We regret that, even after Eritrea becoming a human rights council member state, the government continues to refuse to grant access to the UN Special Rapporteur.
While there are signs of Eritrea opening to the international community, the HRC must not interpret this as a signal to reduce UN scrutiny of the human rights situation in the country.
We welcome that the Special Rapporteur has set out a series of benchmarks, with specific indicators, that the Eritrean government should demonstrate clear progress against.
At present, the Special Rapporteur’s report makes clear that the situation for freedom of expression and media freedom is not improving.
Persons turning 18 this year in Eritrea have never lived in the country with an independent media sector. In those last 18 years, many detained journalists are reported to have died in custody, and the wellbeing of many others is unknown. These detentions have been condemned by two ACHPR decisions, the most recent in 2016 concerning Dawit Isaak. On top of this, levels of internet access and internet speeds remain woefully low, with access to alternative news sources frustrated by government blocking of websites.
Notwithstanding this closed environment, individuals have shown the bravery to speak out and to protest, and have done so at great cost. We call for full investigations into reports that persons detained in connection with protests in 2017 have died in custody.
These circumstances make it difficult to know what is happening within Eritrea. This underscores the importance of the Special Rapporteur mandate – it provides a focal point that ensures that the plight of those within the country is not forgotten, no matter how many years passes without the situation improving.
We call on this Council to renew the Special Rapporteur’s mandate by consensus.