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U.S. Urges Eritrea to Work with International Community to Address Human Rights Concerns
June 5, 2013

U.S. Statement at the
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea
June 4, 2013

As Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Thank you, Mr. President.  The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, for her report.  The Africa Group led the creation of this mandate last year, and the need to maintain it could not be greater.  Eritreans continue to flee the country in large numbers largely due to the government’s violations of human rights and the limitations the government’s restrictive policies place on the country’s economic potential.  The Council must continue to focus on improving conditions in Eritrea so individuals may enjoy those rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Government of Eritrea should cooperate with the international community, including this Council, to address human rights concerns.  The Government of Eritrea could take a step in this direction by allowing the Special Rapporteur to visit the country.  The government should also allow visits by other special procedure mandate holders, as their multiple requests have gone unanswered.  Such engagement aims to provide increased transparency and technical assistance to improve the human rights situation.

The United States appreciates the Special Rapporteur’s focus on the root causes of human rights violations in Eritrea.  As she notes, systematic human rights violations stem from the absence of due process and a lack of credible institutions.  The government does not respect the rule of law.  There is no separation of powers, as control is centralized under the president.  The constitution has yet to be implemented.  There have been no elections since the country’s independence in 1993.  The people of Eritrea deserve a government that respects and protects the rule of law, and they should be able to freely choose that government through free and fair elections.

Eritrea’s security forces continue to kill and torture its citizens.  Disappearances are shockingly common.  Reports indicate that prison conditions are inhumane.  We encourage the government to address these abuses.  The government should also end its indefinite conscription of people into national service.  It should allow its citizens to exercise their universal human rights, including the freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and religion.

The Special Rapporteur’s conclusions note that change in Eritrea requires “a fundamental reform process transforming the current culture of rights denial into one anchored in the rule of law and in respect for and the realization of all human rights and human dignity.”  She also identified a number of specific human rights priorities on which she would like to engage.  We would appreciate her views on how Council member countries can encourage the development of rule of law in the country, as well as improvements in regard to the more specific human rights priorities she discussed.