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Critique Of The Human Rights Commission On Eritrea

Sheila B. Keetharuth pictured with Eritrean "opposition" members. 

Critique Of The Human Rights Commission On Eritrea

By: Asmarom Legesse, PH.D.

The world is buzzing with media commentary in response to the report by the Commission of Human Rights on Eritrea. Allow me to offer my reflections on this report as a researcher and a defender of the rights of Eritrean victims of war.

The mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) is defined as follows:

In compliance with resolution 26/24 the commission of inquiry investigated the human rights violations described by the Special Rapporteur in her reports, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and incommunicado detention, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, violations committed during compulsory national service, including those affecting children’s rights, and restrictions on the freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly, association and \ religious belief and movement.

Judging from manner that Sheila Keetharuth, the Special Rapporteur, carried out her project, it is clear that she framed her role not as investigator—as the mandate indicates—but as prosecutor, whose single-minded purpose was to gather evidence that would incriminate the Government of Eritrea.

There is no indication whatsoever that she cared about justice particularly in regard to the underlying conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea which is at the
deepest root of what she is investigating.

If the Special Rapporteur is a prosecutor there should be a presumption that the accused would be entitled to have equal opportunity for defence. Otherwise the whole exercise becomes a travesty of justice.

It appears that Eritrea was given little opportunity to defend herself in the Commission’s proceedings and was judged to be guilty even before the mandate was given.

Human right law says the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty and that the law applies to individuals and state parties.

The most important aspect of the study that needs to be verified is the evidence the Commission gathered from asylum seeking refugees—who are, apparently, the majority of her informants. The problem with such evidence is that the informants, unlike asylees, have every reason to falsify their life histories and paint the worst picture of their experiences in Eritrea in order to win Asylum. That fact casts considerable doubt on the validity of the entire study.

Keetharuth was working closely with opposition groups who are plotting to bring about regime change in Eritrea, out of their base in Pretoria, South Africa, but had no contact with mainstream Eritrean communities around the world: Every one of these latter communities has a branch of the National Union of Eritrean Women, an association, founded in 1979, which fought for women’s rights in Eritrea for three decades and continues to do so today.

Keetharuth makes many allegations about the status of women in Eritrea without ever approaching any of the tens of thousands members of the women’s union in the Diaspora.

Keetharuth has swept under the rug all evidence concerning the Government’s effort to realize the people’s right to food security, universal primary education for boys and girls, universal healthcare, universal vaccination programs for children that have greatly reduced child mortality rates.

The nine nationalities in Eritrea are given support to preserve and develop their cultures and languages and to offer primary education in their vernaculars. These rights are given top priority in Eritrea, and are enshrined in the Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

What is proclaimed in this Covenant is the foundation of all human rights, i.e. the right to life. Without it, no other right can have any meaning. These are some reasons why Eritrea is expected to be one of the first African countries destined to achieve nearly all the Millennium Development Goals.

Choice of Human Rights Focus 

Which body of human rights law does Keetharuth invoke? As far as the two key Covenants that are most relevant to our assessment of human rights are concerned, the world is divided.

The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is top priority for nations that stress individual rights; on the other hand, the Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural rights, is top priority for nations who are equally interested in collective rights. Keetharuth dwells largely on civil and political rights of 450 individuals and aligns herself totally with capitalist nations in placing issues of governance, freedom of speech and assembly above the economic, social and cultural rights.

The opposite true for Eritrea because the country is deeply concerned with poverty eradication, food security, education, health, culture and the survival of its people.

Thus, the mass expulsions of 75,000 Eritreans from Ethiopia, mass displacement hundreds of thousands out of the border areas occupied by the Ethiopian army are of no concern to the COI’s investigation although they constitute massive violations of collective rights of the Eritrean people.

They caused much suffering by uprooting entire communities, breaking-up families, destroying family estates, alienating land, and undermining subsistence economies.

These are major forces behind emigration. Many of the young people fleeing out of the country today are the children of families whose lives were shattered by the Ethio-Eritrean war, as documented in my three published reports titled The Uprooted, 1998, 1999, 2000.

Because of the biased perspective on human rights law adopted by the Commission, the violations of the collective rights of hundreds of thousands Eritreans and of the nation as a whole have been obliquely dismissed:

“The international community and the United Nations bear an ongoing responsibility for the situation in Eritrea. In particular, the non-implementation of the Algiers Agreement of 12 December 2000 and of the ruling on the demarcation of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea has provided an easy pretext for the Government to implement repressive practices supposedly aimed at the defence of the State”. COI, p. 17 (emphasis added)

This is a convoluted argument by the Commission that is filled with ill-will for the Eritrean people because it belittles the two greatest offenses committed by Ethiopia against the Eritrean people as pretexts for something else.

There are also important geopolitical factors that impact on human rights discourse. When states, such as Ethiopia, are allied to US and aided by the US, their human rights violations are largely ignored, minimized, forgiven and forgotten. However, states that do not accept USAID and maintain a neutral posture with regard to the “war on terror”, such as Eritrea, will have their infractions greatly inflated and presented as a “threats to world peace”.

They will relegated to the simple-minded category of ‘evil nations’. That American posture is directly mirrored in the COI’s report. It reveals that the UN cannot deviate from US policy, lest the financial support of the superpower for the UN be severed, as the US has threatened to do in the past.

The UN is biased in the manner it administers human rights law. One of the most astounding instances of selective administration of human rights is the case of human traffickers in the Sudan, Egypt (Sinai), Libya, where criminals have committed some of the most vicious violations of human rights ever seen in the world.
What is the justification for investigating human rights violations against Eritrean refugees when the worst perpetrators of human rights against them are excluded from the study?

Most of the difficulties that Eritrea faces with the flight of youth out of the country cannot be remedied unless the enduring threat to the country’s national existence is removed.

If Eritreans have no country, no other rights matter. If the boundary decision were implemented today, there would be no need for Eritrea to maintain a large standing army, no need for extended military service, and no drivers for large scale emigration. The belligerent posture assumed by Ethiopia continues unchecked by the United Nations. That is the elephant in the room that cannot be ignored, however hard the US, UN or the COI attempt to do so.

(This is an abridged version Prepared for a Presentation at the House of Lords, Britain on 18 June, 2015)

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Critique Of The Human Rights Commission On Eritrea Reviewed by Admin on 5:27 AM Rating: 5


  1. Brother Asgedom, You must be kidding. The issue here is
    simple and clear: Are the human rights of Eritreans violated or not? I think
    every Eritrea is by now well aware that Eritrean government, as far as human
    rights violation is concerned, as brutal as north korea and more. We don’t have
    to read the report of COI to reconcile with the fact that the human right
    situation in Eritrea is dismal. That makes the issues you raised (about the
    independence of Sheila) irrelevant. We know that the rights are violated and
    those who are responsible for the violation must be brought to the courts of
    law. It is simple as that. I don’t understand, though, why people who are enjoying
    the freedom of west with their kids and family are not willing to be the voice
    of the voiceless Eritreans who have been suffering for over a decade in the
    dungeons of Higdef? It is real

  2. Eritrea has
    many shortcomings but the question is where and when has UN ever thought on
    Eritrean human right issues for the last 60 years? you are apparently the one trying
    to kid the reader not the professor.

  3. The un or the international community was absent willingly in the last 6 decades, why is that now focusing in to Eritrean affair? Leave to Eritreans resolve their home issue, not for outsiders, let them be absent as ever..this is the point

  4. Mr. Dottore:

    You said:"Are the human rights of Eritreans violated or not?"
    As a Dottore,you know well that Dottorism and/or Science,aint perfect either.We are NOT talking about "Perfectionism but Relativism or Relativity".
    Yep,we know that the GoE has weakness,failures,etc...
    But using your same analogy,let me ask you this:
    1)Have the UN,UNHCR,USA/CIA/Weyanes and their puppets and messengers violated our Rights as an Independent Nation and People?
    2)Why would the same entities jumping out overnight now in accusing Eritrea,when they are the ones,who set up (and/or contributed in doing so)Eritrea and Eritreans to be in this situation?
    3)Why couldn't /wouldn't the same entities,Human Rights Activists and Guarantors of "Peace" jump over night and do their home work to resolve all the simmering issues that have led us to be in this mess?
    4)Aren't or weren't they the same evil actors that contributed to our misery as well?
    The solutions and approaches should be constructive and peaceful,not confrontational.
    Where were they for the last 15 yrs or so,other than doing their evil actions overtly and covertly?
    They just showed up now after realizing that Eritrea is moving FAST in improving the Eri-EU-USA relationship besides being closer into securing the $400 Million EU Development Aid so as to block all these positive developments,which in return might aggravate the "Human Rights" and Socio-Economic and Educational Devlopments of Eritrea and Eritreans,not to mention the worsening of the Eri Exodus.
    Only Naive or real enemies of Eritreans would block this constructive raproachement of Eritrea with the EU and the USA/Israel..
    There shoudl be a constructive approach if the intention is to improve the Human Rights situation in Eritrea but the way they have done is self-evident.

  5. Eritrea as whole -Sovereign country's human rights- is violated by the UN. They need to go back and learn about how they treated Eritrea from the years of confederation with Ethiopia WITHOUT Eritrean people will and still they give their deaf ears on their own rules to demarcate the border. Infact they would have sanctioned Ethiopia who voilated the abiding rules and still occupy Eritrean territories.

    As Eritreans we should ask ourselves:
    1. why do they cry crocodile tears now for our people's human rights while they watch our people suffer due to their punishment (sanction)?
    2. why should Obama encourage our young to flee, when they are occupied for betterment of their life at home?
    3. did Obama or individuals who encouraged our young to flee made their efforts to save them from cruel killers in Libya, Sinai or the ocean?
    4. did all who call themselves opponents done anything to better the situation for those who flee the country?

    Eritrea is an outcome of the Mass sweat and blood !
    For the reason the people of Eritrea should give the support to the country's Soveregnity and territorial integrity !
    without any excuse, because where there is no country, there would NEVER be any Human Rights, votes, constitution or leadership ! NEVER !
    Lets unite and work hard for 'One Eritrea' to win all challenges.

  6. Thank you brother for telling the truth. There are always sellouts and people of self intresst with or without PHD who protect dictators around the wrold. Mengsu is good examples, he did have people with PHD supporting him until last minute. Hence this guy is the same, he has his own intresst supporting the dictatorship in Eritrea, who knows maybe he is one of those with identity complex and the dictator and people around him. As you said we dont need UN to tell us what is going on in the country, every Eritrean with moral grounds knows that Issays and his inner circles are brutal monsters who have a lot of Eritrean bloods on their hands. It is only that the international community finaly confirming what we already knew.

  7. NWO- New world order, crazy thing is that even Isias the great knows and addresses it time and time again. So new world order is the reason why the UN is being so twisted and sick towards Eritrea just because we won't abide by this horse crap.

  8. The professor is not kidding u are diverting, the issue here is the mandate of sr Is crime shame that u tray to insult our intelligence, and don't ever call Brother to any Eritrean.

  9. Dotore. What Professor Legless said is everything that the report presented is wicked because it singled out one or two unsubstantiated issues and forget to mention the root causes. He did not say there is no problem in Eritrea. In fact Eritrean Human rights is not worse than that of Ethiopia. He said there is prolonged national service, there is big Standing army. There is economic difficulties, poverty. He is more clearer if you are welling to understand.
    Why is it people like doctored say Eritrea, eritrea, human rights, human rights. America is the most HumAN RIGHTS VIOLATOR. Ethiopian Human rights record has been on top of all nationas. So what are that special about Eritrea that warrants all this reports?
    About information gathered from 550 people is bulshit. An asylum seeker in refugee camps, or anyone who wanted to emigrate will say tortured, raped, burned, harassed, chased, followed, imprisoned, because of religion, military service, race, sexuality, and many many. If they do not say that who listens to them.Every one of asylum seekers tries to find a scratch in their legs or arms, on their backs , even if it happened when they were a child use it as evidence that were inflicted on them by the military. Many people natural born with disability and deformity would attribute it to have been caused to government torture. Many Ethiopian who claim asylum as Eritreans use rape and torture as their main reason for asylum Every Ethiopian woman claiming asylum report I was raped in Eritrea when even she never lived put her foot for a single memento in Eritrea. So would you buy this at its face value? This is what Kita Ruth heard and reported. And the shame is 550 people give her the same report, copy cat of each other.
    Rape in Eritrea is a serious crime. If there were any Eritrean woman forcefully raped in Eritrea by military, by police, or by an y civilian , Why did not do they report to the government of Eritrea when it happened at the spot. Why did not they report to the Eritrean women Association? At least this way crimes would have been recorded just for a record Even if actions were not taken by the authorities. They report it to UN? Why. In fact there are no many Eritrean woman that claims rape as her part of their asylum. Very rare and they are been advised to do so to make a stronger case. There are no many Eritrean men or women who claim asylum on religious grounds. Length of National service is. No one is against national service, the duration is. So if the abuse is centred on national service, then we all agree on that. Even the government of Eritrea agree on that. Professor legless has put it eloquently, Eritrean people rights have been violated by the US, UN and Ethiopia for the last 60 years. All the wars, INVASIONS, EVICTIONS, DEPORTATIONS,CONFISICATION. OF ERITREAN HARD EARNED WEALTH, KILLINGS AND BOMBINGS IN THE LAST 60- YEARS that has caused us to be in POVERTY and the national service. So yes. But people like doctored are to blame for our predicament, who want to see with one eye, dismissing the root cause. If Doctored can open his eyes he would have been able to see the right picture of the issue. One eye closed and partly twinkling, he sees a fraction or about 1% of the issue. Holistic approach to a matter is needed. Why are we in poverty, Why do we have National service? Why is Ethiopia occupying our land? What is national security? How do we defend our sovereignty. Doctored you do not care about Eritrea. You could be Woyane anyways.
    The abusers, violators ofHuman rights of Eritrean people cannot be a Human rights campaigners.

  10. Hot blooded EritreanJuly 19, 2015 at 10:25 PM

    You cheap hired Ho and your likes are like a broken always try to put guilty feeling on the people living abroad living in the so called democratic countries in comfort.Well all of us forced to live our beloved country with a bitter test in our mouth.The simple reason Eritrea being Federated then annexed by Ethiopia with the blessing and full approval of USA and its cohorts.And we suffered a lot by living in exile with out our wish,one of them being home sick.I my self been outside my beloved country for 37 years which i can't get it back. may be to you living in western country is enjoyable because you don't know any better Agame.
    PS.Those you are accusing for mistreating the people who freed from the jaws of shark by giving their childhood for 30 years to free the people they love so much giving their one and only life.You are one lucky MF you are not standing in my front.

  11. Addendum to my previous comment:

    Dear Professor Legesse Asmerom:

    Thank you for your Patriotic work!I

    Besides strongly believing that the External Forces have contributed to our MESS,it would be unfair to ignore the following FACTS,which you know more than most of us as you are an Eye Witness Account of the events at home ,the so called Human Rights Reps were NOT allowed to witness or testify about ,for obvious reasons, about what you have been witnessing daily:
    -The freezing and ,now,killing of the Ratified Constitution and its collateral damages of its Death Penalty,incluidngbut NOT limited to:
    a)Imprsonment of more than 10K Citizens with no due process and,mot of them not being allowed to see their loved ones
    b)the disapearance of the hG-11 and the more tan 18 Journalists with out a day in a Court
    c)The disappearance of more than 30 Mid Level and High Level Commanders and Officers,Intellectuals,Business Men,Ministers,teahcers,Doctors,etc--
    d) the Mysterious deaths of Officers,Generals,Teachers,Business men,etc--
    e)The imprisonment of the most productive segment of ur nation and the Best Commanders Eritrea has produced like major gen habtetsion---the inko and MOST resourceful Commander of our Air Force...
    f)The exodus of more than 300K people in less than 10 yrs
    g)The chaotic Economic and Education Policy,which has contributed to the above scary Exodus
    h)the destruction of Eritrean Family System and its values.
    Make NO mistake that I appreciate your analysis in the Article that the UN,its Agents,sponsors,Puppets and Messengers have not(and will NOT) address the root causes of our problems-albeit deliberately!
    My cry is that we have NOT either addressed the other root causes of our problems.
    We have also to clean our mess first and do our home work too.,i,.e.,Constitutional Governance and some basic policy Modifications,whichcould have alleviated majority of our problems.
    I do not have to " lecture" you on this baisc Subject,which is your Field of speciality but am expressing my naive opinion.
    On the side NOTE,please look at the picture of those Opposition Team Members and you tell me who is who and what they are asking for!
    -the children and Mom of Ex-Minister Petros Solomon
    -the son of Abohagoy Younis,the uncle of Ciham(teen prisoner-for simply trying to run away to join her Mom(in the USA) and the brother of a Warsay Yika'allo,who served his nation for more than 10 yrs.

  12. Does yr two comments commensurate? I read it twice and think y contradict yrself if I properly understand it. I feel one is defending and the other contradicting.

  13. Tewelde G/mariamJuly 20, 2015 at 3:28 PM

    Dear professor,

    You are blaming Sheila , among others, for meeting with the opposition and therefore, you conclude, she is not independent. But may I remind you that you are not independently coming against the investigator to protect the future interest of Eritreans and their Sovereignty but standing side by side with the isaias afewerki who is behind all the agonies our people have been going through for the last twenty four years. This is a humongous mistake on your part and by committing such unworthy mistake, you will go into annals of our history as the shameless apologist of the impostor who left no stone unturned to exterminate our people.

    If you were honest man, you would have voiced the possible ramifications of UN involvement and offer your advices to the oppositions on the ways and means of avoiding the disaster the Somalians went through in the wake of the fall of Seid Barre.

  14. Dear Professor, i liked your view as shows that COI's lack of objectiveness, loyalty, professionalism and elementary base of ethics..may god bless you and long life to you, so that you can enlighten your people with your knowledge..
    Thanks soo much

  15. Opps!
    Dear Guestt:
    I missed that you were talking about my intial/ previous comment in support of the Good Professor and in defense of Eritrea and against the UN and its malicious agenda.
    Again,the same arguent applies to that comment as well!
    That the UN, its sponsors,its puppets and Messengers have contributed mainlt to ur messy situation.
    My arguement is that both external and internal factors have played a big role and as such,both factors shoudl be addressed equally when dealing the solutions to our problems.But there is one FACT that NO one can deny:
    That if we have had a Constitutional Governance,lots of our problems could have been solved by now and as I said it repeatedly,we could have been:
    The Swiss,the Israel,the Singapore,etc-- of Africa in geeneral and that of the Horn in particular.
    Be the Judge!

  16. Thanks for your response! I appreciate that y acknowledge and have yr own
    difference. Personally I am not for the constitution, the longivity of NS etc. Even America is selective in ractifying some rights. Read the following extracted from Elias Amare Paper posted today.
    "Anyone interested in creating unity must recognize the importance of politics and persuasion, and thus the inevitability of a non-linear process....

  17. My Dear Guestt:
    I clarified to you along with B Adal in one of my threads about the Real Meaning of Constitutional Governance.
    Take the "Election Part" of it and live with the other parts of it.
    The 21st Centuary USA does not live per its own Constitution or is abiding by its own Constitution.
    But Eritrea and Eritreans deserve better than the USA and the USA people.
    You reminded me about Mr.Yemane Ghere'Ab saying:"We do not have to have a Constitution" coz even the British do NOT have ONE".
    But he used to tell us that:
    "The Unsolved Ethio-Eri border and the "No War No Peace is preventing us from implementing the Ratitifed Constitution"!
    Courtesy of Yemane Ghebre'Ab.,the PFDJ Political Affairs Advisor and Presidential Advisor..

  18. Yr pen name is good! Hope is the best thing. Personally, I like people. I wish everyone to get the best if possible. Why is the gov't who is devoted to its people 'gosewo'? I question like y but if it is a matter of prioritizing and other reason not clear to us we just live it there. Yemane has one said it is the election that is not yet in practice. Let us hope! So far I am glad the basic thing is done. If y evaluate what is done so far we are in a good position comparing to other African countries liberated long time ago. Everybody should work hard sanction to be lifted.


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