The Eritrean government once again made no visible progress on key human rights concerns over the past quarter. Eritrea continued to violate its international obligations and domestic law, including in the areas of arbitrary and inhumane detention, indefinite national service and lack of religious freedom, freedom of the media and freedom of speech.

The UK has continued to raise human rights concerns with the Eritrean government at every opportunity, both bilaterally and as part of the EU. In an EU meeting with senior Eritrean officials in April, our Ambassador in Asmara, along with EU colleagues, urged Eritrea to improve human rights, pointing out that its poor international reputation was a barrier to investment and development. She specifically raised the continued detention of political and religious prisoners, including some who are elderly and sick. She again urged Eritrea to sign up to the Foreign Secretary's Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and attend the June summit in London. It is disappointing that Eritrea chose not to do so and we hope that it will decide to join in the near future. In a meeting in June with the Eritrean Foreign Minister, our Ambassador emphasised the above points and highlighted the negative effect of Eritrea's rejection of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. She urged Eritrea to come forward with commitment and a firm plan to implement recommendations arising from Eritrea's UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

On 24 May, the Eritrean President announced the start of a process to draft a new constitution for Eritrea, in place of the existing 1997 constitution, which regrettably has never been implemented. EU Ambassadors in Asmara have urged the Eritrean government not to use discussion of a new constitution as an excuse to delay human rights reform any further. The UK is therefore concerned to see several references to the proposed new constitution in Eritrea's response to the 2014 UPR recommendations (see below).

The UK supported the adoption in 2012 of a Human Rights Council resolution on Eritrea, which included the establishment of the UNSR. At the 26th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UNSR presented her second annual report, highlighting in particular concerns over Eritrea's system of indefinite national service. The UK delivered a strong national statement sharing the UNSR's concerns on indefinite national service and arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention and inhumane prison conditions. We also called for the release of all political and religious prisoners. The UK welcomed and supported all the recommendations the UNSR made in her report, as well as the recommendations in her previous report. We supported the further renewal of her mandate and expressed regret that Eritrea continues to deny her access and co-operation. We called on the government of Eritrea to honour its international human rights obligations and to cooperate fully with the whole UN human rights system, including the UNSR.

During this same Human Rights Council session, there was follow-up consideration of Eritrea's UPR, conducted in February 2014. The government of Eritrea presented its response to the 200 UPR recommendations, accepting 92. However, it disappointingly included no commitment or detail on the process or timetable for implementation. Eritrea's response to the most serious human rights abuses, such as indefinite and inhumane imprisonment without trial on political and religious grounds, continued to be outright denial. Thus the 2014 UPR represented no advance on the 2009 one. The UK welcomed Eritrea's nominal co-operation with the UPR process but regretted the lack of progress so far. We urged the government of Eritrea to take rapid and concrete steps to implement UPR recommendations. On 27 June 2014, the Human Rights Council renewed the UNSR's mandate and set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the human rights situation in Eritrea for a period of one year.


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