ERITREA: Deconstructing the Commission of Inquiry’s Report

sheila-keetharuth-at-unSheila Keetharuth, the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, has engaged in activities that constitute a flagrant abuse of her mandate and continues to act with blatant violation of the principles of impartiality, non-selectivity and objectivity that govern the work of Special Rapporteurs, thus breaching the equality principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The manner with which she presented her statement at the UN Third Committee on 27 October 2016 exposed her long held anti-Eritrea stance and deceptive nature. Her continued referral to the discredited and disbanded Commission of Inquiry, and attempt to present its rejected recommendations, in public forums, in academia, in Press Conferences etc. says a lot about her deceptive character and bias against the Government of Eritrea.

Special Rapporteurs have a “duty and responsibility […] to ensure that whatever actions they take or statements they make are always within the limits of the performance of their duties […] this obligation applies especially in regard to public statements […].”

Keetharuth continues to take actions or make statements that are outside the limits of the performance of her duties. Her behind the scenes actions and public statements are a matter of record. Her longtime association and work with anti-Eritrea groups and individuals associated with the minority regime in Ethiopia expose her politically motivated mandate.

Over the past 15 years there has been a vicious political campaign orchestrated against the State of Eritrea by international as well as Eritrean non-governmental organizations funded by American and European state agencies and  Sheila Keetharuth seems to have enlisted in this campaign. Although her mandate does not allow her to engage in politically motivated activities that compromise her impartiality, dismissing the thousands of letters and petitions sent to her by Eritreans around the world, whom she considered to be supporters of the Eritrean government, the Rapporteur chose instead to compromise the integrity of the process by outsourcing her mandate to known anti-Eritrea groups and individuals. A close scrutiny of the report shows that they have employed plagiary and complete fabrications in producing sections of the Commission of Inquiry report on Eritrea, and allowing its wide dissemination through media and NGO networks, further injuring the State of Eritrea and its people.

The EQL widened their global reach by partnering with international groups and individuals at strategic colleges and universities, such as the University of Pretoria and the University of Arizona, where several on-campus activities have been organized by members of the EQL and their sponsors. Some of the “wonks” that have been a staple in the Eritrean political landscape include Dan Connell, Martin Plaut, Mirjam Van Reisen, Kjetil Tronvoll and CPJ’s Chris Smith

. dan-connel-at-eepa-with-ethiopian-delegation daniel-mekonnen-with-judith mirjam-van-reisen-listening-to-kjell-magne-bondevik plaut-and-connell

The 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council exposed the behind the scenes shenanigans and the system’s fault lines, making for a nerve wrecking session, to be remembered by a generation of Eritreans for years to come. For Eritrea and its people, it will be remembered as the third transgression and the most threatening act of the United Nations and the United States against to their existence as a people. No doubt there will be a lot said and spun about the session that took place on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the UN Commission of Human Rights in 1946, and on the 10th Anniversary of its reconstitution as the UN Human Rights Council, but for the people of Eritrea, it will be remembered as the session that brought a 15 year long defamation and vilification campaign to a head… full circle.

As I followed the proceedings, it dawned on me that words like “Impartiality”, “politically motivated” & “bias” were meaningless, as each game (against the member state) had its own rules. It was normal to be impartial in one game & ruthlessly partial in another; it was normal to decry political bias in one case, and ensure it in another, it was normal to cry foul about faulty methodology in one case, but employ it to make a case against another. Truth was in the hands of the beholder, double standards and hypocrisy ruled. Prominent “human rights organizations” played the vicious game, abusing their “consultative status” in order to advance certain political agendas in a twisted game of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, exposing the rot within the human rights regime and contributing to its malignancy- further undermining the confidence of states in its efficacy.

There is prima facie evidence to show political bias in the mandate and the appointment of Sheila Keetharuth as the Special Rapporteur (SR) on Eritrea in 2012 and the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (COI-E) in 2014. There is also substantial evidence to bring to question the COI-E authorship of the reports on Eritrea. A quick look at the chronology of events leading up to the appointment of the Special Rapporteur also raise suspicions about Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner and Susan E. Rice, the then US Ambassador to the United Nations and their role in this yet another blatant act against the State of Eritrea, this time using the “human rights” pretext. The ill-advised resolution engineered by Ethiopia’s handlers and their surrogates, was accomplished with the full complicity of Navi Pillay, the former head of the UN Human Rights Council.

The selection of the Rapporteur preceded the decision to conduct an investigative mission in Eritrea. The HRC should not have considered Sheila Keetharuth from the onset, as her background and close association with the minority regime in Ethiopia, and the Eritrean groups opposed to the Government of Eritrea made her prone to bias and she ought to have been eliminated from the candidate list. The Rapporteur chosen should have been one that was not deposed to a political finding, competent and not committed to a perceived outcome-in the case of the Rapporteur on Eritrea, both criteria were ignored. Keetharuth does not appreciate the distinction between factual findings in the domain of human rights, as opposed to a political findings.

meles_and_susan_riceWhile Susan E. Rice was serving as US Ambassador to the United Nations, her office arranged for individuals and groups opposed to the government of Eritrea to address the UN Security Council, while denying that right to members of the Eritrean government. When the President of Eritrea, H.E. Isaias Afwerki asked to address the UN Security Council (UNSC) on issues relating to the sanctions against his country and people, Rice deliberately delayed the issuing of his visa and prevented him from addressing the UNSC, but made arrangements for Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, and other IGAD members to address the UNSC via video conference.

It is especially egregious when the US Ambassador prevents the President of Eritrea from addressing the UN Security Council in defense of his people against sanctions that she and the Ethiopian regime engineered, using the same underhanded tactics, pitting Africans against Africans, undermining The credibility of the UN system and worst, the peace, stability and security of the region has been greatly compromised. Members of the United Nations, especially the Un Secretary General, should not have allowed the US Ambassador to abuse the power of the Security Council, and use it UN as a podium to advance anti-Eritrea agendas.

Rice’s influence on U.S. diplomacy in Rwanda, Sudan, and Eritrea in the Obama Administration is well known. The people of Eritrea have had to bear the brunt of her arrogance, vindictive nature and abuse of power against their beloved nation. Susan E. Rice and Meles Zenawi engineered the unjust sanctions resolution against the State of Eritrea-Rice called it an “African Initiative”[1], but it was not. It was also Susan E. Rice who employed the African faces for the agenda against Eritrea at the UN Human Rights Council. History and the Eritrean people will judge her cruelty harshly. No presidency in the United States has been as hostile to the people of Eritrea as the Obama Administration has been- a black mark on his legacy as the first African-American President of the United States.

The duplicity and hypocrisy and the political corruption and bullying of UN member states in order to advance illicit political agendas has now become common practice at the United Nations and its various organs-further eroding states’ confidence in the UN System and its purported principles of sovereign equality human rights. Over the past 15 years there has been a vicious political campaign orchestrated against the State of Eritrea by international as well as Eritrean non-governmental organizations funded by American and Sheila Keetharuth seems to have enlisted in this campaign.

Appointment of Sheila Keetharuth as Special Rapporteur

Eritrea has long maintained that the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (COI-E) lacked objectivity, used duplicitous methodology, and that its biased mandate had a predetermined conclusion. In this seating, the author will address important issues relating to the Special Rapporteur, the Commission of Inquiry, and the Report it “produced” for the UN Human Rights Council. Eritrea has come full circle and the events during the 32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) brought a lot of issues to a head. Although reported widely as “Eritrea escaping censure”, the truth is that the Commission of Inquiry did not deliver any evidence to support its preposterous accusations, and with good reason. There were none…Over 500 pages of allegations-not a single verifiable evidence.

Forum with Elsa ChyrumThis article will endeavor to address the case against the State of Eritrea at the UN Human Rights Council, track record of the Special Rapporteur’s hostility against the Government of Eritrea and her past and the individuals, groups and institutions, who were contracted in the production of the now discredited Commission of Inquiry’s Report on Eritrea. In addressing what transpired at the 32nd Session, it is important to address 3 very serious issues came to the fore-how was Sheila Keetharuth appointed, who authored the reports she and her partners presented, and what role did the UN Human Rights Council Secretariat play in the collusion against the State of Eritrea, other than the United States and Ethiopia.

Eritrea rejected the resolution that called for the establishment of the Special Rapporteur saying the UN HRC was flouting “the Council’s impartiality and admissibility criteria” as the outcome was not a result of “impartial process of fact gathering and ascertaining”.  Eritrea was not been given the opportunity to provide essential information and evidence, and what it has been able to present in the very limited time was “ignored”. The whole process was “carried in a hasty manner” and was “based on a biased approach of swallowing the charges by Eritrea’s detractors and ignoring Eritrea’s replies and evidence”.

In June 2012, the Human Rights Council decided, for the first time, to transfer the confidential complaint against the government of Eritrea to a public procedure and to establish the mandate of a Special Rapporteur to follow up, although the government of Eritrea denied any such need (A/HRC/ RES/20/20). The country mandate was introduced by three main sponsors from Africa: Djibouti, Nigeria and Somalia. This was the first time in the history of the HRC that the African Group had called for a country mandate despite Eritrea’s rejection.

Since the establishment of the Human Rights Council in 2006, while thousands of complaints have been submitted to the procedure each year, only 14 complaints were ultimately referred to the Council, of which only two referrals were made public. The HRC, at the behest of the United States, accepted the complaints filed against Eritrea by these politically motivated groups. The Council adopted a confidential resolution on Eritrea at its twentieth session on the 6th of July 2012 and decided to make it public as Human Rights Council resolution 21/1 and appointed Sheila Keetharuth, as Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, despite Eritrea’s engagement and communication with the UNHRC through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

center-for-human-rightsThe selection of the Rapporteur preceded the decision to conduct an investigative mission in Eritrea. Why did Navi Pillay rush to appoint the Special Rapporteur when Eritrea was diligently working with the Office of the High Commissioner and the Universal Period Review (UPR) process? So what happened to Navi Pillay and why did she decide to intervene in this manner? UN Resolution 65/251 stresses that the work of the UN Human Right Council (UN HRC) shall be guided by the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. In the case of Eritrea, the record shows otherwise.

The appointment of the Special Rapporteur on October 2012 was shrouded in secrecy. On closer scrutiny, she does not pass the impartiality smell test. Circumstantial evidence shows that the appointment of the Special Rapporteur was pushed by Susan E. Rice, the then US Ambassador to the United Nations and her friends in Ethiopia. The visit came at a time when the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) announced that it could not find any evidence to support the allegations of Eritrea’s support for Al Shabbab. The resolution and appointment of Sheila Keetharuth followed Navi Pillay’s visit to New York and the meeting with Susan E. Rice in May 2012.

navi-at-center-for-human-rightsRight after her visit to New York, Pillay went to South Africa for a lecture at the University of Pretoria.  A news report[2] by the University of Pretoria said:

“…On Tuesday, 15 May 2012, Ms Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the Annual Helen Kanzira Memorial Lecture at the University of Pretoria…”

Upon her return to Geneva on 18 June 2012 Navi Pillay made the following statement:

“…In January, I wrote to the Government seeking to explore avenues to assist it in addressing their human rights challenges and to that end offered to send a mission. After a meeting with a Government delegation in March, and further to their request, my Office provided a list of potential areas of cooperation that the proposed mission could discuss with the Government, and asked for the mission to be facilitated before June. To date, the Government has not replied to this proposal. I call on the Eritrean authorities to cooperate fully with international and regional human rights mechanisms, and renew my call for full cooperation with OHCHR…”

Not too long after Navi Pillay’s visit, the Center for Human Rights announced the following:

“…The Centre for Human Rights is pleased to announce that Ms Sheila B. Keetharuth was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea…Ms Keetharuth is a doctoral candidate at the International Development Law Unit, based at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria…”

The appointment of the Special Rapporteur on 12 June 2012 is an appointment that has been shrouded in secrecy until now, albeit some anti-Eritrea groups and individuals took credit for it back then. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has no presence in Eritrea but worked closely with Eritrean surrogates said:

Matthew Jones and Elsa Chyrum“…this is an amazing proof of our advocacy bearing fruit! The landmark UN resolution is the result of many years of work by CSW, presenting compelling evidence to persuade the UN that the way human rights are violated in Eritrea is utterly horrific, and must be investigated…This resolution is the culmination of years of raising religious freedom and human rights at the UN, campaigning and prayer. It finally came after a rollercoaster two weeks of intense lobbying and negotiations in Geneva earlier this month and means that a Special Rapporteur will be appointed to investigate and monitor human rights in the country…”

In a video, “Breakthrough resolution on Eritrea – the inside track”, Matthew Jones of the CSW, who has been associated with anti-Eritrea individuals and groups, and has been a staple at sessions in Geneva how CSW orchestrated the campaign against Eritrea:

“…Particularly we referred back to the work we had done on North Korea a number of years ago, and since that was quite pivotal, and getting a new mandate and new UN mandate on North Korea and we felt this may be possible to replicate with respect to Eritrea and certainly the situation deserved it. So we set about from that point and enacting a strategy at the UN, and raising Eritrea and that consisted of, making speeches, directly at the Human Rights Council, we organized and spoke at side meetings at the Human Rights Council, myself and colleagues, have spoken to diplomats from literally with dozens of state delegations from countries…”

A “Christian” news outlets reported on the actions taken by the UN Human Rights Council against the State of Eritrea in 2012, it said:

“…On Friday 6 July, the United Nations Human Rights human-rights-concern-eritrea-elsa-chyrumCouncil (HRC) adopted its first resolution on Eritrea, approving the mandate for a Special Rapporteur who will report to the HRC and the UN General Assembly on the human rights situation in Eritrea. This is the result of much work by a group of NGOs led by Christian Solidarity Worldwide…The groundbreaking resolution, submitted by Somalia, Nigeria and Djibouti and supported by a number of African and other states, was adopted by consensus at the 20th session of the HRC…This is the first time that African states have spearheaded a resolution on another African state…”

No doubt these African States were used by Ethiopia and its handlers as much the same modus operandi was used to engineer the unjust 2009 sanctions resolution against the State of Eritrea. No surprise that Susan E. Rice, the then US Ambassador to the United Nations is implicated in both shenanigans, at the behest of the minority regime in Ethiopia.

A 2009 US Embassy cable is telling of the modus operandi used by Rice and Pillay to advance political agendas using human rights as a pretext-it also shows the close relationship between the Commissioner and the US Mission. The cable says:

“…Ambassador Rice met June 23 at USUN with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay… Pillay praised the very quiet and effective work of the U.S. charge in Geneva in helping secure passage of the Sudan resolution…Ambassador Rice suggested that the U.S. should be pushing the EU to do more. Pillay concurred, “especially on principles” and country‐specific issues… Pillay believes that breaking up the solidarity of the regional groups is one key to success. There is a feeling that these divisions are important, while they are not…”

Pitting African states against each other seems to be Susan E. Rice’s favorite play.

As admitted by Matthew Jones of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Elijah Brown of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), in Eritrea’s case, it is statements and lobbying to the Human Rights Council by such NGOs that played a significant role in the creation of the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry. Almost all of their studies were conducted in extensive secrecy and the vast Eritrean Diaspora was oblivious to their covert activities. The background and activities of the individuals and groups involved in the 15 year long orchestrated vilification and defamation campaign raise considerable questions as to their impartiality and ability to credibly and objectively report on Eritrea, its people and its leadership.

The politically motivated resolution and the secrecy behind the appointment of the Special Rapporteur, determined in advance Eritrea’s guilt. Both actions underwrite from the start, the tenor and orientation of the Rapporteurs mission. The fact that this exercise emanated from, and is directed by a few nations on the UN Human Rights Council, such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and the US, and from politically motivated individuals and groups who have an ax to grind with the Government of Eritrea, only adds to the questionable nature of Rapporteurs mandate and retracts from any semblance of credibility and reliability. Any expectation and anticipation of impartiality, objectivity, transparency, and professionalism was absent from the get go and with time, exposed the real agenda.

It is not by coincidence that Sheila Keetharuth was appointed Special Rapporteur for Eritrea… as the Government of Eritrea has been her target for quite some time, and the UN HRC served as a means to achieving the goals of her sponsors. Her background and activities against the Government of Eritrea on behalf of known anti-Eritrea political groups and individuals is a matter of public record.  Her past and present entanglements with anti-Eritrea elements are obviously influencing her judgment, as evidence by Keetharuth’s parroting of overused “sound bites” as she stumbled to make the incoherent oral presentation at the Third Committee on 27 October 2016.

Authorship of the Commission of Inquiry Report on Eritrea

A careful reading of the Report shows that the COIE “investigated” by collecting accusations against Eritrea from known anti-Eritrea groups and individuals.  The Report dismissed contrary physical, photographic, documentary, and testimonial evidence as unreliable, then rewrote the accusations in narrative form and “concluded” that they were true.  Where necessary, the Report made up additional facts in place of missing evidence.

The UN Human Rights Council’s Manual of Operations asserts that the independent status of UN Rapporteurs “is crucial in order to enable them to fulfill their functions in all impartiality”. It called on Rapporteurs to:

“…Act in an independent capacity, and exercise their functions . . . free from any kind of extraneous influence, incitement, pressure, threat or interference, either direct or indirect, on the part of any party, whether stakeholder or not, for any reason whatsoever, the notion of independence being linked to the status of mandate holders, and to their freedom to assess the human rights questions that they are called upon to examine under their mandate…”

There is ample evidence to support allegations made by this author about the Special Rapporteur’s background and long held bias against the Government of Eritrea, and how her relationship over the last decade with anti-Eritrea individuals and groups, has irreversibly compromised her impartiality and independence- not to mention her reputation and that of the institutions that she is involved with, and especially her work for the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN Rapporteur on Eritrea and the Commission on Inquiry were established to purportedly ascertain the relevant facts relating to and elucidating a situation of human rights in Eritrea, but both missions have been transformed into a “regime change” agenda. Anecdotal evidence also shows that Sheila Keetharuth’s relationship with the individuals and groups that contributed to the Report spans over a decade, and the COI-E report they collaborated on is just another variation of the very same unsubstantiated allegations made in articles, and “research” papers written by these individuals and groups over the last decade.

In addition to a one-sided mandate and composition, all of the witnesses chosen by the Commission on Inquiry (COI) to provide testimony at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and testimonies collected from asylum seekers interviewed in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Libya and Switzerland were prepared by dubious individuals and NGOs with long histories of anti-Eritrea campaigning. Any impartial observer would have serious reservations about the primary and secondary sources she chose to use in compiling her reports.

The COI’s report reflect a predetermined conclusion about the situation in Eritrea and the information gathered was designed to fit this pre-conceived agenda. The “information gathered” was not gathered independently, is not objective, or even lawful and ethical as it violated the rights of asylum seekers and refugees by coercing them into providing political opinions and statements under difficult situations in Ethiopia, Libya and the Sinai. The NGO submissions to the Commission of Inquiry, including from a notorious anti-GoE individuals associated with US and European funded NGOs, and international NGOs such as Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).  These submissions by these individuals and groups consisted largely of emotive and anecdotal remarks, pseudo-legal and technical rhetoric, and tendentious conclusions.

Carpetbaggers and Scalwags collage 2Anyone who has followed the Eritrean political landscape can spot the stench of deceit from afar. But it is always preceded by false bravado and self-aggrandizement from the usual culprits, the Eritrean Quislings League (EQL) members and the many cyber NGOs that they have established since 2001. Despite the moniker of human rights in their names, they are individuals and groups who have an ax to grind, and are seeking to overthrow the government of Eritrea, using human rights as a pretext. As evidenced by their many “conferences” and “forums” organized in Ethiopia, they have served as the minority regime’s surrogates in its anti-Eritrea agendas for the last 15 years.

Submissions in the COIE Report included statements provided by these politically motivated individuals and groups, funded by European and US government entities. These individuals and groups partnered early in 2001 with international NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Christian Solidarity Worldwide that have no presence in Eritrea, but who have partnered with, and provided access and forum to regime change activists in the mutually beneficial opportunistic manipulation of the international human rights movement.

Sheila Keetharuth’s relationship today with members of the group known as Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMHDR), an NGO established in South Africa exemplifies the political nature of her appointment and mandate. Members of the EMDHR served as “researchers” at the Center for Human Rights, at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Keetharuth’s relationship with the individuals and groups, members of EMDHR who contributed to the compilation of the COIE report goes back to the days when Keetharuth served as Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA). The Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria is where Keetharuth and the EMDHR cross paths once again.

meron-estefanos-shiela-keetharuth-kjetil-tronvoll-at-center-for-human-rights-pretoriaThe Center, where Keetharuth is doing her doctoral studies, also just happens to be where several members of Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) studied. As a matter of fact, they not only studied there, but some of its members also were amongst the students that conducted “research” for Sheila Keetharuth at the Center’s Eritrea Clinic. According to the Center:

“…The project aims to strengthen the capacity of the Centre for Human Rights in contributing to the academic discourse and concrete action regarding the situation of human rights in Eritrea, with a view to bringing about better enjoyment of human rights in the country. In this regard, the Centre provides some support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea (Special Rapporteur) as she delivers independently on her mandate. This involves primarily monitoring human rights developments in Eritrea, including maintaining an overview of human rights and political developments in the Horn of Africa, through daily desktop research…”

Its members have been given forum and support by the US State Department, the US Mission in Geneva and in New York, are funded by National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Grassroots International (GI), and Reporters San Frontiers (RSF). Its members are also supported by Freedom House and Gene Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institute.

The Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria also says:

“…The main implementer being the senior researcher appointed to support the Special Rapporteur. As information within Eritrea is very controlled and limited, it is necessary to keep abreast of other online news resources to keep abreast of the situation of human rights in Eritrea…Some students on the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) programme participated in the Eritrea Human Rights Clinic and provided some support to the Special Rapporteur, mainly in the form of research on the situation of human rights in Eritrea…”

The tasks of the Eritrea Clinic at the Center for Human Rights included the following:

“…Provide research support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for her report that she will deliver to the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) in June 2014.  This will include drafting a legal opinion on national service and detention conditions in Eritrea…Develop a research document on the situation of children in Eritrea, this will provide support to the SR Eritrea’s submission to the UN Committee on the rights of the Child…The Centre will host an event at the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, were it will launch a report on Freedom of Expression in Eritrea.  The group will provide support for this event by developing a flyer to launch the event and invitation letter to be sent to various stakeholders…”  
Those who participated in the “research” were members of EMDHR…and the “flyer” was authored by another EMDHR member who has played a central role in the trafficking or Eritrea’s youth. A self-professed “journalist” with the Reporters Sans Frontier funded Radio Erena, Estefanos has established NGOs to serve “Eritrean Refugees” and authored reports presented at various forums including the Tana Forum in Ethiopia.van-reisen-with-meron

EMDHR boasts amongst its “achievements”, the translation of Gene Sharpe’s book into Tigrinya, the Eritrean language. Funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which has a long history of collaborating with the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA in destabilizing governments considered to be “unfriendly” to US interests, they have been courted, financed and provided platform through Dan Connell, an American journalist turned Eritrea expert, who infiltrated Eritrean student groups in the late 1970s.

elsa-with-dan-connellDan Connell hailed the group. He said that EMDHR was:

“…really important” and that “it is playing a constructive role in promoting that set of values…via a radio, putting materials on the website, smuggling materials into the country…”…certainly not Eritrean values…”

These and other individuals and groups recruited by Dan Connell have made Robocalls to Eritrea to incite the youth, call for civil disobedience and refuse to participate in the National Service Program, in order to destabilize Eritrea. They have also actively engaged in the trafficking of Eritrea’s youth from Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya. They have also authored volumes to disparage Eritrea’s educational, political and legal institutions-allegations which are found in Keetharuth’s reports. They have also co-authored books with anti-Eritrea American and European social scientists.

Simon WeldehaimanotSimon Weldehaimanot, is one of the founding members of the EMHDR, was hired as an intern at Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) while Sheila Keetharuth served as its Executive Director. According to their site:

“…With the generous support of the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) IHRDA hosted in 2008 Simon M Weldehaimanot [Eritrea], who developed and filed the following case…349/07 Simon Weldehaimanot / Eritrea; on the right to free movement, and right of citizens to leave their own country…”

Reminiscent of the African liberation movements such as the ANC, FRELIMO, SWAPO, featured in the book “Patriotic Betrayal” who were infiltrated by using the various African Student Associations that were established in Europe and the United States, Ronald McMullen, the former US Ambassador to Eritrea had recommended that the US provide support to “anti-regime” Eritrean youth. According to the American Embassy Cable[3]

“…Despite the condemnation of their peers, the silent, yet dissatisfied, contingent of expat youth is increasing. Semere Kesete, the former president of the Asmara University student union, and several other young expat Eritreans are part of a new wave of youth diaspora attempting to break the silence. Providing opportunities for young expats to engage in political dialogue is an important focus area for diaspora outreach…Post recommends three ways for NGOs applying for DRL or other USG funds to successfully engage the diaspora and encourage critical analysis of the GSE: – Focus on non-political groups. Direct engagement with Eritrean opposition groups, such as the EDA, will likely be dismissed by moderate diaspora Eritreans as an attempt to overthrow a peaceful government. Working with non-political groups, such as Eritrean student associations, will provide credibility and will not immediately be dismissed as having a political motive… Give the youth an alternate voice. As of now, the YPFDJ is the primary outlet for young Eritreans in the diaspora to express pride in their culture. Currently, there is no non-EDA aligned counter to the YPFDJ…”

semere-keseteSemere Kesete is the head of the Asmara University Students Association who left Eritrea for Ethiopia where he established the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was provided scholarship to the University of Arizona, where today, he is co-authoring a book with none other than Sheila Keetahruth, the Special Rapporteur for Eritrea. He was amongst the individuals that were brought to Geneva in 2016 to support the COIE.

Daniel Rezene Mekonnen is another member of the EMHDR that has worked closely with Sheila Keetharuth and has boasted in his Facebook entries of his role in the compilation of the COIE report. Sheila Keetharuth is reported to have attended his wedding, bringing further concerns about her inability to draw the line between her personal entanglements in the Eritrean political landscape and her duties as the UN Special Rapporteur.

sheila-with-eql-including-danielDaniel Mekonnen wrote:

“…Diaspora-based Eritrean activists and grassroots movements have played a very prominent role with tremendous levels of achievement, starting from the appointment of the Special Rapporteur in July 2012, up to the establishment of the COI in June 2015 and the production of the reports of both processes…. The efforts of Eritrean activists were supported by prominent international rights groups, such as Amnesty International, Article 19, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Human Rights Watch, to mention a few. Their activities included presenting oral statements in numerous sessions of the Human Rights Council… Collection of testimonies from diaspora-based Eritreans required high level of involvement on the part of Eritrean diaspora activists and grassroots movements without which the task of the Special Rapporteur and the COI would have proven difficult…”

eritrean-law-societyDaniel Mekonnen also says, “Representing ELS, this author was a member of the joint task force” and that he “served as chairperson of the seven-member coordinating committee mandated to organize the Geneva Mass Rally” (June 2016). Daniel also writes:

“…Eritrean diaspora activists and grassroots movements have also actively contributed in the submission of relevant information to the Special Rapporteur and the COI. One pertinent example in this regard, among others, is a certain joint task force that was established in November 2014 with the sole of objective of collecting testimonies and submissions to the COI. The joint fast force was established by three exiled grassroots movements, namely: the Eritrean Solidarity Movement for National Salvation (ESMNS), the Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change – North America (EYSC-NA), and the Eritrean Law Society (ELS). The joint task force submitted numerous written testimonies and submissions to the COI, including from countries (such as Israel), to which the COI was unable to travel…”

Daniel Mekonnen was widely interviewed after the COIE report was presented in June 2016, and one news report[4] said:

“…The case wasn’t political, but Mekonnen is. A 42-year-old human rights lawyer now based in Europe, he recently helped amass more than half of the 160 submissions to the UN that led to a damning report released this week that accused Eritrea of widespread human rights abuses…”

Daniel Mekonnen’s curriculum vitae lists this amongst his professional accomplishment:

“…The Legitimacy of the Government and the de facto State of Emergency in Eritrea” (briefing paper prepared on a pro bono basis to supplement the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea)…”

Daniel Mekonnen in the 8 June 2016 Facebook entry also boasts:

“…Reading some paragraphs of the 2nd COI report, I felt I was reading very familiar passages from my own doctoral thesis of 2008… In my entire experience as a human rights lawyer and activist, I have never felt vindicated as I do now, reading the 2nd report of the COI… It is gratifying to see that these horrendous violations were ultimately confirmed by the commission’s own fact-finding mechanism…”

The only reason he finds the statement “corroborated” by the COIE is because he either provided the sections himself, or members of his group, the researchers at the Center for Human Rights did. Sheila Keetharuth provided no evidence to support the allegations contained in her “collection”. Repeating allegations is not the same as conducting an investigation…

Daniel Mekonnen also wrote on June 8:

“…The world is wondering by the response of the Eritrean regime to the report of the UN inquiry commission, release today…[The government of Eritrea] has the audacity to tell the inquiry commission to “adduce proof” of the regime’s criminality, a fact that was well-known for many years, long before the establishment of the commission….is never expected to plead guilty even if one piles up all sorts of irrefutable evidence the whole world can offer…”

As a lawyer, Daniel Mekonnen must know that repeating lies and accusations do not create evidence. It just means the “network” of NGOs with the media in tow have been able to disseminate widely erroneous reports about the State of Eritrea, its government and people. It means that unelected anti-government groups can attempt to use the pretext of “human rights” to advance their political agendas against the people of Eritrea. It is the responsibility of the UN Human Rights Council to stop them from doing so. It is the responsibility and the right of the accused government to ask for verifiable evidence to support the serious allegations logged against it.

The COIE report is replete with allegations “cut and paste” from unsubstantiated reports produced by Amnesty International (2004) and Human Rights Watch (2008), based on unverified testimonies. There were some sections on the report that seemed to be taken from Amnesty International’s 1991 report on Ethiopia. While some were exaggerations, there were some testimonies that seemed to be flat out fabrications. Reading the report and the testimonies presented, one would think they were taken straight out of the many books on torture techniques-especially the ones used by the CIA.

Some testimonies left the reader wondering if they were indeed talking about Eritrea. Suffice it to mention a few examples:

black-masks-black-goves-black-bootsThe COIE said that a former inmate detained in Adi Abeito in 2013 recounted the following:

“…The people who torture … wear masks. They hit … with square metal sticks. It hurts a lot. It can break your bones. They wear black masks, black gloves, kind of black boots so that you cannot recognize the trousers…”

A quick Google search by the writer reveals a similar account found in the book, “Ghost Plane, the True Story of the CIA Torture Program”. On page 27 the writer found this:

“…In Gambia, West Africa, a British citizen was loaded on the same plane the following year and saw big people wearing black balaclavas. In Pakistan, another Londoner was put on a plane to Morrocco by operatives “dressed in black, with masks, wearing what looked like Timberlake boots”. In Macedonia, a German was handed over to a CIA team that consisted on seven men all dressed in black, with black gloves and wearing black masks…”

Since there are no CIA torture sites in Eritrea, unlike those found in Ethiopia (extraordinary rendition programs), where did the COIE get this allegation from? Or are we to believe Eritrean officers are suited with the same gear as the CIA operatives mentioned in the book?

torture-methods-found-in-coie-report-and-book-on-ethiopiaAnother example is the similarity in the contents, torture methods used by Derg officials in Eritrea (during the 30yr occupation) found on Page 123, of the book, “Revolution in Ethiopia and Cambodia”, by Edward Kissi and the allegations of torture found in the COIE’s Report. The COIE presents outrageous testimonies-collected by the Eritrean NGOs in its employ. For example, this testimony taken from the COIE report:

“…During the torture, all of them said that they do not want someone like me to have children, as children of persons like me are not welcomed. They said that they will make sure that I cannot reproduce. […] My left testicle is seriously harmed from the torture and I cannot produce sperm. They used the device applying electricity against my genitals as well as against the palms of my hands and under my feet. […] I have liquid in my testicles. I cannot reproduce. […] In Eritrea, they do not want educated men to reproduce; they want to break the heredity. This is why they torture men like they did with me. This is what they said to me when they tortured me…”

Break the heredity? Where is the scientific proof that children from educated persons produced educated children…? Only a self-centered “educated” person with evil thoughts could come up with such a statement. What is even more disgusting is the fact that the COIE was willing to believe it-without any further investigation.

The population of Eritrea is so large that Eritrean men are tortured so that they do not produce children…go figure!

In another “cut and paste” story, the COIE wrote:

“…Testimonies reveal that milk or sugared water is sometimes poured over the body of the victims to attract insects so that they are bitten but cannot relieve their itch…”

sugar-flies-milkEritrea, a country that is working hard to harness water and develop its agricultural sector  in order to ensure food security, and its nascent livestock industry is still not producing enough milk to provide for its people, let alone throw away milk in order to “torture” detainees. This is not something that will take place in Eritrea-pure fabrication!

These illustrate the shoddy work of the COIE and its informants.

The COIE report cannot withstand academic or legal scrutiny. It is simply a shameful continuation of the 15-year futile effort to inflict reputational damage to the State of Eritrea, its leadership and people by the minority regime in Ethiopia, its handlers and surrogates. Pity that the UN Human Rights Council and its Commissioner chose to be party to it.

The mandate of the Human Rights Council was to address situations of human rights violations while applying the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, the pillars on which the Council was based. Eritrea rejects the politicization of human rights issues, and defends the view that the Universal Periodic Review remains the appropriate mechanism to address human rights concerns in a spirit of cooperation, non-selectivity and objectivity.

Eritrea rejects country specific mandates including the appointment of the Special Rapporteur. The manner with which the Special Rapporteur was appointed was not in line with those principles. The approach was unbalanced and politically motivated. All peace loving members of the UN General Assembly must call for respect Eritrea’s rights under the UN Charter, especially the right to self determination, a right denied for 30yrs during the liberation struggle, again at the behest of Ethiopia, with the help of the United States.

The UN’s Third Committee members must call for an end to Ethiopia’s 14 year long occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories in violation of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s delimitation and demarcation decisions of 13 April 2002 and November 2007. It must also call on the guarantors and witnesses to the Algiers Agreements, the United States, European Union and the  African Union to shoulder their moral and legal obligations by urging Ethiopia to abide by agreements it signed, and on the UN Security Council to enforce the EEBC decision, call for an end to Ethiopia’s occupation,  and restore Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The UN Human Rights Council must terminate the politically motivated, ill advised mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, as she has done more harm than good.







[1] Accessed 07/20/2016

[2] Accessed 07/30/2016

[3] Accessed 07/25/2016

[4] Accessed 07/20/2016

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