Sunday, April 14, 2013

Civil Society wants greater focus on human rights violations in Eritrea


Eritrea’s rights violations goes beyond the country’s borders, claims Hala Alkarib.

Free Eritrea democracy march in San Francisco 159
Free Eritrea democracy march in San Francisco (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)
The Eritrean state has become synonymous with human rights abuses against its population, NGOs in the Horn of Africa, demanding greater attention to rights abuses in that country, said on Wednesday.

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA Network) and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRD) accuse Eritrea’s military regime of imposing strict controls upon religious freedom, freedom of movement, access to food, healthcare, and freedom of expression.

During an April 10, 2013 discussion held on the margins of the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (April 9-23), the SIHA Network and EHAHRD said Eritrean government also represses civil and political rights activists with arbitrary arrest, detention and torture as a mean to forced compliance.

The African Commission is set up as an institution address human rights violations taking place within the continent.

“The influences of the depressing situation in Eritrea expand beyond the country’s borders,” Hala Alkarib, Regional Director SIHA Network said. “Eritrean refugees are being executed, tortured, detained, enslaved and kidnapped in the territories of Sudan and Egypt.”

To Alkarib’s dismay, both Sudan and Egypt are ignoring their legal responsibilities towards the Eritrean refugee population.

Hassan Shire, Director of EHAHRDP said “Human rights defenders and journalists who speak about the issues are always targeted.”

The event was attended by the UN Special Rapporteur for Eritrea, Ms Sheila Keetharuth and African civil society organisations.  

English: Presidential Flag of Eritrea
English: Presidential Flag of Eritrea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Background

Eritrea was granted independence as a State by the UN in 1993, and despite provisions for the creation of a multi-party democracy by the 1997 Constitution, the country has been strictly ruled as a one-party state.

National elections have never taken place in that country even though they have been scheduled (the most recent in 2001). The People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) led by President Isaias Afewerki continues to rule unchallenged.

Mr Afewerki has sanctioned that only four religious groups are permitted, they are, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Eritrean Lutheran Church, and Sunnite Islam.

Eritrea has signed, ratified or acceded to multiple international human rights treatises inclusive of the International Convention for the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among many others.

“There exists however a significant disparity between the written commitments and the actualisation of these rights in Eritrean society,” human rights NGOs said.

An enlargeable map of the State of Eritrea
An enlargeable map of the State of Eritrea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Although legislation permits freedom of movement and foreign migration, in practice, many restrictions apply. “Persons who are undertaking national service for example are routinely denied permission to leave,” they said.

According to UN High Commission for Refugees, up to 3000 refugees are leaving Eritrea every month. The UNHCR estimates as of January 2012 indicated there were 251,954 Eritrean refugees and 14,172 asylum seekers spread across the Horn of Africa.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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