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Detailed Submission* HRC 54: Eritrea Delegation Statement Agenda Item 4: Human Rights situations that require the Council’s attention Interactive Dialogue with the International Commission of Human Rights Experts

The Commission tabulates, largely on the basis of remote and unsubstantiated interviews, horror stories that are difficult to read and fathom; alleged crimes of arbitrary, large-scale extra-judicial killings; wantons acts of extensive rape that does not spare even 9-year-old kids and old women above 60!

In a nutshell, it portrays the EDF as a barbaric and marauding army with no moral compass and/or Rules of Engagement.

These are grave charges and allegations.  They cannot be levelled in a gratuitous manner without absolute verification.

The Commission cannot, indeed, indict a country and its institutions on the basis of innuendos and remote desk research. The Commission cannot circumvent its mandate for professionalism, neutrality and objectivity through the implausible caveat of “reasonable grounds to believe” lower standard.

Since the Commission’s gross generalisations and grave accusations largely stem from unverified anecdotes and innuendos, let me revert to some anecdotes we have heard before in order to drive the point home.

  • The allegation of the “Axum Massacre” was first floated by a notorious UK-based, intel operative and arch-enemy of Eritrea. Amnesty International subsequently produced another account – with different figures and narrative – through remote interviews of some 36 TPLF Militias in settlement camp in the Sudan. Later on, Ethiopian-based organisations produced at least three different versions.
  • The Monaliza story: This story went viral in virtually all global media outlets. The original story was that a group of EDF soldiers gang-raped the 18-year old beauty and then shot her in the arm.  The photo and some sound-bites were taken when she was in a Mekelle hospital. Few days later, her father testified that the whole story was pure fabrication.  She was TPLF militia and wounded in the first days of battle when the TPLF unleashed its War of Insurrection.
  • Daily Telegraph and The New York Times published a story, with testimonies from alleged victims (again through remote interviews) in which they allege that EDF soldiers rape Tigrean women under express orders from top commanders in order to infect them with HIV-AIDS and render them infertile. Problem with this story is the incidence of AIDS is 20 times higher in Tigray (4% in Tigray compared to 0.22% in Eritrea).  The story has since faded away.

I could go on and on.  But one fact must be clear.  There are video clips where TPLF cadres are caught on camera coaching alleged “victims’ on how to narrate harrowing story lines.TPLF mendacity and devilish deception included launching a coordinated social media campaign with the hashtag of #TigrayGenocide precisely at the time when it launched its War of Insurrection.

The gist of the message from these anecdotes is that the task and mandate of the Commission is not to compile innuendos, package them in graphic terms, and submit it to the Council.  This amounts to gross dereliction of duty that warrants serious accountability.

True, war is brutal and crimes may occur.  But that should not eclipse the judgement of an Inquiry Commission to accept all innuendos gullibly.  Unless it is driven by sinister political objectives to which I will revert later.

But let me first stress one point.  Eritrea was embroiled in a defensive war for many decades.  Eritrea and the EDF have a track-record of adherence to the Humanitarian Laws of War.  Eritrea handled Ethiopian POWs humanely in the period of the liberation struggle and repatriated more than 100,000 POWs, including senior Generals, at the end of the War.  Both the EPLF and the EDF have also huge proportion of female soldiers.  Gender equality is fairly developed in Eritrean society.   Eritrea’s nine ethnic groups and both Christian and Muslim faiths live in harmony.  Some of the sexual abuses cited in the report are alien to our culture.  Eritrea’s Customary Laws which go back to 14th century and modern Civil and Penal Codes contain stringent provisions against gender-based violence.

One final point.  The Commission talks about the “outbreak of conflict” in Tigray Region in an appallingly neutral and evasive manner to downplay the unprovoked premeditated, and, massive War of Insurrection that the TPLF launched in early November 2020 to topple the Federal Government of Ethiopia and pursue its war of aggression against Eritrea.

The Commission also endorses TPLF false accusations of EDF continued presence in Tigray; which basically refers to Badme and other sovereign Eritrean territories that the TPLF had illegally occupied for two decades in violation of international law.  It misuses the non-disclosure of involvement in the initial phase pursued for reasons of strategic ambiguity.

In the event, the motivation of the Commission needs scrutiny as the alleged Gender-based crimes may be maliciously floated for purposes of military intervention.  Let us recall the spurious allegation of Ghadafi’s soldiers being supplied with Viagra to commit extensive rape that was spread so as to justify NATO’s military intervention.  Let us remember that TPLF’s War of Insurrection had the tacit endorsement of certain powers.

It should be noted Eritrea’s regional policy is otherwise firmly anchored on the promotion of peace, stability, and economic cooperation on the basis of full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States. Indeed, Eritrea cherishes regional peace as it has been affected by intermittent wars imposed on it in the past decades.

(* For constraints of time, an abridged version was presented by Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerhatu to the UNHRC session today while the Detailed Submission was circulated to all Member States)

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