Eritrea has called on UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to stop the “Commission of Inquiry” (COI) from preventing a fair hearing on the human rights situation in Eritrea by preemptively releasing its report to the public.
In a letter it sent to the President and members of the HRC on May 30, Eritrea has asked the Council to” recognize and respect Eritrea’s right to properly defend itself.” It thus urged the Council to “suspend deliberations on the report until Eritrea has been provided with a meaningful opportunity to study and respond to the allegations.”
Eritrea has further urged the Council to “prevent the setting of a dangerous precedent that allows for the flagrant violation of the HRC’s own “Commission oflnquiry Manual”, the total disregard for the basic principles of fundamental rules of procedure and established norms of fair play, makes a mockery of human rights and undermines the credibility of the HRC.”
The COI has announced that it will release its “findings” to the media on June 8, before submitting its report to the HRC and while Eritrea is on the dark on the contents of the report.
Following on last year’s pattern, the COI is then expected to launch a sensational media blitz asserting that Eritrea had already been found guilty of the accusations, arrogating to itself the roles of investigator, prosecutor and judge. In this orchestrated campaign, the COI will be joined by “human rights organizations” and assorted “experts” and “victims” that will seek to lend it credence and corroborate Eritrea’s guilt.
Eritrea’s letter to the HRC stresses that “in effect this is trial by media and is intended to preempt and prevent serious scrutiny and sober discussion of the “report.” It is intended to create a charged and biased atmosphere that will render a fair hearing virtually impossible.”
Eritrea and a number of member states and organizations have repeatedly shown that the COI lacks the rudiments of fairness, impartiality, professionalism and integrity. Its methodology has been flawed, its sources suspect and one-sided, its “evidence” flimsy. It has abused and overstepped its mandate. It has become an activist going to the extent of lobbying governments not to engage with Eritrea, including on matters that advance human rights like education.
The COI willfully decided to base its accusations solely on “testimonies and accounts from Eritrean refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants and other members of the Diaspora.” These selected informants remain nameless and faceless as the COI has not revealed their identity. A substantial number of them were chosen by Ethiopian security officers and interviewed in camps in Ethiopia, a country currently in conflict with Eritrea. There is iron-clad evidence that many are in fact Ethiopians.
Conversely, the COI has studiously refused to listen to the “testimonies and accounts” of the overwhelming majority of Eritreans in the Diaspora. Last year, it simply said it “had no time to meet them.” This year it completely ignored the request by hundreds of Eritreans who wanted to appear in person in Geneva to present their testimonies after promising that it would give them a hearing in April.
The COI completely ignores any assessment of the status of social, economic, cultural rights in Eritrea. This is in contravention of the United Nation’s Declaration on Human Rights, which accords equal importance to all rights. It also makes the COI report one-sided, biased and incomplete. It is not difficult to gather that the COI decided to ignore a whole category of human rights precisely because Eritrea’s record is impressive and reporting them would not tally with the picture the COI wants to paint.
The COI has likewise ignored Eritrea’s significant achievements in political and civic rights as well as the peace, stability and harmony that the country enjoys in a region that is rife with extremism, terrorism and violence. It has refused to acknowledge Eritrea’s serious engagement with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process at the HRC and its acceptance of 92 recommendations, which it is already implementing.
The COI dismisses offhand all positive changes taking place in Eritrea domestically as well as in its regional and international engagement.
The COI also deliberately ignores fundamental realities which have a profound bearing on the state of the country, including the illegal occupation of Eritrean territory which constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights, repeated armed aggression, sanctions and mistaken policies that consider almost all Eritreans asylum-seekers.
This unfair, unjustified and illegal treatment of Eritrea is only a continuation of the double-standards that developing nations and those who wish to chart an independent path have been subjected to. This recurring recourse to politically-motivated, selective and country-specific measures and pressures needs to come to an end.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
02 June 2016