Tuesday, July 17, 2018

UN of Egregious Rights Violations in Eritrea

UN of Egregious Rights Violations in Eritrea and Vietnam

15 hrs-edited
HRF submitted contributions to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s UPR of Eritrea and Vietnam.
NEW YORK (July 16, 2018) — On July 12, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) submitted contributions to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Eritrea and Vietnam. The UPR is a mechanism of the council established to periodically examine the human rights performance of all U.N. member states. HRF used this opportunity to draw attention to pressing human rights issues in two states run by dictatorial regimes.
In the individual submission for Eritrea, HRF explained that the country has failed to improve human rights conditions since its last official review in 2014. HRF stated that there are systematic, widespread, and gross violations of human rights in the country. The report highlighted recent cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings, and discussed the appalling situation in Eritrea’s military training centers, where Eritreans are often subjected to various forms of torture and ill-treatment.
“Afwerki’s regime has no respect whatsoever for the human rights and dignity of the Eritrean people. Fundamental rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression, association, religion, and due process of law are consistently and systematically violated. The U.N. Human Rights Council must urgently press the government of Eritrea to answer for its egregious human rights abuses,” said Celine Assaf Boustani, HRF’s international legal associate and co-author of the UPR submission on Eritrea.
HRF urged the Eritrean government to release all prisoners of conscience, and ensure humane treatment to those held in detention facilities and military training centers. HRF also called on the government to fully implement the Convention Against Torture and to recognize the competence of the U.N. Committee Against Torture to handle individual complaints.
In the joint submission with CIVICUS and VOICE on Vietnam, HRF stressed that the Vietnamese government systematically cracks down on human rights defenders and those who dare to dissent.
“Vietnam is one of the worst violators of human rights in Asia, but the government has so far faced very few consequences for its actions. We urge the U.N. Human Rights Council to hold Vietnam accountable and support the brave human rights defenders who continue to carry out their work even as the communist regime seeks to undermine them,” said Joy Park, HRF’s legal counsel for Asian countries.
The UPR is the first international human rights mechanism to address all countries and all human rights. Its main goals are the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground and the fulfillment of member states’ human rights obligations and commitments.
The submissions to the UPR were prepared by the Human Rights Foundation Center for Law and Democracy (HRF-CLD). HRF-CLD promotes legal scholarship in the areas of comparative constitutional law and international law, with a focus on international human rights law and international democracy law. HRF has presented submissions in the past to the UPR for NigeriaTurkmenistan, and Cuba.
Read the full submission for Eritrea here. For more information on human rights in Eritrea, watch Vanessa Berhe’s talk from the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum and Meron Estefanos' talk from the 2013 Oslo Freedom Forum.
Read the full submission for Vietnam here. HRF also recently submitted an individual complaint to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention drawing attention to the case of jailed Vietnamese activist Trần Thi Xuân. Read the individual complaint here.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
For press inquiries, please contact media@hrf.org.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Eritrean officials visit Ethiopia for first time since 1998

The first high-level Eritrean delegation in decades has reached Ethiopia for a visit which could ease decades of military tension.
Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year conflict - but a border war five years later killed tens of thousands.
Diplomatic ties have been cut between the two countries for almost 20 years.
Last week, Ethiopia's prime minister said he would accept a peace deal awarding Eritrea disputed territory.
The deal, agreed by a border commission in 2002, had never formally been accepted by his country.
Abiy Ahmed became prime minister after his predecessor resigned in February, and has enacted a series of reforms since.
On Sunday, a political rally he attended was hit by a grenade blast which killed two people and injured dozens, though Mr Ahmed was uninjured.
The Eritrean delegation, led by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh, was greeted by the prime minister in Addis Ababa, where a literal red carpet was rolled out and the visitors were offered garlands of flowers.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L) walks with Eritrea's Foreign minister Osman Saleh Mohammed (R) as Eritrea's delegation arrives for peace talks with Ethiopia at the international airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 26, 2018.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionEthiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed, left, greets Eritrea's Foreign Minister Osman Saleh
Ethiopian elders, religious figures, and traditional dancers were all part of the welcoming committee.
In the streets of the capital, a poster showing both flags together with a message of welcome hung from buildings.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Ahmed's chief of staff said the prime minster "hopes the visit will lay the foundation for a much brighter future for Ethiopia [and] Eritrea".

የኤርትራ ልዑካን ቡድን አባላት አዲስ አበባ ሲገቡ

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Human Rights Abuses of Eritreans, At Home and Abroad | Human Rights Watch

Co-Chairman Hultgren and members of the Commission, thank you for the invitation to testify today.
Thousands of Eritreans, many of them young, flee Eritrea every month. This means Eritrea is losing a significant percentage of its population – by far the largest of any country not wracked by active conflict. UNHCR reported that at the end of 2016 there were 459,000 Eritreans who had claimed asylum worldwide in African states, in the Middle East, in Europe and here in the United States. Eritrea does not release population statistics, but estimations put that at more than 10% of Eritrea’s current population.
Based on Human Rights Watch research, Eritreans’ most predominant impetus for flight is to escape what is known as “national service.” By a proclamation issued in 1995, all Eritreans are subject to 18 months of national service, including six months of military training. Eritrean law requires Eritreans leaving the country to hold an exit permit which the authorities only issue selectively, severely punishing those caught trying to leave without one, including with jail time.
To be clear, limited terms of national conscription do not, in themselves, constitute human rights violations. But it is not limited in Eritrea. The Eritrean government disregards the proclamation’s time limits. Many conscripts are forced to serve indefinitely. Human Rights Watch has interviewed hundreds of Eritreans who were forced to serve a decade or more before they decided to flee -- in one recent case, a man had been in forced national service for over 17 years.
While some fortunate conscripts are assigned to civil service jobs or as teachers, many are placed in military units assigned to work on “development” projects in agriculture and infrastructure. None have a choice about their assignments, the locations or length of their service.
In the past few years, more and more unaccompanied children have fled Eritrea. When interviewed in Europe, they’ve explained they feared being forced into possibly indefinite military service. Many children told us they had observed what had happened to their fathers, older siblings, or other close relatives who had been conscripted and didn’t want to suffer the same fate.
It’s not just the length of time that causes so many conscripts to flee. What happens to them during their years of service is also devastating.
Pay during national service is below subsistence, although the Eritrean government has recently announced increases for some conscripts. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry in 2015 correctly called Eritrea’s national service a form of “enslavement.” During service, commanders subject conscripts to physical abuse, including torture.
An 18-year-old boy, interviewed by Human Rights Watch summed up what many have told us: “We love our country, but when you finish Grade 12, you become a soldier for life. You cannot feed your family and you’re the property of the army. And I did not want that, so I was forced to flee.”
The abuses in national service are long standing and well-documented, and recent interviews reveal that, sadly, nothing has changed in recent years.
National service may be the leading cause of the Eritrean exodus but there are others of significance.
Citizens cannot express their views or question government policies affecting them. There is no legislative representation, no independent press, no independent non-governmental organizations to which citizens can turn. The judiciary is tightly controlled by the government. President Isaias has refused to implement a constitution approved by referendum in 1997 that confers some citizens’ basic rights.
Eritreans who criticize or question government policies during government-called community assemblies, or in more limited fora, have been punished without trial or means of appeal. Suspicion alone may be enough to lead to arrest; often a prisoner is not told what “crime” he or she has committed. Indefinite imprisonment is a usual punishment, sometimes accompanied by physical abuse. Imprisonment can be incommunicado; relatives are not told of the whereabouts of a prisoner, much less allowed to visit.
Relatives of those that speak out are also punished. They are denied government ration cards to buy scarce but essential provisions.
Eritreans are punished for having the “wrong” religious beliefs. Since 2002, the government has “recognized” only four religious groups: Sunni Islam and the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical (Lutheran) churches.
At times, security personnel raid private homes where devotees of unrecognized religions meet for communal prayer. Arrests and imprisonment of attendees usually follow; so, sometimes, does physical abuse. Repudiation of his or her religion is typically the price of a prisoner’s release.
Even adherents and leaders of the “recognized” religions are not necessarily immune from punishment. [as Father Thomas will already have explained to the Commission in detail.]
But unfortunately, abuses do not stop when people leave Eritrea. Fleeing Eritreans are often victimized by their smugglers especially those trying to reach the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe. Abuses are rampant in Sudan, Egypt and Libya en route and hundreds have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. Those who survived have told Human Rights Watch interviewers of horrific stories about the dangers they encountered during their journey but insisted it was worth their escape from oppression. One boy, interviewed in Italy after his three-month journey from Eritrea, told Human Rights Watch: “I fled my country [Eritrea] because of all the problems I had while I was in the army. I don’t want to be a soldier but they beat me and tortured me when I was caught trying to escape. When I finally got out I thought I would be free, but I was beaten and tortured even worse in Sudan and Libya by smugglers. Crossing the sea was terrifying, but I am so relieved to finally be here.”
There are steps that the Eritrean government could take to stem migration, and importantly address the human rights crisis that has wracked the country. Eritrea could end indefinite national service and begin the process of demobilizing conscripts. It could penalize military commanders and security officers who authorize torture and other forms of severe physical punishment. It could unconditionally release political prisoners or bring anyone it considers an offender before a truly independent court of law. It could stop interference with all forms of peaceful religious expression. It could allow establishment of an independent press and non-governmental organizations. It could publicly affirm – and enforce – rights to freedom of expression, opinion, religion, association, and movement.
Unfortunately, the Eritrean government has steadfastly refused to change. In the absence of willingness by the Eritrean government to end its abuses and bring abusers to justice, other countries should investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing serious crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction and in accordance with their national laws.
Countries concerned by human rights abuses of Eritreans, and their efforts at migrating should work to undercut the Eritrean government’s public excuses for repression and protect the Eritreans who have fled from being repatriated to suffer further abuse.
With a new Secretary of State confirmation underway we expect to see some change at senior State Department levels [and this could mark the beginning of a new approach on Eritrea.] During Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing he said he was a “talent hawk.” If that is the case, we hope he will fill the position for Africa Assistant Secretary quickly and nominate someone who is well versed in issues and challenges related to the Horn of Africa – and not just counterterrorism or security related ones.
In 2002 an international boundary commission was established to demarcate the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The United States was a guarantor of an armistice agreement ending a 1998-2000 border war that established the international commission. While both sides agreed to accept the findings of the international commission as binding, Ethiopia refused to accept the findings when the final decision was to award a key piece of territory to Eritrea. President Isaias uses the border issue – of “no peace, no war” – as the principal excuse for his repressive policies. While both sides have been firmly entrenched in their positions, there may be an opening for reconsideration as Ethiopia’s new prime minister Dr Abiy Ahmed recently expressed his desire to resolve disputes with Eritrea after, in his own words “years of misunderstandings.”
The United States and other countries should urgently take steps to protect the Eritreans who have managed to flee the government’s oppression, should take into consideration the pattern of serious human rights abuses in Eritrea in examining asylum claims, and ensure that no one is returned to a threat of persecution or torture.
Last September, the U.S Departments of Homeland Security and State announced an intent to repatriate about 700 Eritrean individuals. The government should take care to ensure that all of those individuals have a genuine opportunity to advance any claims for protection in light of human rights conditions in Eritrea, if they have not done so already.
By shedding light on what’s happening to Eritreans in Eritrea and in countries of potential asylum, this Commission is performing a welcome and important public service.
Thank you.

Eritrean national Medhaine Yahdego Mered, labelled the world’s most wanted man

Medhaine Yahdego Mered

Eritrean national Medhaine Yahdego Mered, labelled the world’s most wanted man for his notorious human trafficking racket, was travelling on a Ugandan passport.
A highly-placed source said Mered’s passport carried the name Habte Amanuel purporting to be a Ugandan.
The source said Mered has been operating between Khartoum and Juba in Sudan and South Sudan, respectively, funnelling refugees to Kampala for a price – a criminal exercise he has carried on for the last two years.
Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said yesterday that they “would have to first verify information” that the smuggler was travelling on a Ugandan passport.
His revelation will cast a further shadow over Uganda’s Immigration Department where former director, Godfrey Sasaga and commissioner, Anthony Namara, were sacked last month on the orders of President Museveni.
The sacking came amid reports that immigration officials have long been selling Ugandan passports to international criminals, including Nigerian and other West African drug peddlers.
Onyango said he has spoken to Interpol’s Ugandan office to see if they have received notice for the arrest of Mered who is reported to be living somewhere in Kampala. By press time, the Interpol office had not given a response.
Other sources told The Observer that: “In Sudan, he was not hiding from anyone. Some Eritreans would come to him and he would smuggle them to Uganda,” said another source, who leaves with some people who are here because of Mered.
He operated under the nickname “General” in a venture where he’s managed to amass huge sums of dollars – facilitating his luxurious life in Kampala and using the same money to avoid arrest.
Last week, Swedish television SVT and the Guardian UK newspaper revealed that 35-year-old Mered, wanted for smuggling thousands of Africans through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, is living the high life in Uganda. 
In a case of mistaken identity, European and Italian prosecutors arrested a refugee in 2013 from Khartoum claiming they had arrested Mered. According to the Guardian, Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre was extradited and prosecuted by mistake with prosecutors insisting he was Mered, the smuggler.
DNA tests on this refugee’s mother have come out negative while the smuggler’s wife who lives in Sweden has spoken that the person they are holding is not her husband.
The hunt for Mered and his affiliates began after the shipwreck of October 3, 2013, off the island of Lampedusa, where 368 mostly Somali and Eritrean migrants died.
The Observer has been told that most Eritreans would cross from Eritrea to Khartoum, where at a fee, Mered would smuggle them to Uganda. From here, a witness said, the refugees would be told never to tell anyone that they were smuggled in by Mered. He would tell them that they would be deported if they reported him.
According to the Guardian, the smuggler was a regular patron at Hotel Diplomate, Molober, a bar located off Muyenga road in Kabalagala, a popular hangout with Eritreans, and Sami’s bar in the same area.
Another witness told the Guardian that some people just don’t know who to report to and fear for their own lives.
“Even if we tell [Uganda] police, they will not arrest him,” a witness said. “He is rich and can pay anyone to get his freedom.”
One witness said Mered moves with four or three Ugandan guards. “They are Ugandans and not from a registered security company. He keeps changing guards.”
The revelation has blown the lid off a human smugglers network in Uganda. Informed sources say that there are more traffickers and smugglers in Kampala because it is safe to work from.
“They find it a safe haven,” said a source, who worked on a case of Eritreans deported from Israel with no clear documents to stay in Uganda in 2015.
There is a house in the posh Kololo area of Kampala, where the smuggled refugees are kept for two days before being let loose on the streets.
Some of those kept at the Kololo house have been deported from Israel to Rwanda from where they are again smuggled back into Uganda, we have been told.
The source said one smuggler in 2015 brought Eritrean refugees and abandoned them in Kampala after taking $10,000 from them.
According to our source, the trafficker was then arrested, briefly detained in Kabalagala, and released after he promised to refund money. He only paid back $600 and was freed, the source said.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Ethiopia accuses Eritrea of destabilizing security, but Eritrea Rejects !

Ethiopia has accused neighboring Eritrea of attempting to compromise its security by supporting “destructive” groups.

According to reports Ethiopia’s state television, Eritrea is supporting groups smuggling weapons across the border. Ethiopia is currently under a state of emergency as the country works to replace prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn who announced his resignation last month.
Eritrea’s government rejected allegations by neighboring Ethiopia that it’s trying to destabilize the country after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned last month.
“This false allegation doesn’t merit a serious response,” Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said Monday in an emailed response to questions. “The regime is desperately trying to deflect attention from its intractable domestic crisis -- of its own making -- and find external scapegoats.”

Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea are constantly strained, largely due to a difficult history between the two countries which has included two wars over independence and border disputes. It’s not unusual for Ethiopia to accuse Eritrea of compromising its security interests but this is the first case since the country’s latest state of emergency.

“This false allegation doesn’t merit a serious response,”  Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said Monday in an emailed response to questions. “The regime is desperately trying to deflect attention from its intractable domestic crisis -- of its own making -- and find external scapegoats.”
The state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp. on March 17 quoted the country’s police chief as saying Eritrea has “tried to destabilize the peace and security of our country by organizing and sending anti-peace forces to Ethiopia.” The interference has taken place since before and after a state of emergency was declared in the Horn of Africa nation, it said.
Tensions along the border have raised concerns over security in the Horn of Africa. The EU said it was “deeply concerned” about the ongoing dispute over territory between the two nations.
“The EU remains deeply concerned that the present stalemate continues to put regional stability at risk, with potentially negative implications on international peace and security as well as international trade, and hampers regional cooperation and development,” EU chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement in April 2017.
However, Ethiopia’s biggest problems right now are internal as the country holds its second state of emergency within a year and discontent among opposition groups increases. According to Ethiopian opposition politician Bekele Gerba, irreversible changes are taking place in the country.
“There is a huge change in this country, especially the region we live in, the Oromia state,” he said earlier this month. “We feel that some kind of air of freedom is here, but this is regarded by the federal government as a threat.”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Eritrea summons Dutch envoy over Diaspora tax row | Medafrica Times

The Eritrean government on Thursday summoned the Dutch envoy to the Horn of Africa nation to explain the expulsion of the highest representative of Eritrea in the Netherlands.
On Tuesday last week, the Dutch Foreign Ministry expelled Eritrea’s Chargé d’Affaires, Tekheste Ghebremedhin, after the Dutch government found evidence that Eritrea continues to force people who fled the country to pay taxes.
Tekeste Ghebremedhin Zemuy has been declared persona non grata, the Dutch ministry said in a letter to the parliament.
According to the Eritrean government, these reasons are ‘untenable explanations’.
In a statement posted by the Eritrea ministry of information, the government said that there was no proof of wrongful or punishable offenses presented to the Dutch Parliament to warrant the action taken.
The statement explained that the country’s levying a 2% Rehabilitation and Recovery tax from the Diaspora was in line with Eritrea’s laws dating back to 1994.
Eritrea levies a 2% tax on its expatriates, including those in other European nations like Belgium, Italy, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Reports said the payments are made in several ways, including paying directly to embassies, depositing in a bank in Dubai, or even through in-person or courier payments in the capital Asmara.
The Dutch government had made it clear in a ministerial decree in October 2016 that the tax imposed on the diaspora is illegally collected through coercion, intimidation, threats or other illegal means.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Merera Gudina, Ethiopia opposition leader, freed - BBC News

Image captionHuge crowds welcomed Mr Merera home

Jailed Ethiopian opposition leader Merera Gudina has been freed after more than a year in detention.
The leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress was released on Wednesday morning and allowed to go home, where he was welcomed by thousands of people.
He has been in prison since December 2016 and was facing charges, including association with terrorist groups.
The Ethiopian government announced on Monday that it would drop charges against more than 500 suspects.
Human rights groups have long accused Ethiopia of refusing to allow opposition groups to operate freely.
The government has denied holding any political prisoners but says the releases will foster national debate and "widen the political sphere".
Those being freed will first undergo two days of "rehabilitation training", the government says.
At the beginning of January, Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn announced the government would close Maekelawi - a detention facility in the capital, Addis Ababa, allegedly used as a torture chamber.

Why was Mr Merera arrested?

Mr Merera was arrested in November 2016 at the airport in the capital, Addis Ababa, after he flew in from Brussels.
He had violated Ethiopia's state of emergency by having contact with "terrorist" and "anti-peace" groups, state-linked media reported at the time.
That month, Mr Merera had criticised the state of emergency in an address to the European parliament.
The government imposed it in October 2016 to end an unprecedented wave of protests against its 25-year rule.

Map of protests and violence in Ethiopia in 2016

More than 11,000 people were arrested, mostly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which were at the forefront of anti-government protests.
Many in the two regions complain of political and economic marginalisation.

Who else will be freed?

It is still not clear which other politicians will be released.
Ethiopia says it will not free anyone convicted of using force to overthrow the government, destroying infrastructure, murder or causing physical disability.
However, it says it will pardon some of those convicted under the anti-terrorism law.
Critics and human rights groups have accused the government in the past of labelling its opponents, and some journalists, as terrorists.
Rights group Amnesty International says the release of Mr Merera and other prisoners should not be the last.
"Hundreds of prisoners of conscience continue to languish in jail, accused or prosecuted for legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression or simply for standing up for human rights," Amnesty's Netsanet Belay said.

Presentational grey line

Five more high-profile Ethiopian prisoners:

Bekele Gerbadeputy chairman of the OFC - arrested together with Dejene Fita Geleta, secretary-general of OFC, and 20 others in connection with the 2015 Oromo protests that resulted in the death of hundreds of protesters.
Andargachew Tsegeleader of Ginbot 7 (designated a terrorist group by Ethiopia) - arrested in 2014 while on transit in Yemen and taken to Ethiopia, where he faces the death penalty after being convicted in absentia. A British national, human rights groups have been pushing for his release.
Andualem Aragievice-president of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party - imprisoned since 2011, and now serving a life sentence on terrorism charges.
Eskinder Negajournalist and blogger - imprisoned since 2011 after criticising the use of anti-terror laws to silence the press. He was subsequently sentenced to 18 years in jail.
Woubshet Taye, journalist and editor - imprisoned since 2011 and sentenced the next year to 14 years in prison for terror-related offences.