Report of the UN Monitoring Group Pursuant to UNSC Resolution 2244 (2015): Eritrea

UN Monitoring Group report
The October 31, 2016 report on Eritrea of the Monitoring Group by the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea.

By Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group,

Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1907 (2009), sanctions were imposed on Eritrea on 23 December 2009. Since then, the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has visited Eritrea twice, most recently in 2011.

Notwithstanding the initiatives and efforts of successive Chairs and other members of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea to facilitate access to Eritrea for the Group, it has therefore been five years, of a total of seven years of sanctions, since members of the Group have met officials of the Government of Eritrea, or any other interlocutors, within Eritrea.

The Monitoring Group has received no replies to its official requests for cooperation on investigative and substantive matters from the Government throughout its current mandate, including to its formal requests for an official visit to Asmara.

In addition, representatives of the Government have made no attempts or seized any opportunities to engage with the Group beyond responding to the initiatives of the Group for two meetings with the Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the United Nations, Girma Asmerom Tesfay, in New York, and at the Chair’s initiative at the end of the mandate, to discuss the preliminary findings of the Group, again with the Permanent Representative, who was in Asmara at the time.

The Monitoring Group has sought indirect engagement with the Government through individuals who have access to the country, including returning diaspora Eritreans, academics, international journalists and diplomats. Unfortunately, engagement even with this broad range of individuals and entities who have had recent access to Eritrea remains largely insufficient for the Group to carry out its mandate effectively.

For its third concurrent mandate, the Monitoring Group has found no firm evidence of Eritrean support for the Somali Islamist group Harakat al-Shabaab al Mujaahidiin.

The Group has, however, continued to find consistent evidence of Eritrean support for armed groups operating in both Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is clear that Eritrea continues to harbour anti-Ethiopian armed groups, including the newly remodelled Patriotic Ginbot 7, and provides at least some logistical support to them. Evidence that the Eritrean authorities are providing weapons or training to such groups remains anecdotal, and largely based on interviews with former fighters under the auspices of either the Ethiopian or Djiboutian authorities.

In its previous report (S/2015/802), the Monitoring Group noted the defection to Ethiopia of the former Chair of the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement, Mola Asgedom, in September 2015. In August 2016, the Group interviewed him in Addis Ababa. He provided corroboration of past findings on the group, but offered no information on the fate of its remaining fighters following his defection.

The Group also noted in its previous report the announcement of the formation of the Peoples’ Alliance for Freedom and Democracy, apparently incorporating various anti-Ethiopian movements, including the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Front, but has not been able to assess the extent to which it currently poses a threat in Ethiopia.

The Group found further uncorroborated evidence of Eritrean support for the anti-Djiboutian movement, Front pour la restauration de l’unité et de la démocratie, which continued to commit low-level attacks in northern Djibouti throughout the current mandate. As previously reported, its relatively small size notwithstanding, the movement continues to undermine the normalization of relations between Djibouti and Eritrea and thus to obstruct the implementation of resolution 1862 (2009).

In its previous report, the Monitoring Group reported on a new strategic military relationship between Eritrea and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that involved allowing the Arab coalition to use Eritrean land, airspace and territorial waters in its anti-Houthi military campaign in Yemen.

The Group concluded that the country’s making available to other Member States its land, territorial waters and airspace to conduct military operations in a third Member State did not in and of itself constitute a sanctions violation, but that any compensation diverted directly or indirectly towards activities that threatened peace and security in the region, or for the benefit of the Eritrean military, would constitute a violation.

Evidence collected by the Monitoring Group during the current mandate, including the construction of a permanent military base at Assab International Airport and a new permanent seaport adjacent to it, indicates that there may have been external support for infrastructure development that could benefit the Eritrean military.

The Group has further documented the presence in Eritrea, whether for training or transit, of armed personnel and related military and naval equipment of various Member States other than Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Group determines that the current terms of the arms embargo do not allow for such activities, nor are they covered under the terms of possible exemptions thereto.

Following the escape of two Djiboutian prisoners of war from Eritrea in 2011, a further four were released from Eritrea during the current mandate. The Government of Eritrea provided no formal explanation for its decision to break the stalemate in negotiations between Djibouti and Eritrea that were being mediated by the Government of Qatar. Neither did it provide information on the remaining combatants, whom Djibouti alleges have been missing in action since 2008. In September 2016, the Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the United Nations informed the Group that one prisoner of war had died during his detention and the issue had subsequently been brought to a close by the Government of Qatar on 18 March 2016.

Owing to the continuing lack of transparency with regard to government revenue and expenditure, and the refusal to cooperate with the Monitoring Group on such matters, the Group has made little progress in determining the extent to which revenue of the Government of Eritrea has been allocated to support armed groups destabilizing the region or to conduct activities constituting a breach of the arms embargo.

Similarly, the Group is no further forward in determining the extent to which revenue from the mining sector in particular may be contributing to arms embargo violations or destabilization within the region. Nevertheless, the possible diversion of funds for the potential purpose of sanctions violations remains an issue of concern.

NOTE: The above is only summary of the group’s report on Eritrea. The full report can be found HERE.


Disassociation of Eritrea and Somalia sanctions

121. Given that the Group has been unable to find conclusive evidence of Eritrean support for Al-Shabaab in Somalia for three consecutive years, the Monitoring Group recommends that the Security Council consider the disassociation of Eritrea and Somalia sanctions, potentially through one of the following technical options:

(a) The establishment of a separate committee and its monitoring group on Eritrea;
(b) The establishment of a separate committee on Eritrea, with the Monitoring Group as currently configured supporting both committees;
(c) The establishment of a distinct monitoring group on Eritrea reporting to the current Committee.

Bilateral and multilateral support to Eritrea

122. The Monitoring Group recommends that the Security Council request Member States and appropriate international and regional organizations to consider offering the Government of Eritrea support for the development of a comprehensive programme on strengthening the capacity of public financial management.

Military operations involving Eritrean land, territorial waters, airspace and security forces

123. In the light of the two-way arms embargo on Eritrea, as outlined in paragraphs 5 and 6 of resolution 1907 (2009), and the continuing military activities by Member States within and nearby the port of Assab, as described in section II.A of the present report, the Monitoring Group recommends that the Committee provide advice to Member States on compliance with the embargo.