Petition to Oppose New Injustices against the people of Eritrea

Eritrean Global Action for Justice

Petition to Oppose New Injustices against the people of Eritrea

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The people of Eritrea have shouldered heavy tribulations in the past seventy years. Their ordeal has few parallels in contemporary history. In the 1940’s, when decolonization was the order of the day in Africa and elsewhere in the world, Eritrea was singled out for a discriminatory treatment by the United Nations when this august body was entrusted to decide its fate. As it happened, Eritrea’s right to independence from vanquished Italian colonial rule was squashed - while Libya and Somalia where granted independence - in order to mollify the overriding “strategic interests of the United States” in the context of a simmering Cold War. In the infamous words of U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, at the time,

"…From the point of
view of justice, the opinion of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and world peace make it necessary that the country be linked with our ally Ethiopia."

Eritrea was thus “federated” with imperial Ethiopia, in contravention of the expressed wishes of its people for independence, pursuant to UN Resolution 390 A(v) adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1950.

Ethiopia abrogated the UN-sponsored “Federal Act” to annex Eritrea in November 1962 with the tacit endorsement of that body.

The people of Eritrea rose up in arms to redress the blatant violation of their national rights perpetrated under UN watch. Still, their legitimate cause was not recognized by the international community. As such, Eritrea’s liberation struggle was denied the moral and material support accorded to other legitimate national causes in those times. On the contrary, the United States and other powers continued to provide financial, political, diplomatic and military succor to Ethiopia’s successive imperial and military regimes. UN human rights bodies were virtual accomplices in the massive atrocities and war crimes that were visited on the Eritrean people by their utter silence and failure to make their voices heard.

The people of Eritrea finally won their independence on 24 May 1991. This historic victory was achieved at a huge cost; 60,000 freedom fighters and over 100,000 civilians were martyred in the course of this long struggle. The country’s economy and infrastructure were totally devastated making the burden of nation-building inordinately arduous.

The post-independence challenges of reconstruction and nation-building were compounded by the border war that erupted between the two countries from May 1998 until June 2000.

Eritrea’s predicaments were further exacerbated by the failure, once again, of the United Nations system and especially the UN Security Council, to safeguard the integrity of the Algiers Peace Agreement and fundamental pillars of international law when Ethiopia refused to respect the “final and binding” decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) as well as key tenets of the peace agreement. The sad fact is Ethiopia continues to occupy Eritrean sovereign territory, including the town of Badme, to this day in flagrant violation of international law and Articles 2.1., 2.3 and 2.4. of the UN Charter on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of UN Member States.

In this context, the current campaign of harassment of Eritrea under the rubric of the “Commission of Inquiry” constitutes yet another act of unwarranted hostility by the same forces who had all along felt it necessary to compromise Eritrea’s fundamental rights in pursuit of their “broader geopolitical interests and designs”.

This poignant fact is amplified by the politicized procedural flaws that were glaringly evident in the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry and its predecessor, the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea; the track-record of hostility that certain members of the COI harbored against Eritrea long before their appointment to these bodies; as well as the utterly biased and politically motivated reports the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry have churned out to date largely on the basis of hearsay and the
wholesale recycling of invective narratives peddled by Eritrea’s adversaries. Outlandish acts that accentuate the purely political motivation of the whole process include:

  • The resolutions against Eritrea were conceived and drafted by certain big powers that arm-twisted a couple of pliable African countries to table and sponsor them to imbue “an African face” to the whole exercise;
  • Once established, the Commission of Inquiry rushed to compile and reproduce as is, nefarious reports from self-described “human rights activists” with openly declared regime-change agendas against Eritrea. This was spiced up by testimonies of some 500 or so asylum-seekers whose pending asylum cases are often contingent on hyperbolic accounts of “persecution from repression”.
  • The Commission arbitrarily lowered its standard of proof to what it calls “reasonable grounds to believe”. This is tantamount to arrogating wide powers of discretion and subjectivity to itself. This cannot be tenable by any standards and the more so when the neutrality, objectivity and professionalism of the Commission are in question.
  • The Commission also decided, unilaterally, to determine the temporal scope of its mandate under the flimsy pretext that this was not explicitly specified in the original resolution. It subsequently decided to extend its remit to investigate all alleged “human rights violations perpetrated since the independence of the country”. This tenuous stance only amplifies the inherent bias of this body. Sadly, for the Commission, it is not the colonial depredations and atrocities that the people of Eritrea had suffered during the period of national liberation struggle that elicit moral redress. From its skewed perspective, it is the hard-won independence of the Eritrean people that must be indicted in a court preferably dominated by its mentors and sponsors.

It must be recognized that this obvious harassment of Eritrea through the “Commission of Inquiry” is occurring at a time when Eritrea has been and remains seriously engaged in the Universal Periodic Review. Eritrea has submitted two comprehensive reports to the competent body under this mechanism in the past five years. Eritrea has reviewed its domestic laws and practices in earnestness in order to adhere to relevant International Conventions and to better comply with constructive recommendations put forth by various countries in these interactive sessions.

Eritrea has also undertaken extensive revision of its Civil and Penal Codes to enhance effective delivery of justice and that take into account its rich traditions and cultural mores rooted in encoded, centuries-old, Customary Laws. In the same vein, it has set in motion the drafting of a new Constitution to buttress the foundations of robust governance that it had embarked on soon after Independence but that was interrupted by the border war and relentless existential threats and subversions.

Eritrea’s stellar achievements in furthering social justice are also well-known and widely recognized in spite of the paucity of resources and in a regional climate that is not conducive to unfettered developmental drive. In addition to exemplary progress that it has made in realizing most of the MDG goals, Eritrea continues to make tangible strides in extending wide access and equal opportunities to all its citizens in education – which is free from Kindergarten to tertiary levels – and heavily subsidized medical services. These are part and parcel of fundamental human rights that enhance the quality of life of all the citizens and that reinforce the social contract in a stable and cohesive nation.

Eritrea indeed remains an oasis of internal peace and social harmony in a region that is often racked by spiraling ethnic and religious strife.

In the event, the witch-hunting and crusade waged against Eritrea through the mantle of the Commission of Inquiry has nothing to do with a benign desire to safeguard the human rights and promote the welfare of the Eritrean people. The process underway was principally conceived in order to serve the agenda of certain powers as a sequel and to supplant sanctions that they imposed on Eritrea through similar subterfuges. As the sanctions regime began to loose traction, Eritrea’s detractors have indeed come up with this instrument as an additional arsenal in their toolbox for harassing Eritrea, and to rationalize and stoke external intervention and war.

In view of all these facts, we, the undersigned, strongly call for Your Excellency and your organization/institution to urge for the following:-

  1. Immediate rescinding of the unjust and unfair accusations against Eritrea of “the perpetration of gross and widespread violations of human rights that may amount to crimes against humanity”
  2. Immediate termination of the mandates of the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry
  3. Consolidation and continuation of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism for positive and constructive interaction with Eritrea for the promotion of human rights.

Global Eritrean Action for Justice
21 April 2016