- The United Nations Human Rights Council held an “enhanced interactive dialogue” on 11 March to discuss the situation of human rights in Eritrea.
- Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that despite “positive developments” in regional relations, “the Office of the High Commissioner had not seen any improvements in the actual situation of human rights”.
- Daniela Kravetz, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, said that Eritrea “had yet to put in place an adequate legal and institutional framework to uphold minimum human rights standards”, and that last year’s peace declaration “had created an expectation that Eritrea would implement reforms”.
- Tesfamicael Gerahtu, Head of the Eritrean delegation to the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, called on the Council to “terminate its confrontational approach”, and said that there was “no crisis that warranted a special mandate on Eritrea”.
- Participants to the dialogue included the European Union, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Australia, Venezuela, the Russian Federation, Iceland, China and Saudi Arabia. They were joined by a group of major civil society organisations.
- The delegations welcomed the peace process and expressed hope that the peace declaration and the various commitments signed by countries in the Horn of Africa would contribute to the protection of human rights. The United Kingdom urged the Government to reform its military service to place limits on its terms.
Human Rights Watch: Eritrea should permit access to United Nations Special Rapporteur – 11 March
- International rights group Human Rights Watch published a statement following the dialogue on Eritrea held in Geneva, calling on the Eritrean government to “start allowing the Special Rapporteur access and cooperating with her mandate”.
- HRW says that the government “has made no meaningful changes to its mandatory “national service” that conscripts young Eritreans for unlimited times – often more than a decade – despite the decree that officially limits conscription to 18 months.”
- HRW calls on the Eritrean government to “outline a timetable for demobilization of its conscripts, starting with the longest serving”.
- The statement reads: “there has not yet been any meaningful progress, and this is exactly the wrong time to relax Council scrutiny. We urge the Council to continue the mandate of the Special Rapporteur beyond the current term to help ensure that Eritrea starts adhering to international norms of human rights. And we urge the government of Eritrea to demonstrate a good faith commitment to do so.”
All Africa: Eritrea: Significance of Organized Tours to Development Sites – 12 March
- All Africa publishes a press release from the Eritrean Ministry of Information about “organized tours to development sites” for citizens to visit infrastructure developments in the country.
- The tours are intended to “[increase] the understanding of citizens on the ongoing nation building activities as well as [develop] domestic tourism”.
- One of the projects visited was the Gahtelai Dam, which aims to ensure a potable water supply for the port city of Massawa and help develop agricultural activities in the area.
Reuters: Ethiopia, France sign military, navy deal, turn ‘new page’ in ties – 12 March
- Reuters reports that France and Ethiopia have agreed their first military cooperation accord, which will include helping Ethiopia build a navy, in an effort by Paris to boost economic ties in Africa’s second most populous country.
- Paris has agreed to provide 100 million euros to help the country’s economic transition.
- French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking at a news conference with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said: “[t]his unprecedented defence cooperation agreement provides a framework… and notably opens the way for France to assist in establishing an Ethiopian naval component.”
- Reuters reports that Macron’s four-day visit to the Horn of Africa, which also included a trip to Djibouti, comes as part of a bid to “leverage a mixture of Paris’ soft power in culture and education and its military know-how” to gain a foothold in Ethiopia at a time when the country is opening up. The accord also provides for air cooperation, joint operations and opportunities for training and equipment purchases.
- France built a rail link between Djibouti and Addis in 1917. Abiy said: “The railway between Djibouti and France is 100 years old and the work that we now want to complete with President Macron is for the long-term. Perhaps in 100 years we’ll talk about it again.”
Swissinfo: Eritreans stuck in Switzerland lose faith in a better future – 13 March
- Swissinfo publishes a feature by Marie Vuilleumier on the situation of young Eritrean asylum seekers in Switzerland whose applications were rejected by the government there.
- The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) explains that “[f]ailed Eritrean asylum seekers who are subject to a removal decision are legally obliged to leave Switzerland. Forced removals are not currently possible, but voluntary returns are.”
- Vuilleumier writes that, unable to work and unwilling to return to Eritrea for fear of repression, many young Eritreans in Switzerland feel stuck, and can only survive thanks to emergency assistance. In 2017, more than 8,000 people received emergency assistance.
- “A conference on the issue of training rejected asylum seekers was held in early February in Lausanne. Apprentices, employers, asylum professionals and teachers called on the cantonal and federal authorities to allow young people to complete their training, even in the event of a negative asylum decision.”
- “Judges now consider that Eritrean asylum seekers can be sent back to their country, even if they risk being recruited into the army upon their return. The SEM has undertaken a review of more than 3,000 files of Eritrean applicants with temporary admission to assess whether a removal is required.”