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UN human rights expert to gather first-hand testimonies from Eritrean refugees

April 29, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, is due to begin an official visit to Ethiopia and Djibouti on Tuesday to collect

April 29, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, is due to begin an official visit to Ethiopia and Djibouti on Tuesday to collect first-hand information from Eritrean refugees on the situation inside their country.

The visit comes as the government of the reclusive Red Sea nation blocked her from entering the country.

“Due to lack of access to Eritrea, I will engage with all others concerned by human rights in Eritrea, including those who consider themselves to be victims of alleged human rights violations, human rights defenders and other civil society actors,” Keetharuth said in a statement issued by The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The visit will be Keetharuth’s first field mission since her appointment in November 2012.

Under her one-year mandate, she is tasked with carrying out investigations on the human rights situation inside Eritrea and reporting her findings to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“I will gather first-hand information from Eritrean refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries,” she said, adding that her investigations will be strictly limited to the situation inside Eritrea.

Keetharuth’s findings will be published in her first report to the UNHRC in June.

Authorities in both Ethiopia and Djibouti have agreed to provide access to Eritrean refugee populations residing within their borders for the purposes of Keetharuth’s 10-day fact-finding mission.

The special rapporteur has made several requests to visit Eritrea, all of which were denied.

Calls by Keetharuth for Eritrean authorities to collaborate with her mandate with a view to addressing the country’s human rights challenges have also been ignored.

Asmara says it rejects her appointment, describing it as politically motivated.

During her upcoming mission, Keetharuth will interview Eritrean refugees in various locations to assess allegations of widespread and systematic violations of human rights in Eritrea contained in a number of disturbing reports received from different sources.

The special rapporteur will also attend meetings with government authorities in both countries.


Rights groups have described Eritrea as the North Korea of Africa, saying its secretive and repressive state apparatus headed by president Isaias Afewerki shows scant regard for human rights, imposing strict controls on personal freedom and a policy of mandatory military conscription, often for indeterminate periods.

Many female conscripts have alleged they were subject to sustained sexual abuse and harassment from their military superiors throughout their service.

According to rights groups, arbitrary, indefinite and incommunicado detention is routine, with summary executions and the systematic torture of those who oppose the regime commonplace.

“Eritrea is a country where no human right is respected, be it the choice of religion, the right to a fair trial, the right to vote in free elections, the right to leave town looking for food and work, the right not to join the army, not to be sexually molested, tortured, beaten, and even killed”, Elizabeth Chyrum, director of London-based NGO Human Rights Concern-Eritrea, said partly in an open letter to British foreign secretary William Hague on Friday.

Keetharuth plans to release her preliminary findings on the human rights situation in Eritrea at the conclusion of her field visits on 9 May.

A lawyer from Mauritius, Keetharuth has been involved in human rights issues in Africa for over two-and-a half-decades. She also worked as a broadcaster for over eight years.

In 2011, she was awarded a medal of honour by the Madrid Bar Association in recognition of her human rights work on the African continent.

The UNHRC approved her appointment for a one-year mandate during its 21st regular session in September 2012, with Keetharuth taking up her functions the following month.


Review overview
  • Tesfai May 1, 2013

    If the pfdj grouping had nothing to hide, it wouldn’t have blocked Ms. Keetharuth’s entry into the country. To the contrary, it would have been a welcome opportunity for the grouping to demonstrate to the world public how things were pretty well and how the people were free and overjoyed in pfdj’s wonderland.

    Unfortunately, the killing fields of Eritrea speak of horrendous crimes perpetrated and still being perpetrated by a ruling clique, which has, in this 21st century, reduced its subjects into mere slaves reminiscent of long bygone dark ages. Thus, the pfdj clique and its chieftain will never listen to the voice of reason, they will remain adamant to calls by international bodies and be persistently horrific to the subjects under their yoke. By this time, the grouping realises the magnitude of the sufferings it has inflicted on the poor people of Eritrea and anybody attempting to find out what really was going on inside the country shall be rebuffed in the most uncivilised manner. Would anyone have expected Pol Pot to let a UN rapporteur inside the country and make a survey of his killing fields in Cambodia?

    Human dignity, for which attainment and for which periodical perfection humanity as a whole has been striving and fighting for centuries, is being contemptuously tampered with in Eritrea by a hyneous grouping which has usurped state power. It’s above all the Eritrean people’s responsibility to get rid of its tormentors by whatever means at its disposal. However, eye-witness reports presented by representatives of international bodies also play an important role in exposing the clique and are at least a moral success to the fighting spirit of Eritrean democrats.

    Meanwhile, the fighting goes on. A violent clique will have to be fought back by necessity through violence. Once confronted by a united democratic force, the grouping will certainly crumble like a house of cards in a matter of months, if not weeks. What is needed now is reorganisation for a united and viable democratic force.

  • ብሌዛ May 2, 2013

    true is true
    we have to recall the establishment of Jebha on Egypt through the hidden agenda of Arab leaders of those days. Now everything is changed. we have to recognize the failure of this establishment that brings the whole failure in this country.what are the actual attachments of free Eritrea in our assumption and the actual life shown us in Eritrean or being an Eritrean is gaining additional crises from African brothers and it is nothing except new flag and fake yohana.

  • WELDU KESSETE May 5, 2013

    Here i am to write about Eritrea please people are misguided by the rule of the present government since i am Eritrean who had been born there and grown up there this man is
    very brutal and savage and has finished his people the people are also knowingly or unknowingly have clapped their hands for him which it doesn’t deserve him so the one who concerns these case please give a solution to the people to overthrow him or change his policies it is the mistake of the people they have admired him in the first and this time we are paying our mistakes but there is no need to compromise the Eritrean people are in torture there is nothing to study about or make a research,people are suffering every where i am also suffering in Uganda as refuge i can come back to my country when i was in my country three of my brothers are died in national service ,…please if you really want to help us please try to move out the man from his position i think the torture is enough and please send me a replay i can talk a lot other wise there is no use of UN unless it understands the problem of people,….best wishes please this case is critical issue help us i am with out job for two years begging money from people but graduated in 1992 but this time i use to sleep in streets becouse of no job and solution,…