Detention and torture a "fact of life" in Eritrea, says UN expert

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UN Human Rights Council, Geneva. Photo/Pierre Albouy

A top UN investigator has told the UN Human Rights Council that Eritrea needs to address "very clear patterns of violations", while saying that reforms to its restrictive and open-ended national service system would be hugely significant.

Mike Smith, who's president of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, made his comments after presenting an interim report to the council.

In it, he detailed how rights have been curtailed there with the detention of "an inordinate number" of people and widespread torture.

Daniel Johnson has more:

Basic freedoms in Eritrea have been curtailed to the extent that people hardly have any choice over where to live, when to get married or who to worship, the UN investigator said.

His comments come after months of interviews with Eritreans living outside the country, since the east African nation's authorities refuse to let investigators in.

On the Eritrean Ambassador's suggestion in the Human Rights Council 

to limit national service — which all students are required to do if they wish to graduate – the UN expert said it would be "enormously important".

"If it did happen, and if it did happen seriously, which is to say, not just from now on do young people only serve for 18 months, but a process by which those who have already served a lot of time are demobilised, that would be an enormously important thing."

Among his findings, Mr Smith also highlighted that for men and women, young and old, including children", detention was an "ordinary fact of life".

In reply, the Eritrean delegation rejected the Commission of Inquiry's findings, saying that it did not give its consent for such country-specific reports.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'04"

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