Letter to the UN Human Rights Council from Eritrea-based Civil Society Groups

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DEAR Members of the Human Rights Council,

As members of civil society representing diverse groups in Eritrea, we are incensed by the outrageous and extraordinary human rights related allegations made in the 484-page report of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea. The most extraordinary yet least substantiated of these allegations is that of “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” to a degree that “constitute crimes against humanity.” 

Our group represents various sections of Eritrean society, including women, children, the disabled, veterans, Diaspora returnees and expatriates. Combined, our groups have more than 24 years of evidence, experience and collected studies on Eritrean development – political, social and economic. In light of our context-based knowledge, we find that the report not only lacks any sense of objectivity but the preposterous allegations made in it also reveal an agenda that may impinge on Eritrea’s very existence and its law-abiding and peaceful citizens.

These allegations are all the more surprising given that the Commission did not visit Eritrea. Representatives of our organizations sent numerous submissions to the Commission’s on the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website. Unfortunately, not a single response was given to any representative, not a single interview was granted, and not a single testimony was included in the report.

Though the Commission did not enter Eritrea, we believe there is little excuse not to engage our organizations given numerous non-state channels outside Eritrea, including the internet and diaspora representatives. Disregarding our submissions, the Commission chose instead to use the “reasonable grounds to believe” evidentiary standard that is of the lowest possible quality, least possible to substantiate, and unprecedented in field of international human rights law.

The record of our collective gains over the past 24 years since Eritrea’s independence speaks for itself, as multiple agencies of the United Nations have recognized the tremendous, and sometimes even exceptional, achievements by Eritrean civil society organizations in close collaboration with the Government of Eritrea. In spite of this record, we find it hard to believe that the Commission chose not to engage our organizations. Furthermore, we find it shameful that the Commission chose to label some of our groups as “PFDJ-controlled.” We feel that this condescending, blanket-label generalization has been deliberately used against our civil society groups to silence our members and discredit our achievements.

We certainly do not believe that this report, absent of evidence, integrity, and good methods, is based on realities on the ground. Furthermore, we feel that the report is deliberately aimed at driving a wedge between the Government of Eritrea and civil society groups in Eritrea, which have all shared strong and interconnected relations in their complimentary efforts of nation building.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, collectively stand in solidarity with the demonstrators in Geneva today, Monday, June 22, 2015, demonstrating against the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea and its report.