civil en el trabajo del Consejo.

    El Consejo de Seguridad sigue de cerca la situación en la República Democrática del Congo (RDC).  En la resolución 2409 solicitamos al Secretario General que se nos proporcionaran informes cada treinta días.  El Consejo también aborda con frecuencia la situación de la RDC. El Consejo de Seguridad insiste en la importancia de que se celebren elecciones pacíficas, creíbles, inclusivas y oportunas el 23 de diciembre de 2018, en conformidad con el calendario electoral, que conduzcan a un traspaso pacífico del poder, según las disposiciones de la Constitución congoleña.  El Consejo de Seguridad también destaca la importancia de proteger a los civiles, incluso mediante el mandato de la MONUSCO, para la cual su protección es una prioridad estratégica. Durante la presidencia británica tuvo lugar una sesión informativa del Consejo de Seguridad sobre la RDC centrada en las próximas elecciones. Aquí puede consultarse la declaración del embajador.
     
    El Consejo de Seguridad publicó una comunicado sobre la firma de la Declaración conjunta de paz y amistad entre Eritrea y Etiopía del 9 de julio de 2018

    El OOPS fue creado por mandato de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas.  La posibilidad de que se suspendan sus servicios debido al actual déficit financiero del OOPS es motivo de gran preocupación para los miembros del Consejo de Seguridad, como así se expresó durante las consultas del Consejo celebradas el 22 de agosto sobre la situación en Oriente Medio.

    El Reino Unido sigue firmemente comprometido con el OOPS y con los refugiados palestinos de todo Oriente Medio. Ante las crecientes presiones financieras, el Reino Unido ha aportado alrededor de 60 millones de dólares americanos en 2018. Instamos a otros países a que proporcionen financiación adicional y a que efectúen desembolsos periódicos para garantizar que el OOPS siga llevando acabo su labor esencial.

    El Consejo de Seguridad sigue de cerca y con preocupación la situación en Gaza, por ejemplo, a través de las reuniones informativas periódicas como la que la Secretaria General Adjunta, Rosemary DiCarlo, ofreció ante el Consejo el 22 de agosto.
     
    El principal objetivo a largo plazo del Reino Unido es el retorno seguro, voluntario y digno a Rakáin, bajo supervisión internacional, del mayor número posible de refugiados rohinyás que se encuentran actualmente en Bangladés. En la actualidad, consideramos que las condiciones no son las adecuadas para el regreso de los refugiados. Apoyaremos a Birmania para que así lo haga, pero necesita realizar mejoras tangibles sobre el terreno. De manera más inmediata, Birmania debería permitir el acceso sin trabas de la ONU al norte de Rakáin.

    El Reino Unido ha acogido con satisfacción el anuncio de Birmania de crear una comisión de investigación sobre la violencia en Rakáin. Ahora es esencial que el gobierno birmano establezca las condiciones para que dicha investigación sea creíble, transparente e imparcial. Aún esperamos la decisión de la CPI con el fin de saber si tiene jurisdicción sobre las deportaciones de rohinyás a Bangladés (país signatario del Estatuto de Roma).
     
    Este mes, los miembros de CIVICUS preguntaron por las libertades cívicas en Colombia, la retirada de las tropas de la UNAMID de Darfur, la inseguridad alimentaria en el Sahel, la reubicación de la embajada de los Estados Unidos en Jerusalén, el deterioro del espacio cívico en Uganda, el caso de Omar Al Bashir en la Corte Penal Internacional y la amenaza mundial que supone la ciberdelincuencia.

    Estas preguntas y respuestas son el resultado de un llamamiento mensual a los miembros de CIVICUS para que envíen sus preguntas al presidente del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU. Esta es una oportunidad para que los miembros entren en contacto con un importante foro internacional de toma de decisiones. El personal de CIVICUS plantea las preguntas en nombre de los miembros de CIVICUS durante el informe mensual del presidente. ¡Hágase socio de CIVICUS para mantenerse informado y participar en esta acción!

     

  • Eritrea: Extend UN Special Rapporteur mandate, help end generalized impunity

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland

    Excellencies,

    Ahead of the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“HRC” or “the Coun­cil”), we write to you as a cross-re­gional group of non-governmental organizations to share our serious concerns over the sys­te­ma­tic, wide­spread and gross human rights violations that continue to be committed with impu­nity in Eritrea.

    We urge your Govern­ment to support and co-sponsor at the upcoming session a streamlined reso­lution that accurately reflects the gravity of the situation on the ground, renews the man­date of the Special Rapporteur under the Council’s agenda item 4, and sets out a framework for need­ed reforms to improve the human rights situation in the country and advance ac­count­ability.

    At the Council’s last regular session, during an enhanced interactive dialogue on Eri­trea held in March 2018, Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore noted:

    “In 2016, the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea found reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity, namely, enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, per­secution, rape and murder, had been committed since 1991. The Commission noted that despite the State’s increased engagement with the international community, there was no evidence of progress in the field of hu­man rights. I regret to report that this state of affairs remains unchanged.”[1]

    In her most recent statement to the Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila B. Keet­ha­ruth, similarly detailed violations per­tain­ing to the right to life, including deaths in custody for which responsibility “falls squarely on Gov­ernment authorities,” the right to liberty and security of the person, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, freedoms of expression, assembly and as­so­ciation, and freedom of religion or belief, inc­lu­­ding the harass­ment, mis­treatment, torture and detention of members of unrecognized religions.[2] These continuing violations present a systematic character, meaning, in the words of the Special Rap­porteur, that “they cannot be the result of ran­dom or isolated acts by the autho­rities” and that they occur in a country ruled “not by law, but by fear.”[3]

    Since Eritrea was first considered by the Council, the Government has refused to cooperate with the mechanisms the Council set up, including the Special Rapporteur and the Commis­sion of In­quiry (CoI). At the March 2018 enhanced interactive dialogue, Eritrea was not present to take the floor as the con­cer­ned country.

    Eritrea’s cooperation with other international bodies, mechanisms or agencies has been extremely selec­tive. While the Government recently invited the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Hu­man Rights (OHCHR) for a short-term technical assistance mission, the Deputy High Commissio­ner under­lined that “the test of the merits of our engagement with Eritrea – like Eritrea’s commitments at the international level – lies in whether or not they produce concrete human rights improvements for the people of Eritrea.” She concluded that there had been no measurable progress to date.

    Eritrea has consistently denied UN Special Procedures, including the country-specific Special Rap­por­teur, access to the country. At the time of writing, pen­ding visit requests by Special Procedures included requests from the Spe­cial Rapporteurs on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (request in 2005; reminders in 2007 and 2010); freedom of religion or belief (request in 2004; reminders in 2005 and 2006); extrajudicial, sum­mary or arbitrary exe­cu­tions (request in 2010); the right to food (request in 2003); and freedom of opi­nion and expression (request in 2003; reminders in 2005 and 2015).

    Eritrea has also attacked, intimidated and threatened human rights defenders and independent UN ex­perts, including the Special Rapporteur and members of the CoI. When the latter presented their report in 2015, they noted that “[they] were followed in the streets and in [their] hotels and vilified in blogs on line where the words of [their] report have been twisted and misquoted.” The Com­mission’s Chair added: “Of course this is trivial compared to the day to day experience of people in Eritrea itself, but it is indicative of a determination on the part of the authorities to control anyone they perceive as a critic.”[4]

    The gravity, scale and nature of the continuing violations call for justice. Victims, including those who live inside the country and those who have fled it, deserve redress. As domestic avenues for such red­ress are non-existent, the international community must continue to act with a view to en­ding the gene­ra­lized impu­nity that prevails in the coun­try. The Deputy High Commissioner remin­ded the Coun­cil that, as advi­sed by the Special Rapporteur, there could be “no sustain­able solution to the refugee out­flows until the Government complied with its human rights obligations.”[5]

    In view of the ongoing crimes under international law and violations of human rights and fun­da­mental freedoms committed in Eritrea, the Special Rapporteur’s mandate remains an indispensable mechanism to advance the protection and promotion of human rights in the country. The mandate holder continues to fulfil an invaluable role by monitoring the dire situation in the country, shining a light on violations, providing a crucial platform to help amplify the voices of victims, and offering Eritreans an opportunity to find long-lasting solutions for the respect of their human rights.

    Consistent with its mandate to address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, the Human Rights Council should continue to address the situ­ation in Eritrea. We urge your dele­gation to actively support and co-sponsor a resolution that:

    • Recalls the reports of the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur and continues to ex­press its deep concern over the findings contained therein;
    • Condemns the reported systematic, widespread and gross human rights viola­tions and abuses that have been and are being committed by the Government of Eritrea in a climate of genera­li­zed im­punity;
    • Reiterates that all perpetrators of such violations and abuses should be held ac­countable;
    • Extends the mandate of the Special Rap­porteur and invites the mandate holder to continue to fol­low up on the findings of HRC mechanisms, including on accountability;
    • Invites the Special Rapporteur to assess and report on the Eritrean Government’s degree of enga­ge­ment and cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms, as well as with OHCHR, and whe­re feasible to develop benchmarks for progress on human rights and a time-bound action plan for the imple­mentation of these benchmarks;
    • Calls on all states to urge the Government of Eritrea to co-operate with the Special Rappor­teur and other UN bodies and mechanisms, including Special Procedures, implement the recommen­da­­tions these bodies and mechanisms made over the years, and allow unfettered ac­cess to the coun­try, including detention centers and training facilities.

    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and are available to provide your delegation with further information as required.

    Sincerely,

    Africa Monitors

    Amnesty International

    ARTICLE 19

    Asian Legal Resource Centre

    Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC)

    Christian Solidarity Worldwide

    Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE)

    CIVICUS

    DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

    Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa

    Eritrean Lowland League

    Eritrean Law Society

    Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights

    FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)

    FORUM-Asia

    Human Rights Concern – Eritrea

    Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)

    Human Rights Watch

    International Fellowship of Reconciliation

    International Service for Human Rights                        

    PEN Eritrea

    Release Eritrea

    Reporters Without Borders

    Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)

    West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH)


    [1] The meeting summary can be found at: www.bit.ly/2Fc69BX

    [4] www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16731&LangID=E The Special Rapporteur herself has faced personal attacks during an interactive dialogue that was held in June 2017, when she was referred to as a “naked Empress with no clothes” and was accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against Eritrea. See www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ior40/8032/2018/en/

    [5] See footnote 1 above.

     

  • Le Royaume-Uni répond aux questions posées par les membres de CIVICUS sur le Conseil de sécurité

    Durant les consultations du mois d’août de la présidence du Conseil de sécurité avec la société civile, la Mission permanente du Royaume-Uni auprès de l’Organisation des Nations Unies a répondu aux questions soumises par les membres de CIVICUS concernant les situations sécuritaires en République Démocratique du Congo, Érythrée-Éthiopie, Gaza et Myanmar.


    La société civile joue un rôle important dans l’agenda du Conseil de sécurité et CIVICUS remercie le Royaume-Uni et tous les membres du Conseil de sécurité pour leur engagement à impliquer la société civile dans son fonctionnement.

    Le Conseil de sécurité suit de près la situation en RDC. Dans le cadre de la résolution 2409, nous avons demandé au Secrétaire général de nous faire transmettre des rapports mensuels. Le conseil tient des discussions fréquentes sur la RDC. Le Conseil de sécurité continue de souligner à quel point il est important que les élections du 23 décembre 2018 soient tenues dans le calme, de façon crédible, inclusive et dans les temps et qu’elles respectent le calendrier électoral, menant à un transfert pacifique du pouvoir, en accord avec la constitution congolaise. Le Conseil de sécurité continue aussi d’accentuer l’importance de la protection des civils, y compris à travers le mandat de la MONUSCO qui fait de la protection des civils une priorité stratégique. Durant la présidence du Royaume-Uni, un briefing s’est tenu au Conseil de sécurité sur les élections à venir en RDC. La déclaration de l’ambassadeur se trouve ici.

    Le Conseil de sécurité a publié un communiqué concernant la signature de la déclaration conjointe de paix et d’amitié entre l’Érythrée et l’Éthiopie du 9 Juillet 2018.

    L’UNRWA (l'Office de secours et de travaux des Nations unies pour les réfugiés de Palestine dans le Proche-Orient) a été établi et reçoit son mandat de l‘assemblée générale de l’ONU. La possibilité qu’elle doive suspendre ses services à cause de sa mauvaise situation financière préoccupe énormément les membres du Conseil de sécurité, comme cela a été exprimé durant les consultations du conseil du 22 août sur la situation au Moyen-Orient. Le Royaume-Uni reste fortement engagé dans son soutien à l’UNRWA et aux réfugiés palestiniens à travers le Moyen-Orient. Face à des pressions financières de plus en plus fortes, le Royaume-Uni a versé environ 60 millions de dollars en 2018. Nous continuons d’encourager d’autres à verser des financements additionnels et à effectuer des versements réguliers pour assurer que l’UNRWA puisse continuer son travail essentiel.
     
    Le Conseil de sécurité suit avec beaucoup de préoccupation la situation à Gaza, y compris à travers des briefings réguliers, comme par exemple celui du 22 août par la Secrétaire générale adjointe Rosemary DiCarlo.

    Sur le long-terme, le Royaume-Uni a pour but ultime le retour sans danger, volontaire et avec dignité du million de réfugiés Rohingyas, actuellement au Bangladesh, vers l’Etat Rakhine sous la surveillance internationale. Nous estimons que les conditions actuelles ne sont pas suffisantes pour que les réfugiés y retournent. Nous soutiendrons la Birmanie pour y arriver, mais une amélioration concrète des conditions sur le terrain est nécessaire. Dans l’immédiat, la Birmanie devrait donner à l’ONU un accès sans restriction à l’Etat du Nord-Rakhine. L’ONU s’est réjouie de la déclaration du gouvernement birman annonçant la mise en place d’une commission d’enquête sur les violences commises dans l’Etat Rakhine. Il est à présent essentiel que le gouvernement birman démontre comment l’enquête sera crédible, transparente et impartiale. Nous sommes toujours en attente d’une décision de la CPI concernant sa compétence à juger des déportations des Rohingyas au Bangladesh (qui est un état signataire du statut de Rome).

    D’autres questions soumises par les membres de CIVICUS ce mois concernent les libertés civiques en Colombie, le retrait des troupes de l’UNAMID au Darfur, l’insécurité alimentaire au Sahel, la relocalisation de l’Ambassade des États-Unis d’Amérique à Jérusalem, la détérioration de l’espace civique en Ouganda, le cas du dirigeant Soudanais, Omar Al Bashir auprès de la Cour Pénale Internationale et la menace globale du cyber crime.

    Ces questions-réponses résultent d’un appel mensuel auprès des membres CIVICUS de soumettre leurs questions au président du Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies. Il s’agit d’une opportunité pour nos membres d’être reliés à un forum international important où des décisions sont prises. Les employés de CIVICUS posent les questions au nom de nos membres durant le briefing du président tous les mois. Tenez-vous informé en devenant membre de CIVICUS.

     

  • Open letter: Ensure continued monitoring of the human rights situation in Eritrea

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council

    Excellency,

    We, the undersigned human rights organizations, are writing to urge you to support the adoption of a resolution at the upcoming 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council (“Council”) to maintain a monitoring and reporting mandate on the human rights situation in Eritrea.

    The human rights situation in Eritrea remains dire, notwithstanding recent developments, including the Eritrea-Ethiopia Summit, the reopening of the border between the two countries, and the signing of a tripartite agreement between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia.

    A free and independent press continues to be absent from the country and 16 journalists remain in detention without trial, many since 2001. Eritrean authorities are yet to produce evidence that those arbitrarily jailed are alive. Throughout the country, authorities have restricted and suppressed civic space. At the Council’s 40th session in March 2019, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, violations of the right to a fair trial, lack of information on the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons, lack of access to justice, lack of enforcement of the 1997 Constitution, the imposition of severe restrictions to the enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and religion or belief, and the continued use of indefinite national service involving torture, sexual violence and forced labour. She stressed: “[A]s far as [the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR] is aware, the actual human rights situation for the people of Eritrea has not improved in the past year.” Ongoing severe violations, including their gendered impact and generalised impunity, call for a high level of monitoring and public reporting.

    This is the wrong time for the Council to relax scrutiny of the situation in Eritrea. In its resolution 38/15, adopted by consensus in July 2018, the Council invited the Special Rapporteur to “assess and report on the situation of human rights and the engagement and cooperation of the Government of Eritrea with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, as well as with the Office of the High Commissioner, and, where feasible, to develop benchmarks for progress in improving the situation of human rights and a time-bound plan of action for their implementation.”

    The Special Rapporteur will present her report on reform benchmarks at the upcoming Council session. These provisions, which offer a constructive way forward, outline an expectation of continued attention to, and engagement with, the country. The Council should now ensure adequate follow-up. Failure to do so would doubtless be interpreted by Eritrea as an endorsement of the status quo, further entrenching systemic rights violations. Discontinuation of the mandate should only occur when and if these benchmarks are met and there is demonstrable and concrete progress in the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights.

    As a newly-elected member of the Council, Eritrea has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council” (UN General Assembly resolution 60/251). Eritrea has not adhered to its membership obligations and has neither invited the Special Rapporteur nor accepted her request to visit the country. Eritrea is one of only 22 countries that have never received a country visit from any Special Procedure, despite requests from numerous mandate-holders.

    Obstructionist behavior should not be rewarded. Eritrea’s membership in the Council should be fully leveraged for improvements in the country’s human rights situation and cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms. The Council should urge Eritrea to change course and engage with the UN human rights system.

    At its 41st session, the Council should make clear that membership does not prevent, but rather triggers an enhanced responsibility to accept, scrutiny. It should adopt a resolution maintaining a Special Procedure mandate and a high level of monitoring and public reporting, to ensure that the grave and systemic human rights violations identified by OHCHR and the Council’s own mechanisms are addressed and accountability for these violations is achieved.

    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information.

    Sincerely,

    Signatories: 

    AfricanDefenders (the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)

    Amnesty International

    ARTICLE 19

    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)

    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

    Center for Reproductive Rights

    CIVICUS

    Civil Rights Defenders

    Committee to Protect Journalists

    CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

    DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

    Eritrea Focus

    Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)

    Eritrean Law Society (ELS)

    Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)

    Front Line Defenders

    Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme

    Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

    Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)

    Human Rights Defenders Network - Sierra Leone

    Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)

    Human Rights Watch

    International Commission of Jurists

    Information Forum for Eritrea (IFE)

    International Refugee Rights Initiative

    International Service for Human Rights

    Network of Eritrean Women (NEW)

    Odhikar, Bangladesh

    One Day Seyoum

    Release Eritrea

    Reporters Without Borders

    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

     

  • Outcomes & reflections from the UN Human Rights Council

    Joint statement at the end of the 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    By renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the Council has sent a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot be tolerated. It reaffirmed that specific, sustained and systematic attention is needed to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people can live a life of dignity. We welcome the Core Group's commitment to engage in dialogue with all States, resulting in over 50 original co-sponsors across all regions. However, we regret that some States have again attempted to prevent the Council from addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGI.

    This Council session also sent a clear message that Council membership comes with scrutiny by addressing the situations of Eritrea, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows the potential the Council has to leverage its membership to become more effective and responsive to rights holders and victims. 

    The Council did the right thing by extending its monitoring of the situation in Eritrea. The onus is on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with Council mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur, in line with its membership obligations. 

    We welcome the first Council resolution on the Philippinesas an important first step towards justice and accountability. We urge the Council to closely follow this situation and be ready to follow up with additional action, if the situation does not improve or deteriorates further. We deeply regret that such a resolution was necessary, due to the continuation of serious violations and repeated refusal of the Philippines – despite its membership of the Council– to cooperate with existing mechanisms. 

    We deplore that the Philippines and Eritrea sought to use their seats in this Council to seek to shield themselves from scrutiny, and those States who stood with the authorities and perpetrators who continue to commit grave violations with impunity, rather than with the victims.

    We welcome the written statement by 22 States on Chinaexpressing collective concern over widespread surveillance, restrictions to freedoms of religion and movement, and large-scale arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We consider it as a first step towards sustained Council attention and in the absence of progress look to those governments that have signed this letter to follow up at the September session with a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

    We welcome the progress made in resolutions on the rights of women and girls: violence against women and girls in the world of work, on discrimination against women and girls and on the consequences of child, early and forced marriage. We particularly welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls under its new name and mandate to focus on the intersections of gender and age and their impact on girls. The Council showed that it was willing to stand up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls by ensuring that these resolutions reflect the current international legal framework and resisted cultural relativism, despite several amendments put forward to try and weaken the strong content of these resolutions. 

    However, in the text on the contribution of developmentto the enjoyment of all human rights, long standing consensus language from the Vienna Declaration for Programme of Action (VDPA) recognising that, at the same time, “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights” has again been deliberately excluded, disturbing the careful balance established and maintained for several decades on this issue. 

    We welcome the continuous engagement of the Council in addressing the threat posed by climate changeto human rights, through its annual resolution and the panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change at this session. We call on the Council to continue to strengthen its work on this issue, given its increasing urgency for the protection of all human rights.

    The Council has missed an opportunity on Sudanwhere it could have supported regional efforts and ensured that human rights are not sidelined in the process. We now look to African leadership to ensure that human rights are upheld in the transition. The Council should stand ready to act, including through setting up a full-fledged inquiry into all instances of violence against peaceful protesters and civilians across the country. 

    During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, States heard loud and clear that the time to hold Saudi Arabia accountable is now for the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We recall that women human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained despite the calls by 36 States at the March session. We urge States to adopt a resolution at the September session to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country. 

    We welcome the landmark report of the High Commissioner on the situation for human rights in Venezuela; in response to the grave findings in the report and the absence of any fundamental improvement of the situation in the meantime, we urge the Council to adopt a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism in September, to reinforce the ongoing efforts of the High Commissioner and other actors to address the situation.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. This mandate is at the core of our work as civil society and we trust that the mandate will continue to protect and promote these fundamental freedoms towards a more open civic space.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. We acknowledge some positive signs of re-engagement in dialogue by Belarus, and an attempted negotiation process with the EU on a potential Item 10 resolution. However, in the absence of systemic human rights reforms in Belarus, the mandate and resolution process remains an essential tool for Belarusian civil society. In addition, there are fears of a spike in violations around upcoming elections and we are pleased that the resolution highlights the need for Belarus to provide safeguards against such an increase.

    We welcome the renewal of the quarterly reporting process on the human rights situation in Ukraine. However, we also urge States to think creatively about how best to use this regular mechanism on Ukraine to make better progress on the human rights situation.

    The continued delay in the release of the UN databaseof businesses engaged with Israeli settlements established pursuant to Council resolution 31/36 in March 2016 is of deep concern.  We join others including Tunisia speaking on behalf of 65 states and Peru speaking on behalf of 26 States in calling on the High Commissioner to urgently and fully fulfil this mandate as a matter of urgency and on all States to cooperate with all Council mandates, including this one, and without political interference.

    Numerous States and stakeholders highlighted the importance of the OHCHR report on Kashmir; while its release only a few days ago meant it did not receive substantive consideration at the present session, we look forward to discussing it in depth at the September session. 

    Finally, we welcome the principled leadership shown by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in pursuing accountability for individual victims of acts of intimidation and reprisalsunder General Debate Item 5, contrasting with other States which tend to make only general statements of concern. We call on States to raise all individual cases at the interactive dialogue on reprisals and intimidation in the September session. 

    Signatories:

    1. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    2. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    3. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    5. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    6. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    7. Center for Reproductive Rights 
    8. ARTICLE 19
    9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    10. Human Rights House Foundation 
    11. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    12. Franciscans International 
    13. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
    14. Amnesty International
    15. Human Rights Watch
    16. International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) 

     

  • Outcomes & reflections from UN Human Rights Council

    38th Session of the Human Rights Council
    End of Session Joint Civil Society Statement

    Our organisations welcome the adoption of the resolutions on civil society space, peaceful protest, on violence against women and girls and on discrimination against women and girls and the Council’s rejection of attempts to impede progress on protecting civil society space, peaceful protest and the rights to sexual and reproductive health.

    On civil society space, the resolution recognizes the essential contribution that civil society makes to international and regional organisations and provides guidance to States and organisations on improving their engagement with civil society.  On peaceful protest, it sets out in greater detail how international law and standards protect rights related to protests. 

    On violence against women and on discrimination against women, we consider that ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights are vital in efforts to combat violence and discrimination against women, online and offline, as well as to ensure targeted and specific remedies to victims. We appreciate that the work of women human rights defenders towards this is recognised. 

    We consider the adoption of the resolution on the contribution of the Council to the prevention of human rights violations as an important opportunity to advance substantive consideration on strengthening the Council’s ability to deliver on its prevention mandate.

    Following challenging negotiations, we welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on human rights and the Internet, reaffirming that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, and calling on States to tackle digital divides between and within countries, emphasising the importance of tools for anonymity and encryption for the enjoyment of human rights online, in particular for journalists, and condemning once more all measures that prevent or disrupt access to information online.

    We welcome continued Council attention to Eritrea's abysmal human rights record. This year's resolution, while streamlined, extends expert monitoring of, and reporting on, the country and outlines a way forward for both engagement and human rights reform. We urge Eritrea to engage in long-overdue meaningful cooperation. 

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus under item 4 with an increased vote - as it is still the only independent international mechanism to effectively monitor human rights violations in Belarus - while remaining concerned over a narrative to shift the mandate to item 10 in the absence of any systemic change in Belarus. 

    We welcome the consensus resolution on the Democratic Republic of Congo, putting in place continued monitoring and follow up on the expert’s recommendations on the Kasais. However, given violations and abuses throughout several regions in the country, occurring against the backdrop of an ongoing political crisis, delayed elections, and the brutal quashing of dissent, we urge the Council to promptly move towards putting in place a country-wide mechanism that can respond to events on the ground as they emerge.

    We welcome the strong resolution on Syria, which condemns violations and abuses by all parties, and appropriately addresses concerns raised by the COI about the use of chemical weapons, sexual and gender-based violence, and the need to address situations of detainees and disappearances. The Council cannot stay silent in the face of continued atrocities as the conflict continues unabated into its seventh year.

    We welcome the joint statements delivered this session on Cambodia, the Philippines,and Venezuela. We urge Council members and observes to work towards increased collective action to urgently address the dire human rights situations in these countries.  

    On the Philippines, we emphasise that the Council should establish an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings in the ‘war on drugs’ and mandate the OHCHR to report on the human rights situation and on moves toward authoritarianism.  

    The joint statement on Cambodia represents a glimmer of hope after the Council's failure to take meaningful action against clear sabotage of democratic space ahead of elections. Close scrutiny of the human rights situation before, during and after the elections is paramount and the Council must take immediate action on current and future human rights violations in this regard.

    We welcome the joint statement delivered by Luxembourg  calling on the HRC President to provide short oral updates on cases of alleged intimidation or reprisal, including actions taken, at the start of the Item 5 general debate of each Council session and also provide States concerned with the opportunity to respond.

    Finally, the new Council member to replace the United States should demonstrate a principled commitment to human rights, to multilateralism and to addressing country situations of concern by applying objective criteria. 

    Joint Statement by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the Association for Progressive Communications, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 

     

  • Statement at UN Human Rights Council: Citizen rights in Eritrea

    37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 
    Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
    Oral Intervention by CIVICUS and DefendDefenders

    The government of Eritrea was requested to strengthen its cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to communicate pertinent information regarding detained journalists and opposition members, and to consider establishing an office in Eritrea. Has OHCHR seen any progress on any of these requests?

    In November 2017, a rare protest broke out in Eritrea at the Al Dia Islamic School in Asmara after a member of the School’s board was arrested following a speech he made criticizing government interference in the private school’s affairs. In the footage that emerged from the scene, dozens of shots could be heard although it is unclear if there were any casualties. No transparent or credible investigation was conducted, and no information emerged about the crackdown, the number of casualties or number of arrests. Was OHCHR able to conduct an investigation into the circumstances of this protest? 

    The Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE) called on the Government of Eritrea to ensure accountability for past and persistent human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity. So far, civil society has not recorded any significant institutional or legal reforms required before the domestic legal system can hold perpetrators of international crimes to account in a fair and transparent manner.

    We wish to underline our support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, and highlight its necessity until a time where the human rights record in Eritrea sees genuine improvements.

     

  • Statement on human rights violations in Eritrea

    35th session UN Human Rights Council

    14 June 2017
    Statement during the interactive dialogue on the report of the Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Eritrea

    CIVICUS welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea and applauds her unwavering efforts to ampifly the voices of civil society and victims of human rights violations in Eritrea and in the diaspora.

    Mr. President, the Special Rapporteur’s report to the Council is unequivocal that Eritreans continue to be subjected to grave and systematic violations of fundamental freedoms, some of which amount to crimes against humanity. Worryingly the Special Rapporteur has concluded that the human rights situation in Eritrea “has not significantly improved.” 

    We remain deeply concerned that the Government has failed to take adequate measures to address the human rights situation in Eritrea as documented by the Commission of Inquiry.

    During the reporting period, the Special Rapporteur received information that the government’s military and national service programmes remain arbitrary, protracted and involuntary, which is tantamount to enslavement. 

    The Government has further failed to release countless arbitrarily detained prisoners for exercising their fundamental rights and refuses to provide sufficient information about the status of several prominent activists and individuals who have been forcibly disappeared. 

    As a result of these and other deprivations of human rights, thousands of Eritreans, including scores of unaccompanied children, are forced to traverse perilous situations to secure refuge abroad every year. 

    We support the Special Rapporteur’s decision to devote greater time and resources to address impunity, including by engaging a diversity of actors including victims, survivors, family members, human rights defenders and lawyers to help facilitate access to justice and accountability for human rights violations.

    We urge the Government of Eritrea to take proactive measures to implement the specific and time-bound benchmarks developed by the Special Rapporteur to assess substantive change in the country. 

    We respectfully request members and observer states of the Council to co-sponsor a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea and provide the mandate holder with all necessary support. 

     

  • Statement: Eritrea's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Eritrea Focus, and CIVICUS welcome the government of Eritrea’s engagement with the UPR process and for its acceptance of 131 UPR recommendations. We also welcome the Declaration of Peace and Friendship signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in July 2018, and the shared commitments to make progress towards achieving sustainable peace in the region.

    But regional overtures towards peace have not translated into national policy and practices. Since Eritrea’s last review, it has failed to implement any recommendations it accepted pertaining to civic space and fundamental freedoms.

    Instead, the human rights situation in the country continues to worsen, civic space continues to be severely suppressed, and serious restrictions to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression prevail.

    Mr President, we are deeply concerned by the closure of 20 health centres administered by Catholic churches, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of four Christian bishops based in Debre Bizen monastery and of 141 Christians in Mai Temenai district in June 2019, which followed a call by the Catholic Church for genuine dialogue on peace and reconciliation in Eritrea. Such actions illustrate the willful failure of the Eritrean government to implement UPR recommendations and improve the repressive environment for civic space and basic freedoms.

    We note with concern the lack of constitutionalism in Eritrea, a situation that perpetuates human rights violations and abuses by government institutions with impunity, where activists, journalists and human rights defenders continue to be arrested and illegally detained.

    Mr President, Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, Eritrea Focus, and CIVICUS call on the Government of Eritrea to immediately and urgently take proactive measures to implement all UPR recommendations, particularly pertaining to removing restrictive laws that undermine civic space and create an enabling environment for journalists and human rights defenders to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. 

     

  • Statement: Grave human rights abuses continue in Eritrea

    41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea

    CIVICUS, along with eight other Africa-based organisations, (see below) welcomes the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Eritrea and we ask the UN Human Rights Council as a matter of urgency to renew the mandate, so that the Special Rapporteur can continue its vital monitoring of and reporting on the human rights situation in Eritrea.

    There remain significant and urgent human rights concerns in Eritrea, despite recent diplomatic and bi-lateral developments between Eritrea and Ethiopia and its ongoing dialogues with Djibouti. Civic space is closed, with freedom of expression and peaceful assembly wilfully subverted by the authorities. There is no independent media, and at least 16 journalists remain in detention without trial since the country’s free press was shuttered two decades ago. As the Special Rapporteur highlighted in her report, there exists a culture of impunity for the perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, including arbitrary and incommunicado detention.

    We regret that the Eritrean government refuses to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, and other UN Human Rights Council mechanisms. Eritrea has never received any mandate holder. This lack of the bear minimum of engagement is unacceptable for a member of the Human Rights Council.

    The Special Rapporteur presented a number of welcome benchmarks for human rights progress in her report, and we would like to ask her to elaborate how to operationalize such benchmarks for follow up.

    Mr. Vice President, if the mandate of the Special Rapporteur is not renewed, the Council risks losing this opportunity to address in any way the grave serious human rights abuses occurring in one of its member states. The Council therefore must ensure the continuation of this mandate We call on the government of Eritrea to fully cooperate and allow comprehensive access to all UN Human Rights Council mechanisms.

    1. Africa Monitors
    2. CIVICUS
    3. Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)
    4. Eritrea Focus
    5. Eritrean Law Society (ELS)
    6. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMHDR)
    7. Network of Eritrean Women
    8. RSF Afrique
    9. PEN Eritrea

     

  • UN Human Rights Council: Civic space in Eritrea

    38th Session of UN Human Rights Council
    Dialogue with UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea

    On behalf of CIVICUS, Reporters without Borders, the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, the Eritrean Law society, Eritrea Focus, Network of Eritrean Women, Amnesty International, and the Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum, I would first like to express our deepfelt gratitude and appreciation to the Special Rapporteur for her unwavering support to Eritrean victims of human rights violations.

    Today, her work is all the more important. The latest reports emerging from the country indicate that the human rights situation is not improving. Following the imprisonment and death in detention of respected Muslim elder Haji Musa in March 2018, Eritrean authorities have conducted mass arrests and disappearances of youth.

    We are also concerned by the Special Rapporteur’s reports that individuals who dare to exercise their right to freedom of expression have been targeted with arrest and detention, while peaceful demonstrations in October 2017 following the arrest of Haji Musa were met with scores of arrests and night house raids without search or arrest warrants.

    Since the publication of the UN Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) report, government officials have continued to torture, imprison, and arbitrarily detain people without notifying them of the reason for their arrest.

    Mr President, since the publication of the CoI report, not a single individual has been held accountable for the human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, committed in Eritrea. Civil society remains forced to work outside the country and independent press is still not permitted to operate inside the country. Eritrea remains the largest jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa.

    The Eritrean government has repeatedly ignored the Special Rapporteur’s requests for access to conduct investigations.

    Mr President, we urge the UN Human Rights Council to renew the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and maintain attention on some of the most egregious human rights violations in sub-Saharan Africa. The Human Rights Council has a responsibility to follow up on the CoI’s serious findings and ensure that accountability for crimes against humanity committed in Eritrea remains a priority.

     

  • United Kingdom responds to CIVICUS members’ Security Council questions

    Karen Pierce, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, addresses the Security Council. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

    French | Spanish

    As part of its consultations with civil society during its Presidency of the Security Council for the month of August, the United Kingdom’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations responded to questions submitted by CIVICUS members on the security situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea/Ethiopia, Gaza and Myanmar.

    Civil society play an important role in the Security Council’s agenda and CIVICUS thanks the United Kingdom and all members of the Security Council for their ongoing commitment to involving civil society in the council’s workings.


    Democratic Republic of Congo

    Seven questions were submitted from civil society in the Democratic Republic of Congo reflecting a high level of concern about the security situation there in the lead up to elections in December. Members asked if the Council is monitoring the current situation as well as how the Council plans to prevent deaths during the upcoming elections.

    The Security Council is monitoring the situation in DRC closely.  In resolution 2409 we asked the Secretary General to provide us with 30 day reports.  The Council also discusses the DRC frequently. The Security Council continues to underline the importance of peaceful, credible, inclusive and timely elections on 23 December 2018, in line with the electoral calendar, leading to a peaceful transfer of power, in accordance with the Congolese Constitution.  The Security Council also continues to stress the importance of protecting civilians, including through the mandate for MONUSCO which includes the protection of civilians as a strategic priority. During the UK Presidency, there was a Security Council briefing on the DRC, focusing on the upcoming elections. The Ambassador’s statement can be found here.

    Eritrea-Ethiopia

    A question on Eritrean-Ethiopian relations noted that the relationship has begun to normalise and improve rapidly. While there is no doubt that international and regional efforts have played a role in this improvement it is remarkable that there has been a push for an improvement of human rights and the democratic situation on the Ethiopian side but that the same has not been extended to Eritrea. Does the Security Council now plan to push to improve the human rights situation in Eritrea?

    The Security Council issued a statement on the Signing of Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship between Eritrea and Ethiopia on 9 July 2018.

    Gaza

    Palestinian Consultative Staff for Developing NGOs, from the West Bank asked about why the Council is reducing UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) services, especially to children, women and elderly people. They also asked if the Security Council would consider visiting Gaza.

    UNRWA was established and is mandated by the UN General Assembly.  The possibility of service suspension due to UNRWA’s current financial shortfall is a matter of grave concern to members of the Security Council; as was expressed during the 22 August Council consultations on the situation in the Middle East.

    The UK remains firmly committed to supporting UNRWA and Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. In the face of growing financial pressures, the UK has provided approximately $60 million USD in 2018. We continue to urge others to provide additional funding and regular disbursements to ensure that UNRWA can continue its essential work.

    The Security Council is following closely and with concern the situation in Gaza, including through regular briefings such as that provided to the Council on 22 August by Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo.

    Myanmar

    Maisaa Alamoodi a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia asked if the Council would consider imposing sanctions on the Government of Myanmar if it continues to abuse the rights of the Rohingya and prevent their safe return home.

    The UK’s overriding long term aim is the safe, voluntary and dignified return to Rakhine, under international monitoring, of as many as possible of the million Rohingya refugees currently in Bangladesh. We currently do not deem the conditions are right for the refugees to return. We will support Burma to do this, but it needs to make tangible improvements on the ground. Most immediately, Burma should allow the UN unfettered access to northern Rakhine.  

    The UK has welcomed Burma’s announcement of a Commission of Inquiry into the violence in Rakhine. It is now essential that the Burmese government now sets out how the investigation will be credible, transparent and impartial. We are still awaiting the ICC's decision if it has jurisdiction over Rohingya deportations to Bangladesh (a Rome Statute signatory).


    Other questions received from CIVICUS members this month covered civic freedoms in Colombia, the withdrawal of UNAMID troops from Darfur, food insecurity in the Sahel, the relocation of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, the deterioration of civic space in Uganda, Sudanese leader, Omar Al Bashir’s case in the International Criminal Court and the global threat of cyber crime.

    These question/response are the outcomes of a Monthly Call to CIVICUS members to submit their question to the President of the UN Security Council. This is an opportunity for members to connect with an important international forum where decisions are made. CIVICUS staff pose the questions on CIVICUS members’ behalf during the President’s brief each month. Stay in touch and be part of this action by joining CIVICUS as a member.

    For more information please contact Lyndal Rowlands, 

     

  • Why the Human Rights Council matters to grassroots activists

    By Clémentine de Montjoye, CIVICUS

    On 19th June 2018, the United States announced it was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council, citing the foremost international human rights body’s political bias and questionable membership. But as an institution made up of member states, none of which have perfect human rights records, its value is greater than the sum of its parts.

    During this session, for example, Eritrea, a country sometimes referred to as the ‘North Korea of Africa’, is on the agenda. For Helen Kidane, an exiled Eritrean human rights activist, this represents a unique opportunity to meet with diplomats and lobby for international action against a repressive government. The Council created a commission of inquiry in 2014 which found reasonable grounds to believe that the Eritrean government had committed crimes against humanity.

    "Resolutions may not be always implemented but at least they’ve kept Eritrea on the agenda", Helen told me after the U.S. announcement. "Otherwise it would just be swept under the carpet, and the situation would definitely be worse if no one spoke about it."

    While flawed, the Council presents an unequalled platform to raise human rights violations at a multilateral level, enable human rights defenders from the ground to address representatives from 193 countries, and interact with key decision-makers to push for justice.

    It has played a key role in shining a light on some of the most egregious human rights violations in the world today. The Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, whose mandate is up for renewal during this session, has been prominent in raising awareness of violations and giving a voice to victims in Eritrea. By allowing its position to be influenced by global political fault lines, the U.S. is also withdrawing its support for victims of oppression.

    This vital UN body cannot end conflicts and crises, and as a multilateral institution, regional dynamics and geopolitical manoeuvring will always restrict it. For instance, since the refugee crisis hit Europe and states have been working with repressive governments to repatriate refugees, some have indeed been less inclined to draw attention to human rights violations in Eritrea and other source countries. Eritreans refugees, who flee indefinite military service and face a shoot to kill policy at the border, represented the largest group of African refugees in Europe in 2015. 

    As is often the case in the microcosm that is the Council, the support we see for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea will be a good gauge of international attitudes towards this pariah state, and how migration policies are affecting them.

    But the Human Rights Council is also a place where those who have been persecuted, threatened, arrested, and tortured for speaking out on human rights violations at home can be heard, and sometimes get results. Beyond the politicking and horse trading, this is a place where grassroots activists can make sure that the human suffering they are working to alleviate isn’t reduced to operative paragraphs and resolutions, but that the voices of the victims remain an integral part of the process. By leaving, the U.S. is turning its back on victims and refusing to work with the system to deliver justice for human rights violations.

    As we finish our coffee, Helen tells me ‘As a human rights defender I don’t think human rights should be politicised. We can’t escape this but it doesn’t help anyone to disengage like the U.S has done, we need to work to improve the Council from the inside.’ Sadly, the U.S.’s decision to leave creates a vacuum which will likely be filled by traditional backers of national sovereignty like Russia and China who are increasingly working to undermine the legitimacy and substantive work of the Council.