An Eritrean delegation to UN human rights meetings in Geneva this week was once more a source of shock, disgust and intense frustration to UN experts and the participant audiences. The first meeting was the interactive dialogue with the UN Human Rights Council on 11 March when the delegation claimed that nothing went wrong in Eritrea in the past two decades. The second two-day meeting at which the delegation was grilled on 12 and 13 March was held with the 18-person UN committee responsible for monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Eritrea signed the ICCPR convention in 2002 by promising to respect and promote the fundamental human and political rights of its people. But since then, Eritrea refused to respond to any queries coming to it from the ICCPR Committee in charge of follow up of implementation by signatories of that international covenant. Eritrea this year agreed to meet the Committee at its 125th Session. Yet, the Eritrean delegation failed to submit the required written report.
Mr. Tesfamichael Gerhatu, the head of the Eritrean delegation, and his colleague, Mr. Adem Osman, spent long hours with the ICCRP Committee evading its questions and shamelessly listing none existent “facts”. The distinguished international experts of the ICCPR Committee at times begged the Eritrean envoys to be kind enough to known facts about Eritrea and stop “blanket denials.” The Eritrean regime delegates were not willing to bend.
Below are a few samples of the Eritrean delegation’s responses to questions of the international experts on human and political rights elected by all UN signatories of the ICCPR convention, including Eritrea, and approved by the UN General Assembly. Mr. Tesfamichael Gerhatu and his colleague said as follows:
- Eritrea has only 11 detention centers and the entire country;
- There are no political prisoners in Eritrea but a few detainees who committed “crimes against the state”.
- It was not the Government but the Eritrean Orthodox Church itself that condemned to house arrest His Grace Abune Antonios, the Patriarch of the Eritrean church;
- No arbitrary arrests are made in Eritrea;
- The arrest and detention of the eleven members of G-15 in 2001 was ordered by the Eritrean National Assembly itself, not by the executive branch;
- No person has been condemned to death in Eritrea since 1991 and that allegations of extra-judicially executions have no basis whatsoever;
- The government fully respects the dignity of the human person and no torture is practiced against prisoners;
- Prison conditions are quite good with health and recreation facilities, and access to the media;
- Press censorship does not exist in Eritrea; no Eritrean is detained for expressing his political views;
- In spite of wrong reports by enemies, Eritrea is not emptied of its people; our cities are thriving with huge numbers of our young population;
- There is no state of fear or population control in Eritrea. No control, no surveillance of any sort. Eritrea has no sophisticated security apparatus but a police force doing normal duties;
- The judiciary system is independent in Eritrea and justice is well served;
- There exist 190 trade unions as an example of the freedom of association in the country;
- There is no constitutional vacuum in the country; we have a charter of the front and laws based on it; a new constitution is now in its drafting process;
- No abuses were committed by government officials in Eritrea since independence and no one will be submitted to accountability of none existent past crimes…..
Simply put, it was difficult to listen to the wild babble of the Eritrean delegates who ignored pertinent queries of the ICCPR Committee and talked presented their alternative facts. No responses were given to several burning questions of the Committee members whose names are given in the table below.
|Name of Member||Nationality||Term expires on 31 December|
|Ms. Tania María
ABDO ROCHOLL Vice-Chair
|Mr. Yadh BEN ACHOUR||Tunisia||2022|
|Ms. Ilze BRANDS KEHRIS Rapporteur||Latvia||2020|
|Mr. Christopher Arif BULKAN||Guyana||2022|
|Mr. Ahmed Amin FATHALLA, Chair||Egypt||2020|
|Mr. Shuichi FURUYA||Japan||2022|
|Mr. Christof HEYNS||South Africa||2020|
|Mr. Bamariam KOITA||Mauritania||2020|
|Ms. Marcia V.J. KRAN||Canada||2020|
|Mr. Duncan MUHUMUZA LAKI||Uganda||2022|
|Ms. Photini PAZARTZIS Vice-Chair||Greece||2022|
|Mr. Hernán QUEZADA CABRERA||Chile||2022|
|Ms. Vasilka SANCIN||Slovenia||2022|
|Mr. José Manuel SANTOS PAIS||Portugal||2020|
|Mr. Yuval SHANY, Vice-Chair||Israel||2020|
|Ms. Hélène TIGROUDJA||France||2022|
|Mr. Andreas ZIMMERMANN||Germany||2020|
|Mr. Gentian ZYBERI||Albania||2022|