The objectives of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea and ways of making its work a success were the main issues discussed at a public meeting in Geneva on Sunday, 21 September, organized by Swiss-Eritrean Youth for Progress and Solidarity (SEYPS) and endorsed by members of Eritrean civic associations and political organizations in Switzerland.
The speakers were Ms Elsa Chyrum, director of the Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRC-E) and Ms Veronica Almedom, coordinator of activities of the newly formed SEYPS.
Ms Elsa Chyrum and youthful Veronica Almedom explained that the Inquiry Commission on Eritrea, which was established by the decision of the UN Human Rights Council, last June, aims to investigate and officially document the alleged human rights abuses of the Eritrean regime since its formation 23 years ago.
In her detailed clarifications, Ms Elsa Chyrum listed the abuses that have to be reported by all victims of the regime and their relatives and friends. She urged all sister organizations in the opposition camp to play effective roles in promoting the objectives of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea which is designed to report its findings within one year. “This is a rare chance for Eritreans to give a clear picture of their sad situation to the UN and the world at large”, she said invited all concerned to send their stories to the UN Commission of Inquiry or to the newly started HRC-E website on this important subject (WWW.coi-eritrea.orga) . Full text of the presentation made by Ms Elsa Chyrum will be posted in www.harnnet.org as it is obtained.
Ms Veronica Almedom, raised and educated in Switzerland like many in the SEYPS, also made a lively presentation supported by power-point notes identifying the potential targets for Eritreans in Switzerland in their efforts to promote the work of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea. She stated that 4,823 Eritrean refugees asked asylum in Switzerland between January and August 2014 alone, thus raising the total of recent time Eritrean refugees in Switzerland to 22,674.
The public awareness meeting in Geneva was attended by young refugees and members of civic associations and political organizations, among them EPDP members like the head of the party’s foreign office, Mr. Woldeyesus Ammar, and human rights activists like Dr. Daniel Rezene.
Printed below is a background information from the new HRC-Eritrea website: (WWW.coi-eritrea.org
On the 27th of June, 2014, the UN Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Eritrea to investigate and officially document the systematic violations of human rights in Eritrea.
Together with other global human rights organizations, Human Rights Concern-Eritrea presented the request to the Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea.
Eritrea: HRC Must Establish a Commission of Inquiry
25 June 2014
We the undersigned are writing to call on the UN’s Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Eritrea given the ongoing gross and systematic human rights violations being committed by the government of Eritrea against its own people with total impunity, and its continuing policy of non-cooperation with the UN’s human rights mechanisms, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.
We believe that the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry is imperative given the human rights violations recorded by the UN Special Rapporteur, as well as those attested to during each of Eritrea’s Universal Periodic Reviews, and in the extensive documentation compiled by NGOs and civil society groups over many years.
A Commission of Inquiry would significantly increase the international exposure and understanding of the situation in Eritrea, giving a voice to the vast numbers of suffering Eritreans, and ensuring that those complicit in these terrible yet hidden crimes are exposed and called to account.
· There is no independent judicial process, unions cannot be formed, and political parties cannot be created.
· There is no press freedom and all independent media organisations were closed in 2001 and journalists imprisoned.
· Thousands of Eritreans are detained arbitrarily in inhumane conditions and on the flimsiest of pretexts, suffering routine deprivation, torture and extrajudicial execution.
· There are no universities and young people face compulsory conscription into the military.
· Army conscripts, including the under-aged, endure indefinite terms of service and suffer forced labour in development projects, farms, or the mining sector while receiving a negligible wage.
· Female conscripts endure sexual abuse and harassment from senior army officers, and family members of national service absconders are targeted, extorted or imprisoned.
· There is no religious freedom.
· There are an estimated two to three thousand Christians detained indefinitely in Eritrea without charge or trial, and all are held pending a denial of faith.
· In addition, Eritreans living abroad are obliged to pay 2% tax on all earnings to the authorities.
Eritrea’s continuing refusal to cooperate with the mandate is deeply unfortunate as doing so would indicate a genuine commitment towards improving its human rights record. Instead Eritrea indefinitely delays the implementation of UPR recommendations and persists in excusing its lack of progress by referencing the “no war, no peace” border situation. However, as stated in the recent Pastoral Letter issued by four of Eritrea’s courageous Catholic Bishops, “The true enemy of peace is injustice. Respect for persons, for their dignity and their rights is the corner-stone of peace.”
Thousands of Eritreans continue to flee the country each month, with unknown numbers falling victim to traffickers or suffering privations in detention centers in the Middle East and North Africa. Hundreds more continue to risk their lives crossing deserts and seas in pursuit of sanctuary from an all-encompassing repression.
In light of this situation, we strongly urge the Human Rights Council to adopt by consensus its draft resolution, including the provision for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.
Action de Development Suiss-Afrique
Action International for Peace and Development
Associazione per la Tutela dei Diritti Umani del Popolo Eritreo
Burmese Rohingya Organisation U.K.
Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Conectas Direitos Humanos
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Eritrean for Human and Democratic Rights in U.K.
Eritrean Global Solidarity
Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights
Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change
Espace Afrique International
Guardavanti: per il futuro dei bambini ONLUS
Habeshia Agency Cooperation for Development
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
Human Rights House Foundation
Human Rights Without Frontier
Insieme per l’Africa ONLUS
International Committee for the Respect & Application of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
International Fellowship of Reconciliation
International Humanist and Ethical Union
Jubilee Campaign USA
Liberi di Credere
Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network
Réseau des Défenseur des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale
Stop National Service Slavery Campaign