To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)


Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council’s 56th session (18 June-12 July 2024), we, the undersigned Eritrean, African, and internatio­nal non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your dele­gation to support a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rap­por­teur on the situation of hu­man rights in Eritrea.

Moving be­yond a merely “procedural” approach, the resolution should clearly spell out and con­demn the ongoing grave human rights viola­tions committed by Eri­trean authorities in a context of wide­spread impunity. As Eritrea is completing its second term as a Council Member, the resolution should also stress the gap between Eritrea’s conduct and membership standards and obligations.

Last year, in a letter released ahead of the Council’s 53rd session, a group of civil society organisations stated that the Human Rights Council “should produce a substantive assess­ment of Eritrea’s hu­man rights situa­tion.” They mentioned the need for Council reso­lu­tions to refer to the Special Rapporteur’s “bench­marks for progress” and recommendations by other UN and Afri­can bodies and me­cha­nisms, and to include sub­stan­tive elements ad­dres­sing violations committed by Erit­rean autho­rities.[1]

They highlighted the following key human rights issues:

  • Arbi­trary arrests and detentions, including in­com­mu­ni­cado de­ten­­tion of journalists and other dis­senting voices, some of them since 2001;
  • Vio­lations of the rights to a fair trial, access to jus­tice, and due process;
  • Enforced disappearances;
  • Conscription into the country’s abusive na­tional ser­vi­ce system, including conscription for in­de­finite periods of national ser­­vi­ce, involving torture, sexual vio­len­ce against women and girls, and for­ced labour, as well as govern­ment-sponsored roundups of peo­ple the Government con­si­ders draft evaders or deserters and punishment (in the form of arbitrary detentions and home ex­pul­sions) of their family members;
  • Severe restrictions on the media and media workers, on the rights to freedoms of opinion and exp­ression, peaceful assembly, association, move­ment, and non-dis­cri­mination, as well as on free­dom of reli­gion or belief, leading to a total closure of civic space in the country;
  • The 2016 findings (and absence of follow-up action by the Human Rights Council on the findings) of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in Eritrea that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that crimes against humanity have been committed in the country since 1991 and that Eri­trean officials have com­mitted and continue to commit the crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disap­pea­rance, tor­­ture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape, and mur­der;
  • The fact that no Eritrean official has been held criminally accountable for these crimes and that Eritrea’s human rights situation has not fundamentally changed since the completion of the COI’s work and despite reports by Special Rapporteurs and the Office of the UN High Com­­missioner for Human Rights (OHCHR);
  • Widespread impunity for past and on­going human rights vio­la­tions; and
  • The Government of Eritrea’s refusal to engage in a serious dialogue with the inter­national com­mu­­ni­ty, including by cooperating with the Council, despite its election for two consecutive terms as a Coun­cil Member (2019-2021 and 2022-2024).

Despite its obli­ga­tions as a Council Member, including to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and pro­tection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council,” the Government refuses to co­­ope­­rate with the Special Rapporteur or other special procedure mandate holders. As of May 2024, Eritrea remains among the very few countries that have never received any visit by a special procedure.

Since the last Council resolution on the country, resolution 53/2, was adopted, the African Commission on Hu­man and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted Concluding Observations on Eritrea. These Obser­va­tions fol­low the review, on 29 October 2023, of Eritrea’s combined 2nd and 3rd Periodic State Report. They outline a long list of con­cerns and recommendations pertaining to, among others, ratifications, legal reform, non-discrimination, free­dom of conscience, Eritreans’ right to participate in public affairs, the right to life, tor­ture, freedom of expression and access to information, freedoms of association and assembly, the rights to housing, work, health and education, and the rights of women.

In its Concluding Observations, the ACHPR also requested Eritrea to “provide information on imple­men­tation of the Commission’s recommendations in Communication 275/03 [Article 19 v. Eritrea] which, inter alia, urged the government of Eritrea to release or to bring to a speedy and fair trial the 18 journalists detai­ned since September 2001, and to lift the ban on the press.” In resolutions and decisions it adopted over the last two decades, the ACHPR repeatedly emphasised the need, for the Government of Eritrea, to release detainees and to guarantee, at all times, the right to a fair trial, freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to peaceful assembly. The ACHPR’s calls have remained unheeded.

On 6 May 2024, Eritrea’s fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) confirmed the authorities’ failure to implement recommendations from previous cycles, including regarding: cooperation with the UN human rights sys­tem, inc­lu­ding the Special Rapporteur; implementation of the ratified 1997 Constitution; legal reform; conscription for indefinite periods into the national service; violence against women and girls; torture and ill-treatment; and lack of civic space.

Resolutions on Eritrea should fully and accurately reflect the country’s human rights situation. They should provide a framework for discussion about human rights in Eritrea, including the domestic situation and its impact abroad. This includes the severe and far-reaching effects on the diaspora, who often face extra­territorial attacks. These measures are aimed at maintaining control over Eritreans and people of Eritrean origin living abroad, silencing dissent, and discouraging any criticism against the regime.

As 2024 marks ten years since the establishment of the COI on Eritrea, and Eritrea is completing its second consecutive term as a Member of the Council, this year’s resolution should also request the Special Rapporteur to conduct a stocktaking by assessing how Eritrea’s human rights situation evolved during the country’s Membership in the Human Rights Council (2019-2024) and what accountability options and processes are available to address human rights violations and abuses, including those iden­tified by the COI as well those that have taken place subsequent to the COI’s final findings.

The Human Rights Council should pursue its action on Eritrea to date. At its 56th session, it should adopt a resolution that:

  • Extends the mandate of the Spe­cial Rap­porteur on Eritrea;
  • Urges Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur, including by granting him access to the coun­try, in accordance with its obligations as a Council Member;
  • Condemns the ongoing grave human rights viola­tions committed by Eri­trean authorities in a context of widespread impunity;
  • Condemns Eritrea’s failure to abide by the Council’s membership standards and obligations; and
  • Requests:
  • The High Commissioner and the Special Rappor­teur to present updates on human rights in Eritrea at the Coun­cil’s 58th session in an enhanced interactive dia­lo­gue that also includes the participation of civil so­ciety;
  • The Special Rap­porteur to present a comprehensive written report at the Council’s 59th ses­sion and to the General Assembly at its 79th session; and
  • The Special Rapporteur to include an assessment, in his next report, of the evolution of Eri­trea’s human rights situation during the time of its Membership in the Council and in the context of the ten-year anniversary of the establishment of the COI on Eritrea, stock­taking on accountability options and processes available to address past and ongoing viola­tions.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information.


  1. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  2. African Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD Initiative)
  3. African Missions Empowering Network (AMEN)
  4. Africans for the Horn of Africa (Af4HA)
  5. The America Team for Displaced Eritreans
  6. Asian Centre for Human Rights
  7. Bright Hope
  8. Burkinabè Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CBDDH)
  10. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  11. Congress of Nations and States (CNS)
  12. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  13. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  14. Eritrea Focus
  15. Eritrean Afar National Congress
  16. Eritrean Coordination for Human Rights (ECHR)
  17. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
  18. Eritrean Research Institute for Policy & Strategy (ERIPS)
  19. Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC)
  20. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
  21. Geneva for Human Rights – Global Training (GHR)
  22. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
  23. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  24. Human Rights Watch
  25. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  26. National Integrative Council of Eritreans (NICE)
  27. National Representative Council of Eritrea-GIE (NRCE-GIE)
  28. One Day Seyoum
  29. REDRESS Trust
  30. Release Eritrea
  31. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


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