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UN Rapporteur: Eritrea Exodus Will Continue in Absence of Reforms

FILE - A migrant, who arrived from Eritrea through Libya, walks from a migrants reception and identification center, on the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sept. 26, 2018.

A U.N. special investigator warns that an exodus from Eritrea will continue if the human rights situation in the country does not improve and the government fails to implement reforms guaranteeing basic freedoms. The official submitted her first annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Tuesday.

U.N. Special Rapporteur Daniela Kravetz welcomes the strengthening of ties between Eritrea and Ethiopia since the countries signed a Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship one year ago. Despite those positive developments, she says there have been no tangible improvements in the human rights situation in the country.

“The dividends of peace are not yet benefiting ordinary Eritreans. Nor are there any signs to suggest they will. As a result, hundreds continue to flee the country every month,” she said.

Kravetz noted that national service remains one of the main drivers of migration from Eritrea. The government introduced compulsory military service for everyone ages 18 to 50 for a period of 18 months. She says in reality, people are trapped in a system of indefinite military conscription – a system that has forced thousands to flee the country.

The U.N. rapporteur is urging the government to reform the national service, demobilize recruits and create jobs. She expressed great concern about the continued use of indefinite and arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, without any recourse to justice.

“One example is that of Ciham Ali Abdu, a dual Eritrean-American national who was arrested when she was only 15 years old as she tried to flee the country without an exit visa in December 2012. This past April, she turned 22. She remains in custody and her whereabouts are not known,” the rapporteur said.

Kravetz is calling for the release of all political prisoners and for Eritrea to uphold and strengthen the rule of law and justice.

Ambassador Tesfamicael Gerahtu from Eritrea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was critical of what he called interference in his country’s sovereign rights. He accused the U.N. Human Rights Council of targeting his country over the past eight years with unwarranted resolutions and special mandates on trumped-up charges of a human rights crisis.

He said the objective of the special rapporteur’s mandate was to vilify, isolate and destabilize Eritrea and further complicate regional peace, security and development.