Crimes Against Humanity Committed in Eritrea, UN Commission Says

  • Officials in country accused of enslavement, torture, rape
  • Crimes seen as steps to deter Eritrea’s people from opposition

Eritrean officials have committed crimes against humanity, including enslavement, rape and murder, across the Horn of Africa country over the past quarter-century, a United Nations commission said.

The crimes were committed in locations including detention facilities and military training camps as part of a campaign to snuff out opposition ever since they took control of the territory in 1991, according to a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea released Wednesday.

“Eritrea is an authoritarian state” with no independent judiciary, parliament or other democratic institutions, said Mike Smith, who headed the commission. “This has created a governance and rule of law vacuum, resulting in a climate of impunity for crimes against humanity to be perpetrated.”

Eritrean presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab rejected the report’s findings, saying it included “no solid evidence or firm legal basis to support its extreme and unfounded charges.” He commented in a statement published on the Information Ministry’s website.

Eritrea has been ruled by President Isaias Afwerki since it achieved independence from neighboring Ethiopia in 1993, after decades of armed struggle. The country has no privately owned press and obliges all adults to perform national service that’s often extended indefinitely, fueling illicit migration to places including Europe.

“Particular individuals, including officials at the highest levels of state, the ruling party -- the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice -- and commanding officers bear responsibility for crimes against humanity and other gross human-rights violations,” according to the report. It’s based on 833 interviews with Eritreans and 160 written submissions in the year to mid-2015.

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