Brief overview of CDRiE (Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea)
CDRiE is a Diaspora-based Eritrean civil society organisation that works for: the full realisation of democratic rights of the Eritrean people; advancement of rule of law, constitutional governance that enable the Eritrean people to elect their own leaders through free and fair elections, including full restoration of freedoms of conscience, religion, information, expression and association. CDRiE is a member of CIVICUS, a world alliance for citizen participation. CIVICUS and CDRiE have jointly co-authored the Eritrea June 2013 submissions to UNUPR working group.
Whether national consultations have taken place
Eritrea is a country where there is absolute dearth of freedom of association and expression. As a result, there are neither civil societies nor political organisations in the country that operate openly. In such a context, no meaningful consultation is possible. All change-seeking civil society and political organisations that operate openly are based in the diaspora. Hence no national consultations have taken place. This statement is a follow-up of the documents submitted to the UNUPR (United Nations Universal Periodic Review) by CIVICUS and CDRiE jointly. The latter submission was based on consultations conducted among CDRiE’s members, academics and individuals inside and outside Eritrea. With regard to the preparation of this submission, there have been on-going consultations which continued until the final document for the final submission was completed.
Plan of statement
The issues that require immediate action in Eritrea are many. Referring to some of the recommendations suggested by different states in the first UNUPR, our statement focuses on the need to implement the ratified constitution; women’s and girls’ rights; the indefinite national service/WYDC and the plight of refugees; and children’s rights. Other diaspora-based Eritrean civil society organisations will focus on other but equally urgent issues.
Implementation of the 1997 Constitutional
In 2009, Australia, Canada, Slovakia, Spain and Slovenia issued five recommendations calling for expeditious and full implementation of the constitution that was ratified by the Constituent Assembly in 1997. Eritrea has chosen not to comment on this critical recommendation. Since then not only has Eritrea failed to implement the constitution, but it has also been violating the rights of citizens with impunity. Not only are arbitrary and incommunicado detentions endemic in the country, but no charges are brought against detainees. The G11, many journalists, followers of the minority churches, leaders of the other churches and teachers in the Islamic schools and others detained since the mid-1990s years have neither been charged nor is their whereabouts known to their families and citizens.
Therefore we suggest recommending Eritrea to:
· implement the constitution
· respect the constitutional rights of citizens, including the right of Habeas corpus, freedom of expression and association
National Service and Refugees
Argentina, Canada, Slovenia, United Kingdom, United States issued recommendations to eliminate the indefinite national service. All these recommendations were rejected by Eritrea. After the border war (1998-2000) and the introduction of the WYDC in May 2002, the 18 months NS has degenerated into forced labour and has become indefinite. The NS violates the fundamental human rights of the conscripts’ and their families’ rights to Life; Liberty; Security of person; Economic Rights; Personal rights and Legal and Political rights. Those who resist conscription on the grounds of conscientious objection have been languishing in incommunicado detention. To escape from the open-ended slavery-like forced labour, tens of thousands have been fleeing the country to seek protection and livelihoods elsewhere.
We therefore recommend that Eritrea:
· brings to an end the indefinite national service
· demobilise and reintegrate those who have completed the 18 months as stipulated in Proc. No 82/1995;
· recognises the rights of conscientious objectors; and
· ratifies and signs the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons
Women and Adolescent Girls
Eritrea received recommendations from Algeria, Ireland, Norway, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Canada and Austria to enforce the law against female genital mutilation. Although Eritrea has accepted these recommendations, they remain unfulfilled. In spite of formal prohibition, the practice has been continuing unabated. The government has been mobilising public opinion against the practice, but is not considered a priority.
Women and girls in the national service are allegedly subjected to rape and sexual violence at the hands of military commanders. Eritrea received recommendations from Ghana, Spain, France, Austria, and Slovenia highlighting the need for the rigorous enforcement of the laws against rape and other forms of sexual violence; to criminalise marital rape; combat domestic violence; to protect women in the armed forces against rape, sexual violence. Eritrea accepted these recommendations except those on marital rape. En route to safety, tens of thousands have been falling easy prey to ruthless human traffickers, smugglers and hostage-takers in eastern Sudan and the Sinai. Those whose families are unable to pay prohibitive amount of ransom are killed and their organs are harvested for sale.
In order to abolish the practice we suggest recommending Eritrea to:
· full-heartedly enforce the law against FGM
· intensify campaign against the practice
· prosecute those who violate the proclamation against FGM to deter others
· recognise the problem of rape and sexual violence in the national service and the WYDC
· criminalise marital rape
In the evaluation Eritrea received six recommendations on the rights of children from Norway, Germany, Argentina, Poland and Ghana. They recommended to prevent recruitment and torture of children by the police and the military; establish a minimum age for conscription of children and respect their fundamental rights; to protect children against torture and inhuman treatment, as well a provide the means by which they can be integrated into civilian life. These recommendations were rejected by Eritrea. The toxic effects of the national service have detrimentally affected the safety and wellbeing of Eritrean children. From 2003 onwards, children attending 12th grade are transferred to the Sawa military camp to combine military training with ostensible academic education. All aspects of Eritrean society, including education are heavily militarised and consequently, the standard of education has declined dramatically. The search for better standard of education has been one of the drivers of forced migration in the country. Thousands of unaccompanied minors and children approaching the age of conscription have been fleeing Eritrea and joining the refugee camps in Ethiopia and Sudan where they lead squalid lives. Many have also fallen easy prey to human traffickers, smugglers and hostage takers. Among those who periodically perish in the Sinai, Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea, some are some are children, including toddlers. Even the unborn are not spared.
To guarantee children’s rights, we suggest recommending Eritrea to:
· Follow up recommendations 36, 56, 57, 63, 64 and 65 by: implementing the recommendation sof the Committee on the Rights of the child; prevention of conscription of underage children and torture and inhuman treatment
· Demilitarise education at secondary and post-secondary levels by ending the transfer of grade 12 students to the Sawa military training camp
Most of the recommendations from the first review (30 November 2009) are still outstanding. There has been no progress made since then, including implementation of the 1997 ratified constitution; formation of political parties; national elections; establishment of national human rights institution; invitation to all United Nations human rights special procedures; minimum age for military service; indefinite military service; conscientious objection to military service; forced labour; arbitrary arrest, detention and torture.