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Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea
June 18, 2014

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

As Delivered by Michael Dozler

UN Human Rights Council – 26th Session
June 18, 2014

Thank you, Mr. President.  The United States thanks Special Rapporteur Keetharuth, for her presentation today.

We concur that this mandate offers the potential for Eritrea to be closely involved in efforts to find long-lasting solutions to its human rights challenges.

As such, we strongly encourage the government to respond favorably to the Special Rapporteur’s repeated requests to visit Eritrea.

We also call on Eritrea to implement the recommendations accepted during its recent UPR in February.

We commend the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to focus attention in her latest report on issues of arbitrary arrest, detention, and horrendous prison conditions.

Her report has helped to shine light on these egregious problems.

We also concur with the Special Rapporteur’s May 6 statement regarding the reported release of eight detainees, and agree that this was a positive step that the government should follow up on through additional and systematic releases.

We continue our call for the Government of Eritrea to immediately facilitate the release of all political prisoners and improve prison conditions.

We urge the government to account for prisoners who have disappeared, including members of the G-15, journalists, and those detained in the aftermath of the January 2013 takeover of the Ministry of Information building.

Every person, including each detained citizen of Eritrea, has a right to a fair and public hearing.

The Special Rapporteur’s report also details the ways in which Eritrea’s indefinite national service program constitutes forced labor.

The government’s actions to enforce this indefinite participation violate the human rights of Eritrea’s citizens.

As she states, this program is inextricably linked to arbitrary arrest and detention.

The indefinite national service program continues to be one of the main reasons that Eritreans, including unaccompanied children, take the dangerous risk of fleeing the country.

We are also aware that the government requires people to participate in its armed citizen militia, and that this forced recruitment is in addition to the national service program requirements.

The United States would appreciate any comments the Special Rapporteur may have on the militia requirement.

The United States would also welcome additional future reporting from the Special Rapporteur on violations of religious freedom in Eritrea.

The government only recognizes four religious groups and continues to detain members of unregistered religious groups.

We are deeply concerned that former Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios, arrested in 2006 for protesting government interference in church affairs, remains under house arrest.

In closing, we call on the Council to renew this important mandate next week in order to enable the Special Rapporteur to continue to her work.

The United States looks forward to additional recommendations as to how the international community can better support the realization of human rights in Eritrea.

As we have stated before, the citizens of Eritrea deserve a free and prosperous Eritrea, with fairly elected government that respects human rights.

The United States stands firmly with the Eritrean people in pursuit of this goal.

Thank you.