Saturday, December 22, 2012

United Nations News Centre - Eritrea must cooperate in human rights dialogue, urges UN independent expert




21 December 2012 – The Government of Eritrea must cooperate with an international mandate to provide “an objective, fair and impartial picture” of the human rights situation in the Horn of Africa country, a United Nations independent expert urged today.
“I hope that the Eritrean Government would consider the mandate of the Special Rapporteur as an opportunity to start a fresh and constructive dialogue on human rights issues that have been raised by the international community and other stakeholders,” Beedwantee Keetharuth, the newly-appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, stated in a news release.
According to multiple reports, the human rights situation in Eritrea is generally viewed as being poor, with allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as widespread constraints on freedom of speech. In one example dating to early September of this year, the UN condemned the deaths of three Eritrean media workers who had been kept in a prison camp for over a decade.
In July this year, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in which it strongly condemned the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights committed by the Eritrean authorities, the severe restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression, and the forced conscription of citizens for indefinite periods. At the same time, it decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the matter.
In keeping with her mandate, Ms. Keetharuth, a lawyer from Mauritius with extensive experience in monitoring and documenting human rights violations across Africa, is expected to present her report on Eritrea’s human rights situation to the Council in June 2013.
Ahead of that, she had requested meetings with the country’s diplomats in Geneva and London at the start of her mandate this past November. She noted, however, that the meetings had yet to take place.
“The aim was to introduce myself and present my vision of the mandate in a spirit of openness, as well as to explore avenues for cooperation,” she continued. “I have now requested to travel to Eritrea in early 2013.”
In the news release, Ms. Keetharuth expressed faith that the Eritrean Government would ultimately view her mandate as an opportunity to carefully address the country’s “compliance with its human rights obligations as contained in international treaties to which the country is a party.”
In the meantime, the UN expert added that she would engage with other parties affected by human rights issues in the Eritrea, including those who consider themselves to be the victims of alleged human rights violations, human rights defenders and other civil society actors.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs such as Ms. Keetharuth, are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

New UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea urges Government to cooperate


GENEVA (21 December 2012) – The newly-appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Beedwantee Keetharuth, on Friday urged the Eritrean authorities to cooperate with her mandate, as required by the UN Human Rights Council.
“I hope that the Eritrean Government would consider the mandate of the Special Rapporteur as an opportunity to start a fresh and constructive dialogue on human rights issues that have been raised by the international community and other stakeholders,” Ms. Keetharuth said. She also noted that the primary concern of the Special Rapporteur is to provide an objective, fair and impartial picture of human rights in Eritrea.
The human rights expert also said she trusted the Eritrean Government would view her mandate as an opportunity “to carefully address Eritrea’s compliance with its human rights obligations as contained in international treaties to which the country is a party.”
As Ms. Keetharuth is due to present her first report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013, she requested meetings with Eritrean diplomats in Geneva and in London at the start of her mandate.
“The aim was to introduce myself and present my vision of the mandate in a spirit of openness, as well as to explore avenues for cooperation. Unfortunately these meetings have not yet taken place,” Ms. Keetharuth said. “I have now requested to travel to Eritrea in early 2013.”
In the meantime, the Special Rapporteur will engage with all others concerned by human rights in Eritrea, including those who consider themselves to be victims of alleged human rights violations, human rights defenders and other civil society actors.
ENDS
Beedwantee Keetharuth was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea during the 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012. She took up her functions on 1 November 2012. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. A lawyer from Mauritius, she has extensive experience in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, advocacy, training and litigation in human rights in Africa.
UN Human Rights, country page – Eritrea: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ERIndex.aspx
For more information and media requests, please contact Birthe Ankenbrand (+41 22 928 9465 / bankenbrand@ohchr.org) or write to sr-eritrea@ohchr.org
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Cécile Pouilly, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 93 10 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)
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