By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
Report is circulating about possibility of the United Nations Security Council at some point referring Eritrea to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mike Smith, Chairman of the three-member Eritrea Inquiry Commission Wednesday briefed the media that his Commission “has concluded that Eritrean officials have committed crimes against humanity.”
Eritrea is accused of “Crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, persecution, rape, murder and other inhumane acts – have been committed as part of a widespread and systematic campaign since 1991 aimed at maintaining control over the population and perpetuating the Eritrean leadership’s rule.”
Since bias is the likely charge Mr. Mike Smith and his Commission anticipate, he said at the outset that the members have made every effort to investigate the Eritrea situation impartially and report fairly, as he put it, including with respect to serious human rights violations since the publication of the first report. He announced Wednesday that Eritrea is continuing to violate the human rights of its people “often happen behind closed doors and continue to instil fear in Eritreans, not only in the country but also in the diaspora.”
We state with all honesty that we wish all peoples of the world lived in such a planet, where the unjust and human rights violators, irrespective of their alliances, are treated in the same manner. This could have forced human rights violators to be watchful. By so doing, justice could have been meted out to those victimized all over by the powerful, brutes, the arrogant and abusers of public trust and the power they have been entrusted with. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
While the three-member Eritrea Inquiry Commission, established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2014, is within its mandate to alert the Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly and the Security Council to such need to punish “crimes against humanity”, it is our considered view that the report would have to be first reviewed by the UNCHR to ensure that the ‘recommendation(s)’ there is not giving the appearance of bias, selectivity and subterranean motives.
Should that be felt by some or as many member states, the view that the UNHRC for some reason is not acting against other worst human rights offenders including known murderer dictators may only further weaken the Council, thereby leading to its unfortunate irrelevance.
This is not being stated in defense of Eritrea’s records under the EPLF. No amount of explanations would cover Asmara’s barbarism, horrendous as they are.
After all, it would not be lost on Ethiopians that the TPLF and EPLF are twins; their politics, policies and attitudes are guided by self-serving convictions; they also came to the political scene at around 1991 as buddies in their respective ‘liberation struggles’ only to prove to be the dogs of war from 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, in which reportedly over 70,000 Ethiopians perished.
It is real that, with war or without, both rule with strong hand, as the report fear that cowers citizens to their core, since they are both murderers and persecutors of their respective citizens. In respect of Eritrea, the Inquiry Commission stated that Asmara did everything it does at “maintaining control over the population and perpetuating the Eritrean leadership’s rule.” This is also true of the TPLF in Ethiopia, which all of a sudden being pushed to status of a nation that tries to overcome poverty. Reality shows that the TPLF too does not fit the mold, because of which it takes its habitual seasons of killing and massacring citizens.
What should UNHRC DO?
In the light of the foregoing, it is imperative that the UN Human Rights Council seriously deliberate carefully on the Inquiry Commission’s report. It should review the outcomes of the past two sessions of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on as many nations from the East Africa sub-region to weigh the gravity of Eritrea’s violations of the human rights of its citizens relative to others.
Certainly, rest assured the Council would not find a saintly Eritrea. However, what needs reflecting is that there are worse nations, whose human rights offenses that are constantly overlooked.
Whatever it chooses to do, it would not be lost on Ethiopians that the United Nations Human Rights Council has not been heard, when the TPLF has been day and night massacring Oromo protesters, the cause of which is the TPLF practices of land robbery, famously known as land grab, and ethnic discrimination, about which much has already been written.
Nonetheless, as we read this death and destruction continue in Oromia, as they also happen in Amhara, Gambella and elsewhere.
Moreover, the policies of the regime especially deaths and disappearances, unlawful detentions of Ethiopian youths have been cause for the thousands of Ethiopians that flee their country and are lost in the high seas. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and IOM keep on reporting about Ethiopians still flocking into war-torn Yemen. This is not without reason.
On January 21, 2016, the EU Parliament adopted a resolution, by which operative paragraph 1 read:
“Strongly condemns the recent use of excessive force by the security forces in Oromia and in all Ethiopian regions, the increased cases of human rights violations and abuses, including violations of people’s physical integrity, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions, the use of torture, and violations of the freedom of the press and of expression, as well as the prevalence of impunity”.
In considering the work of the Inquiry Commission and the non-action of the Human Rights Council itself, we are bound to ask why the Council was so timid in the case of Ethiopia and, thus, mum thus far to shed light on such criminal human rights violation for which there is no parallel elsewhere in Africa.
Of course, Eritrea has been exhibiting excessive phobia, because of which it has become a cloistered nation; indeed it is difficult to know what is happening behind its closed doors. It has also created anxiety in its neighbors, with its alliances with the Middle East’s medieval sheikdoms that are known to be arming and bankrolling ISIS. There is noting that amounts to anything beneficial there, than ill-will toward Africans.
Let’s not also forget that Eritrea’s shut door has worried those sniffing investment opportunities around the world. These often come with with their closed eyes to the human rights of the the local population, as we see in the case of Ethiopia.
Yes, their concern and preoccupation has anything to do with the plight of Eritreans running away from military services. And yet, it is worrying it should become their singular concern, while ignoring other open violation of human rights in other places.
There is no doubt the concern may be appropriate. Be that as it may, we would like to remind them that it is equally important that this is done out of principled policy of concern for the human rights of all peoples in all countries.