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Ethiopia-Eritrea peace must be foundation for rights protection – UN

Ethiopia-Eritrea peace must be foundation for rights protection – UN


New United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has expressed excitement at the Eritrea – Ethiopia peace deal which she says must be a foundation for protection of human rights in both countries.

Bachelet said her outfit looked forward to the abolition of national service by Eritrea in the wake of peace and that Ethiopia will also scale up efforts to cure an acute internal humanitarian crisis.

She said her office stood ready to support any such efforts aimed at deepening the protection of human rights in both countries.

Bachelet’s comments were part of her opening statement at the 39th session of the Human Rights Council on 10 September 2018. Her predecessor, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein had in several statements bemoaned the falling human rights situation in both countries and tasked both governments to pursue concrete resolutions.

Ethiopia since April 2018 has been on a wave of speedy democratic reforms led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Political prisoners have been released en masse, laws are being scrapped and amended to open the democratic playing field especially ahead of polls in 2020.

Over in Eritrea, the government has given the strongest hint yet that an indefinite national service justified by threat of aggression from Ethiopia will soon be reshaped. A UN rapporteur has said the conscription amounted to slavery and crimes against humanity.

Asmara’s bad human rights record has included reports of how political opponents and journalists have been jailed. In some instances religious activists have also been detained according to rights groups.

Post the July 9, 2018 peace deal reached between Abiy and Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki, political and human rights watchers are looking on as to how fast and when Asmara will roll out a democratic structure.

Michelle Bachelet’s full comments on Eritrea – Ethiopia

The Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship signed in July between Eritrea and Ethiopia offers hope for an end to the decades-long stalemate between the two countries, which has had very severe impact on the people on both sides of the border.

The Office stands ready to support both countries in protecting human rights. We particularly look forward to seeing an end to indefinite conscription into the Eritrean military.

In Ethiopia, the Office has recently visited regions affected by intercommunal violence between the Gedeos and the Gujies communities, where recent clashes have reportedly forced over a million people to flee their homes.

We welcome initial steps taken by the Government and urge a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the human rights violations which allegedly occurred, with full accountability for the perpetrators.

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