Source: UN A/HRC/47/L.14

Human Rights Council
Forty-seventh session
21 June–13 July 2021
Agenda item 2

Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the
High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Albania,* Australia,* Austria, Belgium,* Bulgaria, Canada,* Croatia,* Cyprus,*
Czechia, Denmark, Estonia,* Finland,* France, Germany, Greece,* Hungary,*
Ireland,* Italy, Latvia,* Liechtenstein,* Lithuania,* Luxembourg,* Malta,* Monaco,*
Montenegro,* Netherlands, North Macedonia,* Norway,* Poland, Portugal,*
Romania,* Slovakia,* Slovenia,* Spain,* Sweden,* Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America: draft resolution
47/… Situation of human rights in Eritrea

The Human Rights Council,
Guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant international human
rights instruments,

Recalling General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, Human Rights
Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2, both of 18 June 2007, resolution 91 and decisions 250/2002,
275/2003 and 428/12 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and all
previous Council resolutions on the situation of human rights in Eritrea,
Noting the regional developments in recent months and their implications, including
for human rights in Eritrea,

Welcoming the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in
Eritrea and his conclusions,

Expressing deep concern at the ongoing human rights violations and abuses, as
outlined by the Special Rapporteur in his report,

  1. Requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
    Rights to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its forty-ninth session on
    progress made in the cooperation between Eritrea and the Office of the High Commissioner,
    and its impact on the situation of human rights in Eritrea;
  2. Decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of
    human rights in Eritrea for a further period of one year, and to continue to assess and report
    on the situation of human rights in follow-up to the report of the Special Rapporteur, and
    requests the Special Rapporteur to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its
    forty-ninth session during an interactive dialogue, and to present during an interactive
  • State not a member of the Human Rights Council.
    1 A/HRC/47/21.
    United Nations A/HRC/47/L.14
    General Assembly Distr.: Limited
    7 July 2021
    Original: English
    dialogue a report on the implementation of the mandate to the Council at its fiftieth session
    and to the General Assembly at its seventy-sixth session;
  1. Calls upon the Government of Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Special
    Rapporteur, including by granting him access to the country and committing to making
    progress on the benchmarks proposed by the previous mandate holder;
  2. Requests the Secretary-General to provide the Special Rapporteur with all the
    information and resources necessary to fulfil the mandate;
  3. Decides to remain seized of the matter.
    2 See A/HRC/41/53, paras. 78-82.

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on Human Rights in Eritrea

06 March 2023

Source: United Nations


Nada Al-Nashif United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

AT 52nd session of the Human Rights Council


Room XX, Palais des Nations


STATEMENTS AND SPEECHESOral updates and introduction to country reports of the High Commissioner and her Office on Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Cyprus and Eritrea

STATEMENTSHigh Commissioner’s global update of human rights concerns

STATEMENTSHigh Commissioner updates the Human Rights Council on human rights concerns, and progress, across the world

Mr. Vice-President,
Your Excellencies,

It is my honour to address you on the human rights situation in Eritrea since the last oral update by the former High Commissioner in March 2022.

The human rights situation in Eritrea remains dire and shows no sign of improvement. It continues to be characterised by serious human rights violations. Our Office continues to receive credible reports of torture; arbitrary detention; inhumane conditions of detention; enforced disappearances; restrictions of the rights to freedoms of expression, of association, and of peaceful assembly. Thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience have, reportedly, been behind bars for decades. Furthermore, the harassment and arbitrary detention of people because of their faith continues unabated with estimated hundreds of religious leaders and followers affected.

Furthermore, Eritreans continue to be subjected to indefinite military or national service, which intensified following the Tigray conflict. I would like to recall the story of a young man whose brother was compelled to escape to the forest to avoid forced conscription and has spent the last eight years of his life hiding there, occasionally entering the city at night, to get food and water.  Conscripts continue to be drafted for an open-ended duration of service beyond the 18 months provided by law, often in abusive conditions, which can include the use of torture, sexual violence and forced labour. Those who attempt to desert military service are detained and punished. Eritrea further continues with the practice of punishing family members for the behaviour of relatives who evade the draft, including by home evictions.

In fact, the national service remains the main reason Eritreans flee the country. According to UNHCR, at the end of 2022, there were over 160,000 and 130,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Ethiopia and Sudan, respectively, representing a slight increase from previous years mainly from the age group of 18 to 49 years old. Recently, there have been reports of some other countries engaging in forced returns of Eritrean asylum seekers, which exposes returnees to serious human rights violations in the country.

We reiterate our call to Eritrea to bring its national service in line with its international human rights obligations; and call upon States to stop the forcible return of asylum seekers to Eritrea.

Your Excellencies,

It is alarming that all these human rights violations are committed in the context of complete impunity. Eritrea has not taken any demonstrable steps to ensure accountability for past and ongoing human rights violations. No person has been held accountable for the human rights violations documented by the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea in 2016 and in 2017, which found that Eritrea had committed crimes against humanity, including enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, and other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder. In addition, Eritrea has not taken any steps to establish accountability mechanisms for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) in the context of the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia as found by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) of our Office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Eritrea has rejected this JIT report and has allowed perpetrators in the EDF to act with impunity. There is no genuine prospect that the domestic judicial system will hold perpetrators to account.

Furthermore, reports show that while the EDF has commenced withdrawal from Tigray, as requested under the Agreement for Lasting Peace through a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities that was signed in Pretoria, South Africa, in November of last year, the withdrawal remains very slow and largely incomplete, which requires continued monitoring and reporting of the situation.

Your Excellencies,

Let me now turn to Eritrea’s engagement and cooperation with our Office. Following his January 2022 visit to Eritrea to attend the launch of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework discussions, our Regional Representative for East Africa led a second mission to Eritrea in May 2022, at the invitation of the Government. The mission explored areas of technical support and assistance following technical assessment visits by our Office to the country in 2015, 2016 and 2017.   

During the visit, the team met with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Information, and other senior government officials, as well as our development partners. Following discussions with national counterparts, five areas were identified for potential technical cooperation and support by our Office including on (1) enhancing rights as part of a transformative justice system; (2) the harmonisation of “indigenous or traditional laws” in line with international and regional human rights norms; (3) support to a regional conference on traditional justice; (4) enhancing the rights and protection of persons with disabilities; and (5) capacity building on the effective engagement with UN human rights mechanisms.

Further to these two missions, the authorities have not responded to our follow-up towards devising a concrete plan of activities and implementation. Similarly, in Geneva, the Permanent Mission has not engaged with our Office, nor has our Office received any response to communications relating to Eritrea’s involvement in the conflict in Tigray.  This total lack of cooperation is in stark contrast to Eritrea’s commitments as a member of the Human Rights Council and its voluntary pledge as a member of this Council to continue its engagement with our Office. 

Your Excellencies,

OHCHR is unable to progress with technical engagement and cooperation in light of Eritrea’s lack of response over the years.  While we welcome the Government’s increased engagement with the United Nations Country Team in the context of the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, there is a need for engagement on critical human rights issues, through dialogue with our Office and extension of full cooperation to international human rights mechanisms. This includes the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and the relevant thematic Special Procedures mandate holders notably those who have requested a visit – including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Eritrea also has a number of overdue reports to United Nations treaty bodies (the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee Against Torture).

During its third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in January 2019, Eritrea made important commitments supporting 131 out of 261 recommendations, including on peace, justice and on supporting stronger institutions. During our Office’s last visit in May 2022, the Government stated that a coordinating body on reporting had designed a plan and a framework for action to implement these recommendations. Our Office has not seen this plan despite our follow up.

In closing, let me reiterate our call for the Government to engage in a full and frank dialogue with our Office. We remain ready to build on these missions to Eritrea, particularly last year, to begin to address some of most serious human rights concerns, including through the provision of technical support. I also call on Member States to encourage and facilitate the engagement by Eritrea with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

Thank you.

Statement on Eritrea During Interactive Dialogue

Item 2 – Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea

Today’s interactive dialogue on Eritrea is timely.

Since the last Council discussion on Eritrea, the government of Eritrea has conducted an intensive forced recruitment campaign , during which it collectively punished relatives of alleged draft evaders and deserters. Older people and women with young children were evicted from their homes and arbitrarily detained, some cut off from the government coupons critical to many people’s survival. This has continued into early 2023.

Despite a cessation of hostilities agreement between Ethiopia and Tigrayan authorities, Eritrean forces in the Tigray region have continued to commit serious violations, including widespread killings and sexual violence. To date Eritrea has not publicly acknowledged abuses that its forces have committed, let alone whether these egregious crimes will be investigated and prosecuted.

Inside Eritrea, authorities continue to detain individuals incommunicado and indefinitely, some for decades. Last December marked  10-years since the enforced disappearance of Ciham Ali, detained by the authorities since the age of 15.  

The authorities also continue to detain people purely because of their religious beliefs. Three Catholic priests, including one of the country’s bishops who has called for peace in Tigray, were arbitrarily held for over two months in late 2022. 

Eritrea’s membership of the Human Rights Council has not led Eritrean authorities to observe greater respect for international human rights law nor to implement key recommendations made by the Council’s procedures, making a mockery of the Council’s membership standards.

Ongoing Council scrutiny and discussions on the Eritrean government’s dire rights record at home and abroad remain essential.

HRC52: UK Statement on Eritrea

During the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UK delivered a statement on Eritrea on 6 March 2023.From:UK Mission to the WTO, UN and Other International Organisations (Geneva)Published6 March 2023

Thank You, Mr Vice-President, and thank you to the panellists for their presentations.

The UK continues to be deeply concerned about the dire state of human rights in Eritrea, which shows no signs of improving. We recall that Eritrea’s policy of indefinite national service violates the human rights of its people, affecting the lives of thousands and as the Deputy High Commissioner has said is the primary reason so many of Eritrea’s young people seek to leave the country. We also call yet again for all those in Eritrea who have been arbitrarily detained and held incommunicado, including thousands detained solely based on their religion or belief, to be released at once.

Mr Vice-President, we must also mention the conflict in Ethiopia, and the grave conclusions by the Joint Investigation of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, that Eritrean troops had likely committed human rights abuses and violations, as well as violations of international humanitarian law and international refugee law while in Ethiopia, including against Eritrean refugees living in camps just across the border.
We call on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with any inquiry into these serious allegations, including any accountability or transitional justice processes arising from the Pretoria Peace Agreement.

Mr Vice President, we would like to ask the Panel what, if any, further steps this Council could be taking to encourage Eritrea to abide by its human rights obligations, including to cooperate fully with this Council, and with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Eritrea.

Thank you