GENEVA (HAN) July 4.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. The United Nations rights council has called on the African Union to investigate Eritrean leaders over alleged crimes against humanity after a damning report by a UN Commission.
In that report, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) for Eritrea said the government of President Isaias Afwerki had committed heinous crimes since independence a quarter of a century ago, including the “enslavement” of 400,000 people.
Many of those abuses are allegedly linked to a harsh national service programme in the secretive Horn of Africa state, which for many is almost impossible to escape and which the COI compared to lifetime enslavement.
In a resolution adopted Friday with consensus by the body’s 47 members, the Human Rights Council said it “strongly encourages the African Union to follow up on the [COI] report”.
The AU should set up “an investigation … with a view to examining and bringing to justice those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights identified by the commission , including any that may amount to a crime against humanity”.
The AU has no prosecutor or court system. But it played a leading role in setting up a special court to prosecute former Chadian military ruler Hissene Habre, who was sentenced to life in May for war crimes and crimes against humanity over his 1982-1990 rule.
Rights groups and activists have welcomed the UN’s calls for an investigation into allegations against Eritrea._
The London-based Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea Chairperson Suleiman Hussein said the UN council’s resolution constitutes “a huge blow” to the Eritrean government.
“It is also a very strong message to those who operated with total lawlessness for so long and that it won’t be long before the days of impunity and the rule by terror come to an end,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I hope they now know that they cannot get away with a systematic and widespread abuse of this magnitude … which is rarely seen elsewhere in the world.”
An Eritrean human rights defender Daniel Rezene Mekonnen described the resolution as “fair enough”, but added that he hopes for more concrete measures in the future.
“Overall, seen against the fierce diplomatic campaign of the Eritrean regime of the last four weeks, I believe the resolution we have now is fair enough in laying down the necessary ground work for tangible accountability mechanisms for crimes against humanity in Eritrea,” he told Al Jazeera.
It is to be recalled that UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea report of June 8, 2016 says that Crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, persecution, rape, murder and other inhumane acts have been committed as part of a campaign to instill fear in, deter opposition from and ultimately to control the Eritrean civilian population since Eritrean authorities took control of Eritrean territory in 1991.
Commission of Inquiry Chair Mike Smith said Eritrea is an authoritarian State. There is no independent judiciary, no national assembly and there are no other democratic institutions in Eritrea. This has created a governance and rule of law vacuum, resulting in a climate of impunity for crimes against humanity to be perpetrated over a quarter of a century. These crimes are still occurring today.