Eritrea human rights probe tackles 'long list' of alleged abuses

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A wide view of the Human Rights Council at its eighteenth session, in Geneva, Switzerland. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Investigators have started a probe into Eritrea where the Human Rights Council has condemned what it calls a widespread and systematic violation of fundamental freedoms.

Alleged violations in the east African nation include extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, along with forced military conscription.

Thousands of people young and old have fled the country, said inquiry chief Mike Smith.

"These people are leaving their country for a reason and people don't put themselves at risk and go through the sorts of traumas which a lot of people are doing, and to the risk of being exploited by people traffickers and so on and travelling in unsafe boats in the Mediterranean without a reason, and it's the reason behind it that we'll be looking at closely."  (26″)

The three UN commissioners met for the first time in Geneva on Thursday where they called for witnesses to come forward with information that could help their investigation.

Mr Smith called the list of alleged abuses "pretty long and open-ended".

But he said that the Eritrean authorities hadn't yet responded to his request to let the commission into the country.

Failing that, the investigators plan to gather testimonies from refugees and asylum seekers in neighbouring countries including Ethiopia and Sudan.

The inquiry's measure of success would be an improvement in the life of ordinary people with action taken by the government to help them, according to Mr Smith.

The Commission of Inquiry has until June to present its findings.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’28″


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