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On the 24th of February, the UN Human Rights Council will be holding a session to review PFDJ’s, lack of progress in meeting its human rights obligations to the Eritrean people.

It is to be noted that in 2016, the UN Commission of Inquiry report found that gross human rights violations were being committed by PFDJ in an environment of complete impunity. The report also noted the total absence of the rule of law and severe restrictions on the rights and freedoms of the Eritrean people. The Commission also concluded that violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), indefinite national service and forced labour may constitute crimes against humanity.

Since the Commission of Inquiry report was published in 2016, there has been no improvement in the human rights situation in Eritrea, with PFDJ failing to meet the benchmarks set by the Special Rapporteur for Eritrea; this is the person appointed by the Human Rights Council to promote, monitor, and report on the implementation of human rights benchmarks in Eritrea. The benchmarks cover the following areas and PFDJ fails in all areas.

Benchmark 1: Improvement in the promotion of the rule of law and strengthening of national justice and law enforcement institutions.

Benchmark 2: Reforms to the national/military service

Benchmark 3: Guarantee freedoms of religion, association, expression and the press, and extended efforts to end religious and ethnic discrimination.

Benchmark 4: demonstrated commitment to addressing all forms of gender-based violence and to promoting the rights of women and gender equality.

Benchmark 5: strengthened cooperation with international and regional agencies.

Not only has PFDJ failed to meet its human rights obligations to the Eritrean people, but it is also opposed to cooperating with the Special Rapporteur and will not grant them access to Eritrea.

This demonstrates that PFDJ wants to hide its human rights violations from the international community and more fundamentally shows complete contempt for the rights of the Eritrean people.

On the 24th of February, the Special Rapporteur, Mr Mohammed Babiker will be giving an update to the Human Rights Council on Eritrea’s continued human rights violations and his findings will be discussed by the Council.

A joint statement will be delivered by Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights & CIVICUS, and other NGOs will also be delivering statements and will be asking what, more the Human Rights Council can do to ensure PFDJ meet their human rights obligations to the Eritrean people. Engagement or ‘soft diplomacy’ has failed, and we will be looking for more robust measures from the UN to ensure the rights of the Eritrean people are protected.

Justice seekers around the world wish we were in a position, to help our people and defend their rights from inside Eritrea, but PFDJ is unwilling to engage and prohibits independent civil society organisations from operating inside Eritrea, including women’s associations, human rights, and humanitarian organisations. Therefore, we must refer to international legal mechanisms to defend the rights of the Eritrean people.

Because we know, our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers are struggling at home under the shackles of dictatorship; we know COVID19 has imposed catastrophic difficulties for you; locked down for 12 months with no support from PFDJ to support your families; we know of the extreme poverty and hunger and are frustrated PFDJ refuse assistance from diaspora Eritreans and the international community; we know your children have been sent to Sawa in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic despite a national lockdown and school closures. We know families are being torn apart, Eritreans disappeared or imprisoned without recourse to the courts. We know that our people do not have the freedom to choose their path in life, condemned to a life of indefinite service; we know that your children are being forcibly sent to fight a senseless war in Ethiopia on the orders of a lawless regime. We know this and many more of the insurmountable challenges you face. But it doesn’t have to be like this, it should not be like this.

The people of Eritrea know this one truth; human rights are not a gift or a loan from Government; they are your fundamental rights, rights enjoyed by billions of people around the world; rights which PFDJ have denied you.

So those of you in the diaspora, be the voice of your brothers and sisters in Eritrea. It is important that Eritreans make their voices heard during this week when PFDJ is under scrutiny at the Human Rights Council. Eritrean NGOs are campaigning/lobbying this week, so please use social media to spread awareness of the ongoing human rights abuses taking place inside Eritrea and use the hashtags:

It is our collective voice and actions that will bring the change that we desire for our people and country.

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