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Eritrea: UNHRC must renew mandate of Special Rapporteur.

03 June 2013.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea. ARTICLE 19 also urges the Eritrean Government to issue an unconditional and official invitation to the Special Rapporteur, so that she can carry out her mandate and review the human rights situation in the country.

“Eritrea, like North Korea, is a closed country, where a repressive regime rules with an iron fist and censors any form of expression that does not comply with their ideology. Regrettably, unlike North Korea, Eritrea has fallen off the world’s agenda” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

“It is absolutely vital that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur is renewed and that systematic human rights violations in Eritrea are addressed. The international community must step up their efforts to press Eritrea to allow Beedwantee Keetharuth to visit the country. In particular, the African members of the human rights council must encourage others to build momentum to achieve this for the people of Eritrea, whose voices must be heard” added Callamard.

Beedwantee Keetharuth was appointed the Special Rapporteur, an independent expert to review the human rights situation in Eritrea in 2012, after the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution put forward by Somalia, Nigeria and Djibouti, which was supported by a number of African and other states and raised concern about the human rights situation in Eritrea.  She has not yet been allowed to visit the country.

Keetharuth is due to present her first report on 4 June 2013 during the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council. In her report, she details violations of fundamental human rights in the country and notes the failure of the Eritrean government to enforce and respect the rule of law. Keetharuth makes clear in her report that freedom of expression and opinion, and freedom of assembly and association are severely curtailed, describing a climate of fear that is fuelled by rumours, propaganda and suspicion.

The report by the Special Rapporteur echoes ARTICLE 19’s own findings. We have pointed out that President Asias Afewerki’s regime prohibits any criticism and has sweeping powers to crush dissent, often through reliance on the perpetual state of emergency in the country.

“All media outlets in Eritrea have been controlled by the authorities since 2001, which means that the people of Eritrea have no access to independent media beyond state propaganda. There is very little access to the outside world despite the digital revolution. Eritrea was the last country in Africa to connect to the Internet and internet penetration remains exceptionally low. The state controlled telecommunications sector functions to serve a regime afraid of exposing the people of Eritrea to news and ideas from the wider world” said Callamard.