Eritrea: CSW welcomes EU Parliament resolution condemning human rights violations

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has welcomes the resolution passed by the European Parliament (EP) on 6 July which comprehensively addresses the human rights crisis in Eritrea and recommends steps that can be taken by individual nations and regional or international bodies to assist in improving it.

The significant EP resolution “condemns in the strongest terms the “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” underway in Eritrea.

Amongst other things, it notes the rise in “harassment of and violence against those practising religious faiths” since 2016, and calls on the Eritrean Government to put an end to the “detention of the opposition, journalists, religious leaders and innocent civilians”. The resolution also calls for all prisoners of conscience to be released “immediately and unconditionally”, demanding that the Eritrean government supplies detailed information on “all those deprived of physical liberty.”

Specific reference is made to the cases of Dawit Isaak, one of ten journalists detained incommunicado since 2001, and of the legitimate Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios, who has been under incommunicado house arrest since 2007, and is reported to be suffering from ill-health after allegedly being poisoned. Also mentioned by name is Eritrea’s former foreign minister Petros Solomon, one of 11 politicians detained incommunicado since 2001 for calling for political reform.

In the resolution, the EP expresses “its full support” for the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, stating that unhindered access to the country must be extended to “international and regional human rights bodies, including special rapporteurs”, to enable the monitoring of improvements in human rights.

The strongly-worded resolution highlights a continuing dissonance within the EU and its institutions with regard to Eritrea. Not only does it reference the finding by the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE) that Eritrea’s shoot-to-kill border policy may constitute a crime against humanity; it also urges Eritrea to end ‘guilt-by-association’ policies whereby families of escapees are detained. In contrast, during the recently concluded 35th Human Rights Council (HRC) session several European nations were at the forefront of unsuccessful attempts to remove any mention of these violations from the final resolution, and to minimise references to the COIE.

The resolution also denounces the resumption of “major EU aid to Eritrea” and particularly, the approval in 2016 of 200 million Euros under the National Indicative Programme (NIP), which occurred despite the EP’s reservations and recommendations. Emphasising the fact that Eritrea’s partnership with the EU is governed by the Cotonou Agreement, which describes “good governance” as a fundamental element of partnership, the resolution calls on the EC to review its scrutiny arrangements with the EP, insisting the Commission obtains guarantees from Eritrea that democratic reforms will be implemented, and human rights ensured.

In addition, while the Commission’s migration policies have involved partnering with Eritrea to stem the flow of refugees and asylum seekers, the EP resolution urges EU Member States not to return Eritreans seeking asylum in Europe as they are likely to be detained and tortured. It also urges EU member states to prevent the collection of the 2% diaspora tax within their borders, and calls on the EU to collaborate with the UN and the African Union to “closely monitor the overall situation in Eritrea and to report all cases of violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We warmly welcome the EP resolution, which not only encompasses the wide scope of violations underway in Eritrea, but also addresses worrying aspects of EU policy. In particular, a migration policy that appears to address the refugee crisis in terms by prioritising a development-oriented partnership with a government whose officials stand accused of committing the atrocity crimes and other violations that drive the exodus. In light of the continuing and severe violations underway in Eritrea, CSW urges a re-assessment of the EU-Eritrea partnership to ensure compliance with the Cotonou Agreement, with regard to human rights and democratisation. We also reiterate the call for the release of all of Eritrea’s prisoners of conscience without precondition.”

For further information see: www.csw.org.uk.