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Christian group welcomes monitoring of crimes against humanity in Eritrea

by Hannah Tooley

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has praised a resolution that extends the monitoring of human rights in Eritrea by a year.

The mandate has been increased for the Special Rapporteur in the country and CSW is calling on the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (COIE) to pass on information to all relevant UN bodies "for consideration and appropriate action" to ensure accountability for human rights violations, including crimes against humanity.

Eritrea has been accused in the past of mistreating Christians and arresting believers unjustly.

It ranks as number three on Open Doors World Watch List of persecution against Christians.

- Population: 5.4 million - 2.6 million Christians
- Government: One-party state
- Main Religion: Islam/Christianity
- World Watch List Rank: 3 (Open Doors 2016)

The COIE has "found reasonable grounds to believe" that crimes against humanity, "namely enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder" have been committed in a "widespread and systematic manner" in Eritrea since 1991, and continue to occur.

The resolution condemns the "widespread and gross" human rights violations which "are being committed by the government of Eritrea in a climate of generalized impunity".

It pushes for the creation of an African Union mechanism supported by the international community "with a view to examining and bringing to justice those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights identified by the commission of inquiry, including any that may amount to a crime against humanity".

Expressing deep concern "that the situation of human rights in Eritrea is a primary factor in the increasing number of Eritreans leaving their country", the resolution calls for greater international collaboration "to ensure the protection of those fleeing from Eritrea, in particular unaccompanied children."

Dr Khataza Gondwe, Team Leader for Africa and Middle East at Christian Solidarity Worldwide said: "CSW welcomes the passing of this resolution, which marks another important step towards ensuring justice for Eritrean victims.

"The renewal of the Special Rapporteur's mandate is particularly welcome, as the grave, pervasive and wide-ranging human rights violations underway in Eritrea necessitate continued monitoring with enhanced capacity.

"Most importantly, the resolution provides for accountability by encouraging the establishment of an African Union justice mechanism with international assistance, while the requested submission of the COIE's report and oral updates to all relevant UN bodies "for consideration and appropriate action" allows for potential interventions by the Security Council.

"We commend the Djiboutian and Somali delegations for working diligently to ensure the resolution was adopted by consensus, and urge the Eritrean Government to engage with all HRC special procedures, and particularly with the Special Rapporteur, in order to address and end the crimes against humanity occurring with impunity within its borders."

Two countries, Djibouti and Somalia, tabled the resolution.

It has been co-sponsored by several delegations, including France, Ukraine and the United States and passed despite strong lobbying by the Eritrean delegation.

Eritrea has described the resolution as an unjust and unfair.

In June, CSW and Human Rights Concern-Eritrea held an event where persecution against believers was highlighted.

Ms Helen Berhane, a gospel singer, was detained for 32-months in a shipping container.

She was subjected to regular torture, including a severe and sustained assault that almost left her permanently disabled.

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