Open letter: Ensure continued monitoring of the human rights situation in Eritrea

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council

Excellency,

We, the undersigned human rights organizations, are writing to urge you to support the adoption of a resolution at the upcoming 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council (“Council”) to maintain a monitoring and reporting mandate on the human rights situation in Eritrea.

The human rights situation in Eritrea remains dire, notwithstanding recent developments, including the Eritrea-Ethiopia Summit, the reopening of the border between the two countries, and the signing of a tripartite agreement between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia.

A free and independent press continues to be absent from the country and 16 journalists remain in detention without trial, many since 2001. Eritrean authorities are yet to produce evidence that those arbitrarily jailed are alive. Throughout the country, authorities have restricted and suppressed civic space. At the Council’s 40th session in March 2019, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, violations of the right to a fair trial, lack of information on the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons, lack of access to justice, lack of enforcement of the 1997 Constitution, the imposition of severe restrictions to the enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and religion or belief, and the continued use of indefinite national service involving torture, sexual violence and forced labour. She stressed: “[A]s far as [the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR] is aware, the actual human rights situation for the people of Eritrea has not improved in the past year.” Ongoing severe violations, including their gendered impact and generalised impunity, call for a high level of monitoring and public reporting.

This is the wrong time for the Council to relax scrutiny of the situation in Eritrea. In its resolution 38/15, adopted by consensus in July 2018, the Council invited the Special Rapporteur to “assess and report on the situation of human rights and the engagement and cooperation of the Government of Eritrea with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, as well as with the Office of the High Commissioner, and, where feasible, to develop benchmarks for progress in improving the situation of human rights and a time-bound plan of action for their implementation.”

The Special Rapporteur will present her report on reform benchmarks at the upcoming Council session. These provisions, which offer a constructive way forward, outline an expectation of continued attention to, and engagement with, the country. The Council should now ensure adequate follow-up. Failure to do so would doubtless be interpreted by Eritrea as an endorsement of the status quo, further entrenching systemic rights violations. Discontinuation of the mandate should only occur when and if these benchmarks are met and there is demonstrable and concrete progress in the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights.

As a newly-elected member of the Council, Eritrea has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council” (UN General Assembly resolution 60/251). Eritrea has not adhered to its membership obligations and has neither invited the Special Rapporteur nor accepted her request to visit the country. Eritrea is one of only 22 countries that have never received a country visit from any Special Procedure, despite requests from numerous mandate-holders.

Obstructionist behavior should not be rewarded. Eritrea’s membership in the Council should be fully leveraged for improvements in the country’s human rights situation and cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms. The Council should urge Eritrea to change course and engage with the UN human rights system.

At its 41st session, the Council should make clear that membership does not prevent, but rather triggers an enhanced responsibility to accept, scrutiny. It should adopt a resolution maintaining a Special Procedure mandate and a high level of monitoring and public reporting, to ensure that the grave and systemic human rights violations identified by OHCHR and the Council’s own mechanisms are addressed and accountability for these violations is achieved.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information.

Sincerely,

Signatories: 

AfricanDefenders (the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)

Amnesty International

ARTICLE 19

Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Center for Reproductive Rights

CIVICUS

Civil Rights Defenders

Committee to Protect Journalists

CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

Eritrea Focus

Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)

Eritrean Law Society (ELS)

Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)

Front Line Defenders

Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)

Human Rights Defenders Network - Sierra Leone

Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)

Human Rights Watch

International Commission of Jurists

Information Forum for Eritrea (IFE)

International Refugee Rights Initiative

International Service for Human Rights

Network of Eritrean Women (NEW)

Odhikar, Bangladesh

One Day Seyoum

Release Eritrea

Reporters Without Borders

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

 

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Abe Skander · 4 months ago
    February 25, 2020

    The Honorable U.N High Commissioner
    for Human Rights/ Michelle Bachelet
    Geneva- Switzerland

    Subject: Open Letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights

    Dear Honorable U.N. Commissioner:

    There is no doubt that you know very well through the international reports that you received from the human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organizations that witness violations of freedom of expression and human rights in Morocco, and you also know the security and military blockade imposed on the Northern of Morocco RIF and the WESTERN OF SAHARA, in addition dozens of Moroccan security and police secret, they kidnapped young men into secret detention centers, where they are tortured with the most heinous forms of torture, sexually raped, by inserting sticks and bottles into their rectum anus and electrocuting their genitals, after they get rid of their torture, they submit to the courts on false accusations that are unfounded, their only guilt, whether they are young people belonging to the RIF or the WESTERN OF SAHARA, or they expressed their peaceful opinion towards the Moroccan monarchy dictatorship and corrupt regime, or they exposed corruption within the state apparatus via YouTube or Facebook, or they carried out peaceful demonstrations demanding with decent living or hospital or university in their marginalized rural areas, and this repression from kidnappings and torture which is practiced continuously on the people of RIF and the WESTERN OF SAHARA in particular, and this repression includes in general other people in the Moroccan cities such as Casablanca, Rabat, Kenitra, Settat, Fez, Nador, Jerrada, Khemissat, Marrakesh and the rest of Moroccan cities where the security authorities monitor those involved in social media network such as YouTube and Facebook, and if someone exposed one of the top heads of the state with his embezzlement of public money and holding the king responsible for the corruption and injustice they will be kidnapped from their homes and tortured and they will be accused with fabricated false of accusations and prosecuted in the court of (law) under the name of the king with heavy punishment of many years in prison.
    The systematic and continuous repression on all classes of the Moroccan people including the people of RIF and WESTERN OF SAHARA, it has become one of them their demands the abandonment of its Moroccan nationality due to the anger of the result of persistent injustice, corruption and repression.
    Al Hoceima, the cultural capital of the Rif, has long had tense relations with the monarchy. The Berber population in the region waged war against Spain, then Morocco’s colonial ruler, in the 1920s, defeating the Spanish Army and declaring the Rif Republic, which lasted from 1923 to 1926, has long had tense relations with the monarchy. The city has become a symbol for rising public anger after the gruesome death of the fishmonger, Mouhcine Fikri 31 year old, jarred the status quo, and have now developed into a social and economic movement, their Hirak protest movement has become the biggest challenge to the monarchy dictatorial and corrupt regime, Thousands of protesters took to the streets, hold Amazigh and RIF flags accusing the authorities of corruption, abuse and injustice and demanding government investment in the impoverished northern Rif region, the protests were triggered by the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri, who was crushed to death by a rubbish truck as he tried to rescue his fish that had been confiscated by the police, his death galvanized a public deeply resentful of officials who are seen as heartless, corrupt and ruling over a stagnant economy, the Moroccan government came down hard on the protesters, arresting more than 200, and Human Rights Watch said it had received 43 complaints of torture by the police. The Moroccan police did not only using suppress of kidnapping and torturing, but also intentionally killing by running trucks and vehicles of the police to disperse the peaceful crowds of demonstrators. “This is a serious deterioration of the human rights climate in Morocco,” said Ahmed Benchemsi, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch. “Episodic cases of police abuse and a crackdown on peaceful protests have been documented in the recent past, but not in such a large scale in many years".
    The activist Riffians leader Nasser Zefzafi interrupted a preacher’s sermon at a mosque in Al-Hoceima. Mobile phone footage shows Zefzafi called the preacher a “liar” and asked whether.
    On 29 May 2017 Nasser Zefzafi was kidnapped in Al Hoceima with other protesters and then shown transported in a helicopter by Gendarmerie to Casablanca, they been tortured and sexually violated in the police before being charged with "threatening national security". This was followed with a series of over 100 arrests of other activists related to the movement from Al Hoceima and other cities.
    On June 26, 2018, Zefzafi received a 20-year imprisonment along with the other detainees, including Benjaloun and Ahamjik after numerous cancelled trials since their detention. This verdict created waves of social discontent and sparked outrage among Moroccans. According to a statement of Nasser Zefzafi on his taped message said that he "suffered the worst forms of torture" following his arrest in June 2017. In the message from jail shared widely on social media, he was "beaten up... raped with a stick... forced to undress".
    The city of Jerrada has been neglected since the mines closed some 20 years ago, part of growing public dissatisfaction in some poor areas at a time when the government is implementing currency reforms and cutting subsidies to drive economic growth. The Jerada protests have found common cause with dissent that has rumbled since 2016 in the Rif, also in the north and making economic and political demands. According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It looks like it is about suppressing the right to peacefully protest social and economic conditions.”
    On March 14, 2018 in city of Jarrada, the Moroccan police and the auxiliary forces intervened with a violent barbaric attack trucks and cars hit-and-run crash into the peaceful demonstrators carrying the Moroccan flag, causing the killing of three young men and wounding others, some of them seriously injured, and one of them the child Abdelmoula Zaiker, 16 years old, was hit by a police van that he was seriously injured, he suffered trauma to the head, hips, feet, and vertebrae, according to a hospital document seen by Human Rights Watch, now he is paralyzed, suffering from back chronic pain and psychological trauma. The Moroccan authorities refused to recognize responsibility and punish the police officers drivers and those who gave them the order to commit this heinous and horrible crime against humanity, the Moroccan authorities went further by putting pressure on the Moroccan hospital administration that were offering the medical treatments to Abdelmoula Zaiker by not providing his mother, Mrs. Najat Mahjoubi, a complete medical file of her son. Mrs. Najat Mahjoubi,has another son, his name Abdenasser Zaiker, 17 years old, was kidnapped and tortured in the day of the violent barbaric attack trucks and cars hit-and-run crash by Moroccan police in Jerrada for 7 hours, in July 13, 2018 Abdenasser Zaiker was kidnapped and tortured again by the Moroccan police and been sent him to jail with fabrication of false accusations without foundation and remained in prison five months without trial until he was released. Mrs. Najat Mahjoubi, decided to leave Morocco to Turkey with her two sons, now they are waiting for hope from one of the European countries or Canada or Australia to receive them.
    Human Rights Watch researchers who visited Jerrada on April 4 were stopped and interrogated at two security checkpoints, then closely followed all day by a car containing three men in civilian clothes, apparently prompting contacts to cancel scheduled meetings. The researchers observed a heavy presence of security forces, with armed uniformed police posted in every major street and square of the small city.
    On December 5, 2019, the Moroccan police secret consisting of ten officers attacked the house of Mr. Mohamed Bodouh (Nickname: Moul Al Hanout) in the city of Khemissat, he was kidnapped, tortured and sentenced to three years in jail after being convicted of charges including damaging constitutional institutions, sharp criticism toward the Moroccan authorities and King Mohammed VI due to videos on YouTube, because of the injustice and marginalization that he is exposed to when he was young and his family by the Moroccan monarchy dictatorial and corrupt regime, even though his father was a military in the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces for more than twenty years as a fighter after the outbreak of the dirty war in WESTERN OF SAHARA launched by the Moroccan army against its indigenous Sahrawians population represented by the Front POLISARIO after the invasion by Moroccan military in 1975 and it was shared with Mauritania and when the Mauritanian state felt the trick of Morocco to occupy the land of WESTERN OF SAHARA from its legal people unjustly abandoned that division. Mohamed Boudouh is facing torture in the Moroccan prison, now is fighting a hunger strike for more than thirty daily and his critical health condition requires medical intervention to save his life from death. There are also among these kidnappers in the prisons of the Moroccan monarchy who practice daily the worst forms of psychological and physical torture and suffer from the cruelty of prison guards in the solitary cells.
    Another kidnapped during the crackdowns on protesters in RIF Jamal Bouhdou was sentenced to 10 years in prison with other group of Hirak Rif. Jamal Bouhadou also faces daily the most heinous and horrible forms of physical and psychological torture, with severe beatings with dangerous devices, insults and humiliation.
    Jamal Bouhdou was born on September 9, 1975 in the RIF (Al Hoceima), he lived in Tangier and continued his university studies at the University of Tetouan. He holds two diplomas BA and MA degrees in French, Spanish and English languages, a former professor of languages, and he was writing in the Spanish newspaper El Pais and other Spanish newspapers about the situation of the military and security forces surrounding the region of RIF, with a large number of members of the Moroccan intelligence services, in civilian clothes, are waiting for kidnapping young Riffians to secret detention centers, none of their families knows about their presence where they are being tortured, and after getting rid of their torture, they fabricate false charge.
    Jamal Bouhadou continued to struggle peacefully with his writings until the events of the Arab Spring came in the year 2011, then he was kidnapped with a large group of young peaceful demonstrators in Tangier by virtue of his affiliation with the Movement 20 of February which is a popular and peaceful movement, he was sentenced to two years in prison, and after his release from prison he was kidnapped again from his home in Tangier on May 27, 2017 after the mobility of the RIF due to the angered the residents of the region because of the killing of fish salesman Mohsin Fikri inside the garbage truck on October 28, 2016, he was kidnapped because of his ideas that believe in the RIF being an area occupied by the dictatorial monarchy, and the RIF must obtain its independence and re-establishment THE REPUBLIC OF RIF, the Moroccan police secret taking advantage of the situation sand protestation in the RIF and kidnapped him in Tangier, which the city of Tangier was quiet, unlike the other cities of RIF like Al Hoceima and Imzouren, he been tortured in detention Imprisonment for years that remain in a solitary cell in prison.
    Dear Honorable U.N. High Commissioner, I urge you to interfere with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and all the members of your esteemed council by taking the necessary measures to release all political prisoners and people of free opinion from inside Moroccan prisons and to issue a special investigation on the violation of human rights in Morocco and the principal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) against humanity.

    Respectfully Yours,

    Abe Skander
    Human rights activist, U.S American, born in Morocco, witness of the bloody massacre carried out by the military under the rule of the dictator King Hassan II against protesters in March 23, 1965 at the age 10 years old was kidnapped with hundreds of young people during the period of the crackdowns on protesters in 1965.

    External Links:
    https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/06/morocco-rif-protesters-punished-with-wave-of-mass-arrests/
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/22/morocco-protest-leader-alleges-police-beat-him
    https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/angry-protests-morocco-after-fish-9167293
    https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/08/morocco-dozens-arrested-over-mass-protests-in-rif-report-torture-in-custody/
    https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/09/228798/morocco-fires-back-human-rights-watch-report-al-hoceima-rif-hirak/
    https://blogs.mediapart.fr/libertejecristonnom/blog/110118/solidarity-children-rif
    https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/morocco/report-morocco

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