Eritrea ruled by fear, not law, UN says (BBC)

Migrants from Sub-Saharian areas receive bottles of water on a rescue boat of Italy"s Navy ship San Giorgio after being rescued in open international waters in the Mediterranean Sea between the Italian and the Libyan coasts May 14, 2014.
An estimated 5,000 Eritreans flee every month, often attempting to cross the Mediterranean

Eritrea’s government may have committed crimes against humanity, including a shoot-to-kill policy on its borders, a UN investigation says.

“It is not law that rules Eritreans – but fear,” says the report, which details extrajudicial killings, sexual slavery and enforced labour.

The situation has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to flee the country, says the report.

Eritrea declined to take part in the investigation, the UN says.

It has previously denied committing human rights abuses and says those leaving the country are economic migrants.

President Isaias Afewerki has governed the East African nation for 22 years, and the country has never held elections since gaining independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

Eritreans account for the second-largest group of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, after Syrians, with an estimated 5,000 fleeing every month.

The policy of military conscription for Eritreans once they reach the age of 18 is thought to be one of the main reasons people flee the country.


Eritrea at a glance:

  • Gained independence in 1993
  • 6.3m population
  • Opposition parties outlawed
  • Conscription can last until the age of 40
  • UN estimates 5,000 Eritreans leave each month
  • Heavily dependent on earnings of the diaspora

The UN says many conscripts are made to remain in the army indefinitely, where they receive very little pay, and are subject to forced labour and torture as a form of punishment.

A shoot-to-kill policy on the country’s borders, announced by the government in 2004 to prevent Eritreans fleeing the country, cannot be said to have been “officially abolished”, the report said.

Eritrean soldiers from 2009
The UN says Eritreans are forced into indefinite conscription, under terrible conditions

Despite several eyewitness reports and government statements suggesting that the policy was no longer being implemented, witnesses who tried to cross the border this year and in 2014, told the commission that they had been shot at by soldiers.

The year-long investigation by the UN commission of inquiry accuses Eritrea of operating a vast spying and detention network, holding people without trial for years, including children.

Neighbours and family members are often drafted to inform on each other, according to the report.

“When I am in Eritrea, I feel that I cannot even think because I am afraid that people can read my thoughts and I am scared,” said one witness interviewed for the report, describing the fear and paranoia created by the state’s mass surveillance programme.

The inquiry said that “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the Government”.

The investigators are to present their findings to the UN Human Rights Council on 23 June.

Source: BBC

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Posted by on June 8, 2015. Filed under NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to Eritrea ruled by fear, not law, UN says (BBC)

  1. Namaga

    June 9, 2015 at 11:23 AM

    None of the dismal political and personal freedoms are new to both Ethiopia and Eritrea. I think good life in Europe and north America has been marketed to the Eritrean and Ethiopian people. These economic migrants want to go to the ‘promised land’. If you look into the ethnic groups of the migrants, majority are from Tigrinya speaking tribe in Eritrea that is ruling Eritrea and Tigray and Amara who jointly are ruling Ethiopia. Both governments in Eritrea and Ethiopia have come to power with huge military and financial assistance of the US, Canada, Australia and Western Europe. And the US is also implementing immigration lottery called Diversity Visa to these favored tribes. These migrants are those desperates who did not win the DV lottery.