Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Egypt prepares to forcibly return Eritreans - HRW - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

November 15, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – Human Rights Watch on Monday urged the new government in Egypt against deporting Eritrean asylum seekers, who are currently being detained in the North African country.

The international advocacy group said Egyptian authorities are preparing to forcibly return a group of 118 Eritreans, including recent deserters from the Eritrean Army; accusing Cairo of renewing the trend of mass deportations it exercised in 2008 and 2009.

In most cases, Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers upon return are immediately thrown into secret detention centers where they are subjected to severe torture and other inhuman treatment, the human rights group says.

The consequences are even harsher to returnees who escaped the country’s mandatory military service, which, according to law in the Red Sea nation obliges all citizens under the age of 50 to serve in the military indefinitely.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) research indicated that on 29 October 2011, security guards at the al-Shalal prison in Aswan beat the 118 men, including 40 who already have refugee status, forcing them to sign papers for their ’voluntary’ return to Eritrea.

HRW urged the Egyptian authorities to stop forcing detained Eritreans to sign repatriation forms and allow immediate access to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) so they can interview all detained Eritreans and identify the refugees among them.

"Detaining Eritreans and then beating them to force them to sign ’voluntary’ return papers can’t mask the fact that Egypt is about to commit refoulement, the forced return of refugees to likely persecution," said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch.

"Instead of ripping up refugee law, ignoring UNHCR, and beating migrants and refugees, Egypt should protect them."

Egypt has in the past years forcibly returned thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers without considering their refugee claims. These acts breach international laws which forbid host nations from deporting asylum seekers to countries where they could face a serious risk of persecution upon return.

According to the rights group, Egyptian Interior Ministry officials over the past two months have also given Eritrean embassy officials access to detained Eritreans, including asylum seekers registered by UNHCR in other countries, to help prepare travel documents for their deportation.

“Allowing Eritrean diplomatic officials to visit detained Eritreans, including potential asylum seekers, means Egypt is violating the principle of confidentiality, essential to asylum procedures,” the group said.

The rights group further accused Egyptian authorities of blocking UN refugee agency access to detained migrants.

"By blocking UNHCR from visiting asylum seekers, the Egyptian government not only tramples on their right to seek asylum but disregards its own agreements," Simpson said.

"Egypt needs to reaffirm its agreement to protect asylum seekers and let the refugee agency interview them."

In protest to wide ranging oppression by dictatorial regime in Asmara, every month, hundreds of Eritreans flee home to neighboring countries, risking their lives to cross Eritrea’s heavily patrolled borders. Currently thousands of young Eritreans remain detained incommunicado without charge or trial for evading military conscription, in suspicion of opposition to government or for attempting to escape the country.

(ST)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eritrea :- Claims United Nations Report Critical of Eritrea is Biased

By Sophia Tesfamariam
11-11-11

Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki --writer claims U.N. report critical of Eritrea is biased








[Global Commentary: Eritrea]

The minority regime in Ethiopia, and its apologists in the media, is burning the midnight oil, attempting to disseminate the false and “cooked in Ethiopia” allegations contained in the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group’s Report (SEMG).

The UN hired the SEMG to investigate and produce a Report based on “its own independent findings” with its primary mandate being, to find out if Eritrea was in compliance with Security Council Resolution 1907 or not. The SEMG’s Report was based on self serving “intelligence” provided by the minority regime in Ethiopia, a party to the conflict in Somalia, and the one who bears primary responsibility for the carnage and chaos that defines Somalia today.

This latest attempt by the regime and its handlers to force the Un Security Council to take additional punitive actions against the State of Eritrea and its people only re-enforces what was known all along, that the sanctions against Eritrea were not an “African Initiative”, but rather a US-Ethiopia Initiative with Susan E. Rice and Meles Zenawi in the drivers seat.

The 417-page report lacked impartiality, was incoherent and had an illogical flow. The SEMG chose to go on a wild and vicious witch hunt, in search of “evidence” to fit its pre-made conclusions about Eritrea, its leadership and people. Its informants, the minority regime in Ethiopia and its cadres, are persons who are themselves involved in the criminal milieu that defines Somalia today, and can hardly be considered to be credible sources and yet, the SEMG relied almost entirely on the Ethiopian regime to build its case against Eritrea.

The SEMG did not question statements by Ethiopia and its cadres and failed to independently check the veracity of the information gathered.

In its report, the SEMG made three outrageous allegations against Eritrea:

[] Eritrea was behind a plot to bomb the African Union
[] Eritrea was trying to destabilize Djibouti
[] Eritrea was behind the July 2010 terrorist acts in Uganda

There have been many allegations made against Eritrea by the minority regime in the past, and had the SEMG done its homework, it would have known that it was Ethiopia that was feeding Djibouti, Somalia and Uganda with “faulty intelligence”, in order to get these states to sponsor the “stand alone sanctions resolution” against Eritrea, agreed to by Meles Zenawi and Susan E. Rice, as this excerpt from the Wikileak cable -AMBASSADOR RICE'S MEETING WITH ETHIOPIAN PRIME MINISTER MELES ZENAWI ON SEPTEMBER 21, 2009-shows:

“…Ambassador Rice asked Meles, views on a potential UNSC resolution creating a stand-alone Eritrea sanctions regime, separate from the exisiting Somalia sanctions regime (UNSCR 1844) under which Eritreans can be designated for threatening the peace and stability in Somalia, and violating Djibouti,s border, among other sanctionable actions. Meles strongly backs this approach…”

This is also not the first time that the regime has fabricated claims against Eritrea in order to advance its foreign policy agendas. The origins of Security Council Resolution 1907 (2009) and its architects will be covered in another seating. The minority regime in Ethiopia, led by Meles Zenawi, remains at the center of all accusations against Eritrea.

For instance, when the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia released its report in 2006, it claimed that Eritrea had “2000 forces” in Somalia. Eritrea’s rejection were downplayed and ignored by the western media. The narrative on Eritrea, to label Eritrea as a “spoiler”, to divert attention away from Ethiopia’s violation of Security Council resolution 1724, 1725 and 1744 on Somalia would not have worked without scapegoating Eritrea.

All the talk about a “proxy war” between Eritrea and Ethiopia in Somalia was a convenient ruse, to divert attention away from Meles Zenawi’s intransigence. Jenday E. Frazer, the vindictive incompetent former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs was only willing to help. It should be recalled that she falsely claimed that Eritrea was, “quite clearly attacking Ethiopia on another front”.

Today, that lie and its creators have been exposed by the Wikileak cables. As Eritreans had long suspected, the “faulty intelligence” originated from Meles Zenawi and his treacherous cadres, and was advanced by incompetent diplomats such as Frazer and with the lazy corporate media in tow. Let us take a look at what the November 2006 cable, “Ethiopia: Mfa Expert Offers Thoughts on Somalia Strategy”. The cable details the conversation between Vicki Huddleston, the US Charge D’Affaires and the regime’s “Somalia-watcher" Fiseha Shawel. Here is an excerpt:

“…NEARLY 1,000 ERITREAN TROOPS AIDING SOMALI ISLAMICISTS: Echoing statements made by senior Ethiopian officials (ref A), Fiseha warned of a "dangerous situation" in the next two to three weeks, as Eritrea reinforced its presence in Somalia and continued to supply weapons to the extremist Council of Islamic Courts (CIC). As the CIC's clear goal was a greater Somalia ruled by Islamic Shariah law, the CIC needed to be told that there could only be a negotiated settlement, not a military solution, to its struggle against Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Fiseha said. Citing the CIC's links to Al-Qaida and other non-state actors, Fiseha said a victory by the CIC would be "an invitation to terrorists around the world." …Ethiopian intelligence assessed that Eritrea had approximately 1,000 troops in Somalia assisting the CIC…”

There were diplomatic sources in Nairobi at that time who claimed the 80-page report would become a “very useful propaganda too” for hawks in the west. They were right. The faulty intelligence provided by Ethiopia was used to justify and advance the US-backed Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia on December 2006… Ethiopia’s motives were clear from day one. It was using that claim to justify its invasion of Somalia, not to “prop up” the TNG as Frazer claimed, but rather to go after Ethiopian opposition groups it believed were taking refuge in Somalia. Using the war on terror and extremists as a pre-text, on 24 December 2006 Meles Zenawi invaded and occupied Somalia for two years, in violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions. Frazer and the US State Department provided the diplomatic and political cover he needed.

To his credit, Matt Bryden, the current Chairman of the SEMG, who was the regional consultant for the International Crisis Group (ICG) at the time, cautioned against relying on such reports. He expressed his reservations by saying:

“…We need to treat many of these claims with caution until we see firm evidence…"

Unfortunately, Bryden and his team, authors of the latest SEMG report released on 19 July 2011, did not heed his own advice. This 417-page document is replete with unsubstantiated allegations, hearsay (more like bar- room say), exaggerations, distortions, even out right lies…faulty self serving intelligence provided by the minority regime in Ethiopia and its cadres.

It is said that Bryden may have been motivated by ulterior agendas, such as the recognition for Somaliland independence, which Ethiopia has been advancing at IGAD and the AU. Bryden’s conflict of interest in Somalia was raised by the Somali Permanent Representative at the UN and others. In a 2008 letter to the Security Council, he conveyed the TFG's "strongest objection" to Bryden's appointment as coordinator, but the Security Council chose to ignore it (because the US said he was not speaking on behalf of the TFG of Somalia) and eventually, the Somali representative was forced to withdraw his complaint. There were many others who questioned Bryden’s credibility and neutrality since.

In an article published on 28 July 2011 about the 18 July SEMG Report, Robert Young Pelton, a regional analyst, had this to say:

“….As a former military member who served in the region, speaks Somali, and reportedly holds a Somaliland passport, Bryden is tasked with preparing the report in conjunction with a maritime, finance and armed group expert. Their efforts are commendable but their methodology deeply questionable…Considering the major impact a UN freeze on travel and finance can have, the kangaroo court tactics, using witnesses...where possible, multiple sources...where possible and "continuously factoring in the expertise and judgment of... relevant experts" of the group to render judgment… The reader must wade through what sometimes reads like an anonymous scandal and gossip sheet due to the group's reliance on diaspora who have fled a subject region, using anonymous sources or bizarre letters from non-existent authorities …”

Said A. Saryan, a Somali author expressed his reservations about Matt Bryden with this:

“…Entrusting such a sensitive role as monitoring of arms to a de facto honorary member of one of the opposing groups in Somalia is tantamount to appointing a Serbian nationalist General to monitor and investigate the flow of arms to the Balkans!...”

Byden’s bias against Eritrea is also well documented. During his tenure at the International Crisis Group (ICG), his anti-Eritrea bias was a matter of public record. Eritrea’s principled stand of non interference in the internal affairs of Somalia and Somalia’s re-liberation and reconstitution was in sharp contrast to Byden’s agenda for Somalia and Somaliland. This excerpt from a report posted by Afrol1 in November 2010 shows that Matt Bryden had already made his conclusions about Eritrea:

“…Matt Bryden, a consultant at the International Crisis Group (ICG), recently told afrol News that the Eritrean offensive against Ethiopia goes even further, involving the Ethiopian rebel groups Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). "Eritrean-trained Oromo fighters" are being "hosted" by the Somali Islamists and the ONLF - ethnic Somali rebels in Ethiopia's Ogaden region - is being armed by Eritrea…According to security expert Bryden, Eritrea has a proper interest in fuelling an all-inclusive war in Somalia, which could spread throughout the African Horn region. "Eritrea's strategy appears to be to stretch Ethiopian military capacity by opening a second front in southern Somalia while ramping up the pressure along the Ethio-Eritrean frontier," said Mr Bryden, adding that Asmara is arming Ethiopian rebel groups…”

Bryden’s pre-made conclusions made him a perfect candidate for advancing Ethiopia’s treachery against Eritrea, severely undermining his credibility and compromising his work on behalf of the UN Sanctions Committee.

Facts about the SEMG Report and issues related to Resolution 1907 (2009)

Resolution 1907 adopted on 23 December 2009 violated Eritrea’s due process rights, and remains a violation of Articles 2, 25, 33, 39, 95 and 100 of the UN Charter. Eritrea remains in compliance with Resolution 1907 (2009) despite the fact that it is illegal, unfair and unjust.

In violation of Eritrea’s right to due process, the SEMG Report was given to Ethiopia before it was made public, posted on the UN Sanctions Committee site, or given to Eritrea, the accused party. When questioned by this author, SEMG’s Matt Bryden denied giving Ethiopia an advanced copy, but suggested that “UN agencies” may have. Ethiopia distributed the unsubstantiated document at the IGAD meeting. Ethiopia was given a copy which it used to “inflame and agitate” its members. Ethiopia continues to prevent Eritrea from participating in IGAD.

The SEMG Report lacks reliability, objectivity and impartiality because the allegations made against Eritrea are based on faulty, self serving “intelligence” provided by Ethiopia, Djibouti or the US, all parties to the conflict in Somalia. Individuals who have been presented to corroborate the SEMG’s allegations are either members of Meles Zenawi’s regime, detainees in Ethiopian jails, defectors, disgruntled ex-diplomats, asylum seekers or human traffickers. They are neither independent nor credible.

Ethiopia put out a 5-part “documentary film”, which was supposed to serve as proof of Eritrea’s involvement in the trumped up charges against the OLF. Those who have seen the amateur video said that the ignominious regime’s cadres had used “actors”, not very good ones at that, to play the part of the terrorists. Why did the regime feel it was necessary to put on such an elaborate production if it had solid evidence? Susan Rice, who today is refusing to allow Eritrea from being heard by the Security Council, should have found this to be another case of “rhetorical display designed to enflame” Council members, but she didn’t. She, like the minority regime in Ethiopia wanted to convince Council members that Eritrea was a regional threat and she didn’t care that the accusations were false or fabricated.

State Department documents as well as the Wikileak cables show that, unlike the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) does not use terrorism to advance its political agendas. All Ethiopian opposition groups, journalists and any one who opposes the minority clique is labeled “terrorist”. Meles Zenawi is using the “war on terror” as a pretext to “stamp out” his opposition.

If there was such an attempt on the African Union, would that not have been considered big news? After all, Addis based western journalists have jumped for lesser things, especially if Eritrea was the subject. On 23 February 2011, AMISOM, IGAD and the UN Political Office for Somalia announced in a joint communiqué that they had adopted a joint regional strategy to support the TFG in the management of the transitional period. The issue of the alleged attempt to bomb the African Union was not mentioned in that or any other statement at that time. With Addis Ababa being the headquarters of the African Union, the said target for the alleged bomb attacks, why didn’t they alert the UN Security Council and ask for an independent investigation? At no time has the AU or IGAD reported such a crime.

In addition, on 9 February 2011, the Sanctions Committee on Eritrea and Somalia met for the first time under its new Chair, Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, and heard the mid-term briefing by Matt Bryden, the Coordinator of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea. If the alleged bombing of the African Union were true, why didn’t Bryden bring that finding to the Committee’s attention at that time? It was during his visit to Ethiopia in March 2011 that he was presented with the “witnesses” to that alleged plot.

On 10 March 2011 when the UN Security Council issued its Presidential Statement on the Somalia issue, considering the central role played by the African Union in Somalia, the alleged attempted attack on the African Union was not mentioned. Why is that?

The terrorist bombing in Kampala, Uganda is another issue that is mentioned in the SEMG report. There were 8 Eritreans killed in the July 2010 bomb attack in Uganda. According to the Ugandan Government, those responsible for the attacks have been arrested. The “Asmara Retreat” accusation found in the SEMG report is a self serving, childish fabrication of the minority regime in Ethiopia. The individual presented in the Report as being the mastermind behind the terrorist act is an Ethiopian, not an Eritrean.

Eritrea has never sponsored any groups to attack Djibouti and has no reason to do so. Once again, those allegations came from the minority regime in Ethiopia. It was a means to create conflict between the two countries which Ethiopia said were “too close”. Ethiopia’s ill intention towards these two brotherly peoples is exposed in the Wikileak cables.

In 2006, Djibouti was opposed to military intervention in Somalia and did not support IGASOM, the proposed IGAD peacekeeping mission. Ethiopia decided to use the US to pressure Djibouti to come on board. Ethiopia also wanted Djibouti to sever its brotherly relations with Eritrea and as we shall see later, it also provided the “faulty intelligence” to inflame the President of Djibouti in mid 2009, to and coerce him into asking for sanctions against Eritrea. Ethiopia also encouraged Djibouti to escalate the already resolved border issue (according to the French Foreign Ministry) and with the help of Susan E. Rice and others in the US Administration pushed for “stand alone for sanctions against Eritrea”.

Let us begin with the September 2006 cable “ETHIOPIA: DEPUTY MINISTER TEKEDA TALKS SOMALIA, REGIONAL ISSUES WITH DAS YAMAMOTO”, which details the conversation between Ethiopia’s Deputy Minister Tekeda Alemu and US Ambassador Donald Yamamoto. The cable says:

“…The Government of Djibouti's opposition to IGAD actions in Somalia are the result of its fear of Eritrean President Isaias, Tekeda said, as well as President Guelleh's personal business interests with Eritrea. The Deputy Foreign Minister speculated that the Djiboutian leadership was worried that Eritrea would support Afari separatist movements, as Isaias had done successfully in Sudan, if Djibouti did not follow Eritrea's lead in Somalia. Tekeda also told Yamamoto that Aweys and other CIC leaders had stopped in Djibouti to meet with President Guelleh on their way back from Libya the week before. Tekeda maintained that the GOD was "on the wrong path," and added that Djibouti was not strong enough to take Ethiopia's continued friendship and forbearance for granted...”

But that was not all. Here is the rest of it:

“…Tekeda urged that the USG speak frankly with Djibouti about its role in the region. He said that President Guelleh would pay attention to U.S. concerns given the importance to him of the U.S. military base in Djibouti. "He must be told to choose" whose side he wanted to take…”

This intimidation and harassment of Djibouti is not new and will not end unless the Government and people of Djibouti assert their sovereign rights and refuse to be used as pawns in Ethiopia’s evil agendas for the region.

The SEMG accused Eritrea of trying to destabilize Djibouti by training Afar groups opposed to the Djiboutian government. Suffice it to post an excerpt from the 29 May 2009 Wikileak cable, “Djiboutian Fm Reports IGAD Seeks More Aggressive Mandate for Amisom”, which clearly shows Ethiopia as being behind the false accusations against Eritrea. Unfortunately, the Djiboutian officials didn’t realize that they were playing right into Meles Zenawi’s hands. Here is an excerpt from that cable:

“…According to Youssouf, on May 25, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin had raised with Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula the need for a concerted approach by IGAD members to the AU and to the UN Security Council, in support of such measures, as well as the need to apply greater pressure on Eritrea… Eritrea also continued to seek to destabilize Djibouti, Youssouf said. He reported that Ethiopian FM Seyoum had informed him on May 24 of Ethiopian intelligence that more than 200 rebel fighters (presumably ethnic Afars), who had been trained in Eritrea, had infiltrated Djibouti via Ras Doumeira-which has been occupied continuously by Eritrean troops since at least March 2008. Youssouf said Djibouti responded to the report by putting Djiboutian troops on alert, and activating additional forces along the border with Eritrea…”

Why would Eritrea destabilize Djibouti? To what end? Presumably, and judging from the conversations between the Djibouti officials and incompetent US diplomats in Djibouti and Addis, it is because Eritrea was “jealous” of Djibouti’s role in Somalia. That is not only a childish excuse; it is also an insult to the intelligence of the Eritrean people in particular and the people of the Horn in general. Djibouti should have asked what Ethiopia had to gain by making such an accusation.

The Djibouti issue, by all accounts, including several statements by officials from the French Foreign Ministry, had remained “static”. It was Rice and Meles that needed the Djibouti issue to escalate, as that would fit in with their agenda against Eritrea. By pushing Djibouti, their behind the scenes machinations (too numerous to mention here) for “stand alone sanctions” against Eritrea, the “static” Djibouti issue was escalated and presented as a “threat to peace and security in the region”, thus requiring Security Council action.

It was also based on Ethiopia’s “faulty intelligence” that Djibouti protested against Eritrea. In the 29 May 2009 cable,” DJIBOUTIAN FM REPORTS IGAD SEEKS MORE AGGRESSIVE MANDATE FOR AMISOM”, it is clear that it was Ethiopia that provoked Djibouti into launching protests at the Security Council against Eritrea, even though the Djibouti-Eritrea issue had remained static for almost a year. Ethiopia needed to inflame the Government of Djibouti and it did. Here is what that cable says:

“…Djibouti remained concerned about illicit Eritrean arms deliveries to insurgents in Somalia, Youssouf said, noting that Eritrean President Isaias continued to reject recognition of the TFG. Except for Eritrea, all the countries in the region were united in seeking a common approach to support Somalia, Youssouf said…Eritrea also continued to seek to destabilize Djibouti, Youssouf said. He reported that Ethiopian FM Seyoum had informed him on May 24 of Ethiopian intelligence that more than 200 rebel fighters (presumably ethnic Afars), who had been trained in Eritrea, had infiltrated Djibouti via Ras Doumeira…”

If anyone is training the Afar groups to destabilize the region, it would have to be Meles Zenawi’s regime, as it has the most to gain…an outlet to the sea. Endowed with multiple ports and long coastlines, neither Djibouti, nor Eritrea has that desperate need.

The 12/27/2009 Wikileaked cable ‘DAS WYCOFF DISCUSSES SOMALIA AND ERITREA WITH DJIBOUTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER’, clearly shows, that there were countries (US allies) that were providing arms to Somalia in violation of the Somalia Arms Embargo and yet, the US and its partners in the Horn region chose to scapegoat Eritrea and sanction Eritrea without ever producing any evidence to support their wild allegations. Let us take a look at what the cable said:

“…FM Youssouf stated that Algeria was providing 30 tons of arms to the TFG; the shipment was currently in Dire Dawa (Ethiopia), and would arrive in Djibouti December 9 or 10.The TFG had previously considered delivery by road, but was concerned about theft. Wycoff urged that care be taken in handing over the arms to avoid their being misappropriated, noting that the USG worked through AMISOM to try to ensure best use was made of any lethal equipment provided. Noting that Djibouti had previously shipped weapons to the TFG in April and June (ref B), FM Youssouf stated that Djibouti would ship the Algerian arms on to the TFG only to specific locations when specified by President Sharif…”

The Security Council should not attribute any evidentiary weight or credibility to the SEMG’s latest report and its contents, as it will not bring peace and security to Somalia, or the region. This is an attempt to “isolate” and silence Eritrea while Ethiopia and its partners work for the total and permanent disintegration of Somalia.

For those who want to preserve the credibility and integrity of the UN Security Council and its Committees, and those who seek the truth, should call for an independent investigation into all the allegations being lodged against Eritrea, especially when the allegations are coming from Meles Zenawi and his henchmen in Ethiopia.

The Security Council should also take punitive actions against the minority regime for deliberately misleading Council members and ask that Council seriously question and check for veracity “evidences” and “testimonies” presented by States who are parties to the conflict, in this case, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya , Uganda and the United States. The Security Council ought to appoint a fresh independent group of experts as the current SEMG has compromised its credibility and integrity.

The illegal, unjust and unfair sanctions resolution 1907 (2009) against the people of Eritrea must be immediately lifted and Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be restored.

The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle.

Egypt: Don’t Deport Eritreans | Human Rights Watch

Those Forcibly Returned Face Likely Persecution
NOVEMBER 15, 2011
Detaining Eritreans and then beating them to force them to sign ‘voluntary’ return papers can’t mask the fact that Egypt is about to commit refoulement, the forced return of refugees to likely persecution. Instead of ripping up refugee law, ignoring UNHCR, and beating migrants and refugees, Egypt should protect them.
Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch

(Geneva) – The Egyptian authorities are preparing to deport 118 detained Eritreans to Eritrea, where they risk persecution, Human Rights Watch said today. On October 29, 2011, guards at the al-Shalal prison in Aswan beat the 118 men, including 40 who already have refugee status, to force them to sign papers for their “voluntary” return to Eritrea, according to sources with access to the detainees.

Egypt should stop forcing detained Eritreans to sign repatriation forms and allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to interview all detained Eritreans to identify refugees among them, Human Rights Watch said. According to UNHCR, it has already registered 40 of the group as refugees in Sudan and Ethiopia. The renewed deportations signal a return to Egypt’s mass deportations of Eritreans in 2008and 2009, Human Rights Watch said.

“Detaining Eritreans and then beating them to force them to sign ‘voluntary’ return papers can’t mask the fact that Egypt is about to commit refoulement, the forced return of refugees to likely persecution,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of ripping up refugee law, ignoring UNHCR, and beating migrants and refugees, Egypt should protect them.”

Eritrea, ruled by an extremely repressive government, requires all citizens under 50 to serve in the military indefinitely. Anyone of draft age leaving the country without permission is branded a deserter, risking five years in prison, often in inhumane conditions, as well as forced labor and torture. UNHCR considers that, in practice, the punishment for desertion or evasion is so severe and disproportionate that it constitutes persecution.

Human Rights Watch spoke with multiple credible sources with regular recent access to about 160 Eritrean men and women detained for the past month in al-Shalal prison in Egypt’s southern city of Aswan.

According to the sources, the detainees said that on October 26 an Eritrean embassy official visited them and asked why they had left Eritrea. He returned on October 29 with voluntary repatriation forms and told them they would all be photographed to help prepare travel documents. The detainees all refused to sign the forms.

One of the sources who spoke with all of the detainees said the prison guards then beat 118 of them, mostly young men, to force them to sign the voluntary return papers, though the 30 or so women and seven children were not forced to sign.

Some of the detainees told one of the sources that on November 9 an Egyptian immigration officer and an Eritrean official visited the prison with additional deportation documents, including “laissez passer” papers, indicating deportation is imminent.

Ten of the men are recent deserters from Eritrea’s military. They include two senior personnel – a colonel and a person responsible for the military’s radio service – the source said. The other eight are more junior personnel, two of whom worked in food distribution services in Eritrea’s infamous Sawa military camp.

The camp is the country’s main military training center and notorious for its use of torture to punish draft evaders and people trying to escape the country, as well as for its use of forced labor.

Under Egypt’s 1954 memorandum of understanding with the UN refugee agency, the agency is supposed to carry out all refugee status determination in Egypt. This means Egyptian officials are obliged to give UNHCR access to all detained migrants to identify those who want to claim their right to seek asylum from persecution.

In practice, Egyptian authorities often deny the UN refugee agency access to detained migrants. The Egyptian authorities have not allowed UNHCR to visit the detainees, the refugee agency told Human Rights Watch.

“By blocking UNHCR from visiting asylum seekers, the Egyptian government not only tramples on their right to seek asylum but disregards its own agreements,” Simpson said. “Egypt needs to reaffirm its agreement to protect asylum seekers and let the refugee agency interview them.”

According to credible sources, over the past two months Egyptian Interior Ministry officials have given Eritrean embassy officials access to detained Eritreans, including asylum seekers registered by UNHCR in other countries, to help prepare travel documents for deportation.

Human Rights Watch said that allowing Eritrean diplomatic officials to visit detained Eritreans, including potential asylum seekers, means Egypt is violating the principle of confidentiality, essential to asylum procedures.

According to reports by Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency, in October the Egyptian authorities announced that 111 Eritreans had “voluntarily” returned to their country after they had signed Eritrean embassy paperwork. Credible sources told Human Rights Watch that Eritrean Embassy officials had visited them in prison before they were deported.

The news agency reported on October 14 that two days earlier, Egypt had deported 50 Eritreans and that, on the same day, 32 Eritreans had “illegally entered the southern border of Egypt with the intention of making their way to Sinai to illegally enter Israel.”

UNHCR said that the Egyptian authorities denied UNHCR access to some of the deportees, in line with Egypt’s policy of generally denying the refugee agency access to detained migrants. In the case of migrants intercepted in Egypt’s eastern Sinai region, UNHCR says the authorities argue that legitimate refugees should try to register with UNHCR in Cairo instead of crossing the Sinai desert.

In June 2008, Egypt summarily returned to Eritrea up to 1,200 undocumented Eritreans who had entered Egypt from Sudan. In December 2008 and January 2009, Egypt forcibly returnedmore than 45 Eritrean asylum seekers to Eritrea.

Until the reports in October, Egypt had appeared to end the deportations, except for one UNHCR-recognized Sudanese refugee, Mohammed al-Haj Abdallah, on January 25, 2010.

Under the African Refugee Convention, asylum seekers have a right to seek asylum, regardless of how they enter a country or whether they have identity documents.International law forbids countries from forcibly returning asylum seekers without first allowing them to apply for asylum and considering their cases.

Both the Convention against Torture and the African Refugee Convention forbid Egypt from sending individuals to countries where they face a serious risk of persecution or torture. Egypt is also a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which, under article 13, prohibits arbitrary expulsion and entitles foreigners to an individual decision on their removal/expulsion. The UN Human Rights Committee has interpreted article 7 of the ICCPR to forbid refoulement – or forced return – of people to places where they would be at risk of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Human Rights Watch said that no international agencies in Eritrea, including UNHCR, have been able to monitor the treatment of deported Eritreans once they are back in Eritrea. However, Eritrean refugees in various countries have told Human Rights Watch that Eritreans forcibly returned to their country are routinely detained and mistreated in detention.

UNHCR’s official Guidelines to States on the protection needs of Eritrean asylum seekers state that “[i]ndividuals of draft age who left Eritrea illegally may be perceived as draft evaders upon return, irrespective of whether they have completed active national service or have been demobilized,” and that “[t]he punishment for desertion or evasion is so severe and disproportionate such as to amount to persecution.”

Eritreans in Sinai

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eritrea sends a protest note to UN over proposed sanctions - Africa Review -

Africa Review - Eritrea sends a protest note to UN over

Eritrea sends a protest note to UN over proposed sanctions


President Isaias Afeworki's Eritrean state has been accused of sponsoring Al-Shabaab, a Somali militant group associated with the Al-Qaeda terror network. Photo | FILE |
By ARGAW ASHINEPosted Saturday, November 12 2011 at 14:27
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The Eritrean government has protested against two African nations that have a seat at UN Security council ,who are the co-sponsors of fresh proposed UN sanctions against Asmara.
Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote to UN security council on Friday arguing that both Gabon and Nigeria, two of the fifteen Security council members, cannot act on behalf of Africa on matters of sanctions.
"If Gabon or Nigeria is clamming to speak on behalf of Africa, the action violates basic tents of the AU rules and procedures" the Eritrean protest note read.
Sanctions endorsed
According to Asmara any role of proposing sanctions on behalf of Africa must be endorsed by the African Union assembly.
But an African Union senior security official, speaking on a condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, revealed that Eritrea's letter is an attempt to kill the proposed sanctions.
"The sanctions were discussed and endorsed by AU peace and Security Council. They were also discussed at IGAD," said the official adding that Gabon and Nigeria are just handling the technical work based on the AU direction.
Currently, Eritrea is under a fierce diplomatic battle to defend itself from further UN sanctions for her alleged involvement in Somalia and destabilisation of the Horn of Africa region. Eritrea is also accused of a plot to bomb a AU summit in January 2010, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Eritrea: We can't supply Somali militants weapons | World news | The Guardian

  • AP foreign,

TOM ODULA

Associated Press= NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Eritrea's ambassador to Kenya said Friday that there is no proof to back allegations that Eritrea supplied three planeloads of weapons to al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia being pursued by the Kenyan army.

Beyene Russom told The Associated Press that it would be impossible for the small, East Africa country to supply weapons because it is under a U.N. arms embargo and is being monitored by the U.S. government and the U.N.

"We can't do that because it is a very complicated operation," Russom said. "We do not have the capacity to bring three planes in two days, crossing the airspace of Djibouti, crossing the Red Sea and entering the Indian Ocean and entering Somalia airspace, unloading and flying back in this highly militarized area."

The U.S. also has a military base in Djibouti, he said.

Kenya sent hundreds of troops into Somalia last month to pursue al-Shabab, the militants it blames for a string of kidnappings inside Kenya, which it says threaten the country's economy. Last week Kenya's foreign minister summoned Russom and raised concerns over the possibility that planes from Eritrea supplied militants with weapons.

Russom said the latest accusations fit into a pattern of misinformation against his country which he blames on Ethiopia — Eritrea's longtime foe.

Shortly after he arrived in Kenya in February, Russom said his office was accused of channeling funds to al-Shabab and using the ambassador's official car to ferry weapons. He said the accusations have not been proven despite his willingness to waive diplomatic immunity to allow investigations.

The allegations were published in a report by a group of U.N. experts monitoring the arms embargoes on Eritrea and Somalia. The report also accused Eritrea of involvement in the July 2010 suicide attacks on people watching the World Cup final in Uganda's capital Kampala in which 76 people were killed, he said. Though, according to him, Uganda has never accused Eritrea of involvement.

He said Eritrea does not object to Kenya's pursuit of al-Shabab militants in Somalia, but Eritrea is concerned about what will happen to Somalia after Kenya withdraws.

"Kenya has the opportunity to bring peace in Somalia, to bring all the Somalis together supported by the international community," he said. "Talking for two years is better than fighting for one day."

Russom said the accusations that Eritrea is supporting al-Shabab started after the country objected to Ethiopia's military invasion of Somalia in 2006 to fight the Islamic Courts Union.

The Islamic Courts Union was a Somali opposition group that attempted to restore order in Somalia. But the ICU's attempts at governance failed, and the group later gave rise to al-Shabab.

Warlords overthrew longtime dictator Siad Barre in 1991, plunging the country into anarchy.

Russom said Eritrea wanted Somalis to find peace through discussions and compromise and that was its reason for opposing Ethiopia's invasion. He said Ethiopia sees a united Somalia as a threat because it is afraid the country will support ethnic Somali rebels in the Ogaden region in Ethiopia's south.

In late 2009, the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo and other tough sanctions against Eritrea for supplying weapons to al-Shabab and refusing to resolve a border dispute with neighboring Djibouti, a key U.S. ally in the Horn of Africa.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war. It has been feuding over its border with Ethiopia ever since, and uncertainty over its border with the tiny port nation of Djibouti led to hostilities between the countries in the 1990s.

In June 2008, the Security Council condemned Eritrea for launching an attack against Djibouti. The council called for a cease-fire and urged the two countries to withdraw their forces from the border. Djibouti did withdraw, but Eritrea has not.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eritrea says it can’t, won’t supply weapons to Somali militants pursued by Kenya - The Washington Post

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Eritrea’s ambassador to Kenya said Friday that there is no proof to back allegations that Eritrea supplied three planeloads of weapons to al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia being pursued by the Kenyan army.
Beyene Russom told The Associated Press that it would be impossible for the small, East Africa country to supply weapons because it is under a U.N. arms embargo and is being monitored by the U.S. government and the U.N.


“We can’t do that because it is a very complicated operation,” Russom said. “We do not have the capacity to bring three planes in two days, crossing the airspace of Djibouti, crossing the Red Sea and entering the Indian Ocean and entering Somalia airspace, unloading and flying back in this highly militarized area.”
The U.S. also has a military base in Djibouti, he said.
Kenya sent hundreds of troops into Somalia last month to pursue al-Shabab, the militants it blames for a string of kidnappings inside Kenya, which it says threaten the country’s economy. Last week Kenya’s foreign minister summoned Russom and raised concerns over the possibility that planes from Eritrea supplied militants with weapons.
Russom said the latest accusations fit into a pattern of misinformation against his country which he blames on Ethiopia — Eritrea’s longtime foe.
Shortly after he arrived in Kenya in February, Russom said his office was accused of channeling funds to al-Shabab and using the ambassador’s official car to ferry weapons. He said the accusations have not been proven despite his willingness to waive diplomatic immunity to allow investigations.
The allegations were published in a report by a group of U.N. experts monitoring the arms embargoes on Eritrea and Somalia. The report also accused Eritrea of involvement in the July 2010 suicide attacks on people watching the World Cup final in Uganda’s capital Kampala in which 76 people were killed, he said. Though, according to him, Uganda has never accused Eritrea of involvement.
He said Eritrea does not object to Kenya’s pursuit of al-Shabab militants in Somalia, but Eritrea is concerned about what will happen to Somalia after Kenya withdraws.
“Kenya has the opportunity to bring peace in Somalia, to bring all the Somalis together supported by the international community,” he said. “Talking for two years is better than fighting for one day.”
Russom said the accusations that Eritrea is supporting al-Shabab started after the country objected to Ethiopia’s military invasion of Somalia in 2006 to fight the Islamic Courts Union.
The Islamic Courts Union was a Somali opposition group that attempted to restore order in Somalia. But the ICU’s attempts at governance failed, and the group later gave rise to al-Shabab.
Warlords overthrew longtime dictator Siad Barre in 1991, plunging the country into anarchy.
Russom said Eritrea wanted Somalis to find peace through discussions and compromise and that was its reason for opposing Ethiopia’s invasion. He said Ethiopia sees a united Somalia as a threat because it is afraid the country will support ethnic Somali rebels in the Ogaden region in Ethiopia’s south.
In late 2009, the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo and other tough sanctions against Eritrea for supplying weapons to al-Shabab and refusing to resolve a border dispute with neighboring Djibouti, a key U.S. ally in the Horn of Africa.
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war. It has been feuding over its border with Ethiopia ever since, and uncertainty over its border with the tiny port nation of Djibouti led to hostilities between the countries in the 1990s.
In June 2008, the Security Council condemned Eritrea for launching an attack against Djibouti. The council called for a cease-fire and urged the two countries to withdraw their forces from the border. Djibouti did withdraw, but Eritrea has not.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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