Eritrea Accused of Crimes Against Humanity
Article prepared by Ramzan Sharif – Solicitor/Director of Fountain Solicitors
The United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea released its long awaited report on the Government of Eritrea confirming that their human rights violations were such that they may constitute crimes against humanity. The 500 page investigation outlines the Eritrean Government’s widespread use of torture, rape, forced labour and national service to control citizens.
The report contradicts the findings of the controversial Danish report which suggested that many of the Eritrean migrants fleeing were little more than economic migrants seeking work and a better life. The Danish report caused controversy as the findings ran contrary to the views and evidence of many human rights organisations. One of the key experts used in the report also seriously criticised it stating that he had been quoted out of context. Despite this, it led to the Danish government and later the British government changing its policy on Eritrean refugees, making it much harder for them to be granted asylum. It is reported that refusal rates in the UK have increased from 13% to 23% as a result.
Sheila B. Keetharuth, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, said Eritreans deserve international protection. She stated that “to ascribe their decision to flee solely to economic reasons is to ignore the dire human rights situation in Eritrea and the very real suffering of its people”. The report urges the international community to offer protection and not to send them back to a country that sees gross human rights violations on a scale seldom witnesses elsewhere.
Speaking just days before the official release of the report, David Cameron stated that “Britain is a country that doesn’t walk on by” however qualified this statement by adding that we should try to stop people leaving these countries in the first place and that this could be done by using Britain’s foreign aid budget. It remains to be seen whether or not providing the Eritrean Government with aid will do anything to stop the human rights abuses.
The UN Report will assist specialist legal advisors who provide advice and support to those refugees who seek protection in the UK. In response to the report, James Howard, of Fountain Solicitors confirms that ‘I personally assists many Eritrean nationals with their asylum claims. The report confirms that the British Government’s new policy on how to treat refugees from Eritrea is fatally flawed. We will continue to challenge the Home Office on these cases and secure protection for the victims of this oppressive regime’.
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