2017 Burma Statement at UN

Agenda Item 4: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea

NGO: Jubilee Campaign

Speaker: Sini Maria Heikkila

Title: Human rights in Eritrea

Date: March 2017

Thank you Mr President.

Jubilee Campaign together with Christian Solidarity Worldwide thank the Special Rapporteur for her oral update.

In a resolution passed in July 2016 the Council accepted the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea’s findings that crimes against humanity are being and have been committed in a widespread and systematic manner. It mandated the Special Rapporteur to follow up on implementation of the Commission’s recommendations, and called, for Eritrea to co-operate fully with her and permit her unrestricted access to the country. We note with regret the government’s continuing non-engagement, as we feel constructive engagement with the Special Rapporteur, the OHCHR and other special procedures would serve as a genuine indication of commitment towards ensuring human rights. Therefore, we call for renewed international efforts towards identifying perpetraters of atrocity crimes and bringing them before a regional or international judicial mechanism.

Mr President, the resolution’s recommendations include a call for Eritrea to respect the right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief”. However, this continues to be violated. For example, in December 2016, a significant number of Christians were arrested in Asmara after being found praying, and were transported barefoot to an unknown location. In addition, we remain concerned at the continuing incommunicado detention of Abune Antonios, the legitimate Orthodox patriarch, despite reports of his imminent release in August 2016.

Eritreans continue to flee in large numbers, and the resolution called on the international community to ”strengthen efforts and collaboration” to ensure their protection. Thus it is deeply concerning that Europe is partnering with repressive nations, including Eritrea, in order to contain vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in countries where they already experience maltreatment. Also concerning is the case of 35 detained Eritrean asylum seekers in the US, who are in danger of refoulement because the immigration judge is not conversant with Eritrean situation.

We urge all signatories to the international and regional Refugee Conventions to respect the principle of non-refoulement and provide sanctuary and protection to Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers fleeing comprehensive, systematic repression, pervasive control and endemic impunity.

Thank you Mr President.