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U.S. Statement on the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea
June 23, 2015

Interactive Dialogue with the Eritrea COI and SR on the human rights situation in Eritrea
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Keith M. Harper
Human Rights Council 29th Session
Geneva, June 23, 2015

Thank you, Mister President.  The United States thanks the Commission of Inquiry for its work and for its thorough and substantive report on the abhorrent human rights situation in Eritrea.  On the basis of heart-wrenching testimony—including hundreds of interviews and written submissions—the Commission found that systematic, widespread, and gross violations of human rights have occurred and are occurring in Eritrea with no accountability, and that some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity.  The Government has created and sustained repressive systems to control, silence and isolate individuals in the country, which deprive them of their ability to exercise fundamental freedoms.  The Eritrean leadership rules through fear.  Individuals are routinely arrested and arbitrarily detained, and, at times, tortured or “disappeared.”

The Commission’s work to document serious human rights violations in Eritrea must now lead to action.  The Commission also described systems of national service and forced labor that it noted effectively abuse, exploit, and enslave the Eritrean people.  We encourage the Government of the State of Eritrea to honor its commitment to return the duration of national service to 18 months for persons recruited since 2014 and treat all recruits humanely.  This would send a positive signal to the international community and Eritrean people.  Significantly more must be done, however, to address the violations the report describes.  The Eritrean government must hold free, fair, and transparent democratic elections; develop an independent and transparent judiciary; and release persons arbitrarily detained including members of the G-15, journalists, and members of religious groups.

The Government of the State of Eritrea must urgently work toward an end to the violations described in the COI’s report.

Commissioners, we are shocked by the reports of harassment against you.  They should be fully investigated.  Are there specific diplomatic or programmatic actions, in addition to those already highlighted in your report, that you suggest member states consider in this regard?