A report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council accuses the Eritrean government of involvement in Ethiopia’s conflict in the Tigray region and of committing serious human rights violations against Eritreans who have sought asylum in Tigray.
The special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, is new to the job, although in 2017 he was part of a U.N. monitoring team whose findings resulted in the imposition of sanctions on the country.
In this, his first report since he started his mandate in November, he pulled no punches. He presented a grim picture of a government that perpetrates gross human rights violations with impunity both at home and abroad.
“There are no tangible signs of progress or concrete evidence of improvement in the internal human rights situation in Eritrea. In addition, Eritrea extended its human rights violations extra-territorially or beyond its borders during this mandate and committed heinous human rights violations in the Tigray region of Ethiopia," he said.
Babiker said he has received allegations that Eritrean troops in Tigray carried out deliberate attacks against civilians, summary executions, sexual and gender-based violence.
He said they also allegedly took part in the abduction and disappearance of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers.
Babiker expressed particular concern about the reported destruction by Eritrean troops of two refugee camps in Hitsats and Shimelba in northern Tigray, which hosted more than 25,000 Eritrean refugees. The refugee camps are located near the two countries’ borders.
“I call on the Eritrean authorities to withdraw their forces from Tigray, to provide information about the whereabouts of the missing Eritrean refugees and to release any Eritrean refugees held in detention,” he said.
Turning to the situation inside Eritrea, Babiker said the only positive news he has to report is of the release of more than 100 Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses who were detained without charges and trial, some for over 20 years.
He urged the government to release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have been held incommunicado for indefinite periods under inhumane conditions.
In his response to Babiker, Ambassador Tesfamicael Gerahtu of Eritrea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made no reference to an Eritrean troop presence in Ethiopia. He rejected the report, calling it politicized. He also called into question the legitimacy of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and told the Council it should be abolished.