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Statement delivered by Mr. Habtom Zerai, Charge d’Affairs at the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the UN in Geneva during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea

20 June 2024, Geneva

 Mr. President,

It is with a heavy heart that I bring to the attention of this Council that this annual ritual of demonizing Eritrea has coincided with June 20th- Eritrea’s Martyrs Day. It is not a day of mourning but a day of reflection.

For over a decade, Eritrea has consistently communicated to this Council the reasons for its categorical rejection of country-specific mandates. Today is too important a day to us Eritreans to be overshadowed by such technical arguments about the intrusive nature of country-specific mechanisms.

This Day holds Mr. President, immense historical importance, symbolizing our sacrifice and the relentless struggle for independence and social justice.

Seventy-four years ago the inalienable right of the Eritrean people to self-determination was sacrificed for the voracious strategic interests of some members of this Council. The harrowing atrocities endured by the Eritrean people under the watchful eyes of the so-called free-world are too gruesome to mention here. Ultimately, our fight became not only for independence but also for the broader principles of social justice, equality, and human rights.

When peaceful political efforts bore no result and became untenable, the armed struggle commenced in 1961. In the three decades that ensued Eritreans waged one of the longest, bloodiest perhaps the loneliest of liberation wars to which most countries of the core group were vehemently opposed. Thus ‘against all odds’ as one writer put it, Eritreans won de facto independence by force in 1991 and de jure independence after legitimizing it through a UN-monitored referendum in 1993.

We know that our independence did not come on a silver platter.  Over 65,000 of Eritrea’s best sons and daughters sacrificed their lives for its independence, and many thousands, to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We abhor that once again the very countries that are today sponsoring this resolution against Eritrea, and funding the so-called human rights defenders who are hired to populate the reports, were the very same states that prolonged the border conflict by refusing to uphold their moral and legal obligations as guarantors and witnesses of the Agreements signed.

Mr. President,

Eritrea’s National Service Program will celebrate its 30th Anniversary this year, and the thousands who have undergone the program are today laying the foundations for Eritrea’s development. It is ironic that these countries would today shed crocodile tears about the prolonged National Service program, when they were instrumental in its prolonging and its misrepresentation.

Despite this, human development, human security and human dignity will continue to define human rights in Eritrea. Those states in this chamber that engineered and instituted this country-specific mandate, the 9-year-long illegal and unfair UN sanctions and ongoing unilateral coercive measures, in lieu of dialogue and solidarity, do not have the moral authority to talk about the promotion of human rights in Eritrea.

Mr. President,

We Eritreans have profound respect and admiration for our martyrs. Honoring them is deeply ingrained in our culture, that we open and close every official event, big or small, with a minute of silence in their remembrance. We pause in silence for remembrance and we rejoice for our independence. Their legacy continues to inspire and touch the lives of many. Today, June 20 stands as a perpetual tribute to their sacrifices, inspiring generations to uphold the values of independence, peace, and social justice. Our Martyrs’ selflessness and unwavering dedication to a just cause will forever inspire us to continue the struggle for freedom and human rights.

And, today as in the past, in the footsteps of our martyrs, we will continue to chart our own course to full prosperity.

Eternal glory to our martyrs!!

ዓወት ንሓፋሽ!!


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