GENEVA, 25 February 2021 – The United Nation’s special rapporteur on Eritrea wants a probe into possible involvement of Eritrean forces in the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Speaking Wednesday before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the envoy, Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker said he wanted a swift, independent investigation into allegations that Eritrean troops attacked refugee camps and abducted Eritrean asylum seekers.
Babiker said he was concerned for thousands of Eritreans who used to live in two UN-run camps in Tigray.
The camps were allegedly destroyed by Eritrean and Ethiopian troops and Eritrean refugees who had fled political persecution, authoritanism, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations and compulsory military service in Eritrea were forcefully repatriated to Asmara.
Accounting to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), as many as 96,000 Eritrean refugees used to live in four camps across Tigray before Ethiopian federal forces invaded the northern region on 4 November 2020.
Babiker said the investigation would shed light on allegations that two of the four camps – Hitsats and Shimelba – which hosted more than 25,000 Eritreans, were desoryed in attacks by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces.
The Sudanese-born Special Rapporeur said he had received first-hand accounts of allegations of “extra-judicial killings, targeted abductions and forced return of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers to Eritrea, allegedly by Eritrean forces”.
He added that many such refugees are now held in prisons in Eritrea.
Babiker argued that Eritrea “lacks rule of law, a constitution and an independent judiciary to enforce the protection of and respect for human rights”.
“Eritrea continues to have no national assembly to adopt laws, including those regulating fundamental rights and the right of the Eritrean people to participate freely in the public life of their country,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“I request the Eritrean authorities to give me full access to refugees and asylum seekers allegedly held in various prisons inside Eritrea,” Babiker added.
Last December, the Special Rapporteur requested a visit to Eritrea to be organized in January 2021 for which he has not yet received a reply to this date..
U.N. Special Rapporteurs are mandated by the Security Council but they do not speak for the United Nations.
The Ethiopia government on Wednesday said it had granted access to Tigray to scores of international humanitarian agencies.
“More than 135 personnel of bilateral and multilateral aid organizations have been provided clearance to travel and undertake assistance work in the region,” read a press release issued by the Office of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister.
“As of today, 3.1 million people have benefited from the humanitarian aid distributed in 34 districts out of 36 in the region,” the statement said.