U.N. rights chief accuses Eritrea of torture, killings

GENEVA Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:03am EDT

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GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay accused on Monday gold-rich Eritrea, which holds a strategic stretch of the Red Sea coast, of carrying out torture and summary executions.

Pillay told the U.N. Human Rights Council there were between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners in the secretive African nation of some 6 million people which has been ruled by a single party and president since independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

"The human rights situation in Eritrea is a matter of deep concern," said Pillay, a South African former senior judge on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, who has just had her four-year term extended for a further two years.

"Credible sources indicate that violations of human rights include arbitrary detention, torture, summary executions, forced labor, forced conscription, and restrictions to freedom of movement, expression, assembly and religion," she said.

Eritrea, where former anti-Ethiopia guerrilla leader Isaias Afewerki has been head of state for nearly two decades, is rarely mentioned in the 47-nation council, where African and Asian countries often work to shield each other from criticism.

But responding to Pillay's remarks on Monday, a European Union representative said the 27-nation grouping backed Pillay's comments on the Red Sea state -- whose population is mainly Christian but includes a large Muslim minority.

Thousands of people have fled Eritrea in recent years because of poverty and political repression, according to human rights groups. Many have settled in neighboring Sudan, and some have reached Israel and Western Europe.

Independent human rights groups say the country has one of the world's most repressive governments, an accusation Eritrean officials reject, arguing that the country is the target of a foreign smear campaign backed by the United States.

Eritrea fought a border war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000 which killed 70,000 people on the two sides and occasional clashes have flared up since with both accusing each other of supporting armed rebel groups.

In April, Ethiopia's President Meles Zenawi Afewerki accused Eritrea of abducting dozens of miners from his country's north-western gold region which borders an area where Eritrea' largely untapped reserves of the precious metal are located.

Pillay told the rights council that she had written to the Eritrean government in January this year with an offer to send a mission from her office by this month at the latest to help it address its "human rights challenges."

But despite later talks with an Eritream delegation in Geneva, she said, there had so far been no reply.

(Reported by Robert Evans, editing by Diana Abdallah)

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Comments (4)
Biniam wrote:
To person of average thinking with no spiritual conviction, it is very frustrating that a single brutal man sits in power for decades killing his very people while the whole world is watching. And what does the word do? Throwing few words here and there to simply stir the wounds of the frustrated person. The dictator in Eritrea is by no means staying in power of his own strength. He is there like just God allowed him to be there until, Eritreans turn from their arrogance and learn to humble themselves. Whether we like or not, he is going to be there until the people bow down to God. It is becoming increasingly clear that this world belongs to God not to UN. Watch and see when the son of man comes with his Glory. Those of who are waiting for UN or any other body to address the Eritrean problem should wake up and face the reality. No human intervention is going to solve the Eritrean quandary.

Jun 18, 2012 11:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
UNhater wrote:
Here We go again, the same accusation that is going on for years, and Eritrea and its people, Government never kneel down, and we won’t suspend the policy that we have that is Self reliance to acheve food security, Eritrea got her Independence through 30 years struggle and we still are in struggle. we don’t accept taking order from Washington, so stop meddling in our issue, let us do it on ourselves, keep accusing us, We continue rebuilding our Country.

Jun 18, 2012 8:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Dyeh wrote:
Instead of re-enforcing international law on Ethiopian regime, these characters have to come up with this utter lie and fabrication. There is no such thing as killing citizens in Eritrea. There is freedom of speech and religion in Eritrea. Criminals are judged by the law of the land like in any other countries. Don’t even try to spread these obsolete and bogus stories. The international community is well aware of prototype conspiracy against the Eritrean people. Ethiopia is sitting on Eritrean land for the last ten years violating the rule of law. What are the UN and its agents doing to solve this primary subject? Why concoct irrelevant stories and craft diversion?

Jun 19, 2012 4:29pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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