Eritrea’s second review before the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 18th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group took place on Monday.
A Six-member Eritrean delegation headed by Mr. Tesfamichael Gerahtu, Ambassador of Eritrea to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland discussed Eritrea’s Second National Report under the UPR that was submitted to the Human Rights Council in preparation for its appearance.
The 72 members of the Human Rights Council Working Group that intervened in the dialogue accessed the national report and made recommendations to Eritrea on a wide range of topics.
Prior to a review by the work group, Austria, Indonesia and Sierra Leone have been chosen to serve as troikas that are responsible on providing a summary of the discussion as well as the recommendations made by participating states on Eritrea review.
Here below a brief factual summary of the discussion and recommendations made by participating States to Eritrea during the review.
From the Opening statement by Ambassador Gerahtu:
In preparation of the second UPR report the Government established a Steering Committee composed of government representatives and civil society organizations which also received input from the UN Country Team in Eritrea;
During the reporting period, work began on transferring national legislation to bring in line with Eritrea’s international obligations and the recommendations posed during the first UPR;
As a country emanating from the struggle for social justice, national development efforts have focussed on the consolidation of all aspects of social justice so that the ability of every Eritrean citizen led to a life of dignity with development within society;
Efforts to raise the effect of the economic empowerment mechanisms were also stepped up despite prevailing constraints. Micro credit schemes for rural farmers, women cooperative farms, disadvantaged women, disabled citizens and other vulnerable persons have expanded significantly;
Eritrea was achieving three MDG goals, pertaining to reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combatting HIV/AIDS, and was on track to achieving another four;
Acts of torture have been criminalized in the domestic legal system and close monitoring of such acts have been carried out in the last four years. Any evidence obtained through acts of torture were inadmissible in the courts of law;
The Government has also continued its strict policy of zero-tolerance for all forms of sexual violence and awareness campaigns on this issue have been stepped up. Under-age marriage was prohibited by law and spouses and witnesses to such marriages faced punishment under the Penal Code;
The Government has outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation with heavy penalties being imposed on those performing such acts along with their collaborators;
Protecting and promoting the rights of the child has also been at the centre of policies and strategies of the Government. Integrated Early Childhood programmes have expanded in the last four years reaching rural areas. Promoting free education has also been successfully expanded. Some 5,000 street children were also given support to continue their education;
Much effort has been made to bridge the gender gap in education and enhance the quality of girls’ education in the Eritrean school system with a particular emphasis made to combat adult illiteracy;
Eritrea has continued to encourage voluntary repatriation of those who may have left the country illegally and in violation of immigration laws and several rehabilitation and reintegration programmes have been implemented for those who have returned on their own volition;
No one has been detained for expressing his/her views or ideas, including for criticizing the government. The media, in particular, has extended and consolidated its programmes where citizens share responsibility to express opinions on state of affairs at various levels.
Positive achievements noted by delegations included, among others:
The outlawing of female genital mutilation in 2007, which has resulted in a decrease in the practice;
The progresses made in the health sector;
The progress made towards gender equality;
The programmes for economic empowerment of women, including the micro-credit schemes;
Achievements made in education, especially initiatives for free school education up to the tertiary level;
The accelerated effort made with regards to hunger, and the strengthening of food security protection;
Issues and Questions:
Compulsory military service;
The lack of progress in key human rights issues, since the last review in 2009;
The high rate of female genital mutilation;
The lack of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea;
The situation in places of detention;
The situation of political and civil rights in the country;
States participating in the dialogue posed a series of recommendations to Eritrea. These pertained to the following issues, among others:
To modify regulations on conscription in order to end conscription for indefinite periods, to cease the practice of obliging citizens to serve in civilian militia, to end the practice of children undertaking their final year of schooling in a military training camp, and to recognize the right to conscientious objection;
To abolish all types of discriminatory practices against women, especially female genital mutilation;
To allow the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea to visit the country, to positively respond to requests for information and visits to other Special Procedures and to issue them with a standing invitation;
To ensure freedom of expression, opinion and assembly all throughout the country;
To comply in law and in practice with Eritrea’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
To fully implement the 1997 constitution and the rights it enshrines, especially relating to the right to life, liberty and security, the administration of justice and rule of law;
To establish an independent human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principle;
To unconditionally release all prisoners held for their political or religious beliefs and to authorize the ICRC and other independent monitors to access all known and secret places of detention;
To put an end to the systematic use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments, as well as arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings;
To take concrete measures to protect journalists and media workers from violence and arbitrary detention;
To abolish the death penalty;
To reform Eritrea’s electoral system and to hold free and fair elections;
Ratification of human rights instruments: the Conventions against Torture and its Optional Protocol; on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; for the Protection of All Persons form Enforced Disappearances; on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol; on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers; the Rome Statute; the ILO Convention on Worst Forms of Child Labour; the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Eritrea is expected to respond to the said recommendations in writing indicating which recommendations it accepts and which it doesn’t before the outcome of the review being adopted at a plenary session on Thursday, 6 February 2014.
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