Horndiplomat-The United Nations rights council has called on the African Union to investigate Eritrean leaders over alleged crimes against humanity after a damning report by a UN Commission.
In that report, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) for Eritrea said the government of President Isaias Afwerki had committed heinous crimes since independence a quarter of a century ago, including the “enslavement” of 400,000 people.
Many of those abuses are allegedly linked to a harsh national service programme in the secretive Horn of Africa state, which for many is almost impossible to escape and which the COI compared to lifetime enslavement.
In a resolution adopted Friday with consensus by the body’s 47 members, the Human Rights Council said it “strongly encourages the African Union to follow up on the [COI] report”.
The AU should set up “an investigation … with a view to examining and bringing to justice those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights identified by the commission , including any that may amount to a crime against humanity”.
The AU has no prosecutor or court system. But it played a leading role in setting up a special court to prosecute former Chadian military ruler Hissene Habre, who was sentenced to life in May for war crimes and crimes against humanity over his 1982-1990 rule.
Rights groups and activists have welcomed the UN’s calls for an investigation into allegations against Eritrea._
The London-based Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea Chairperson Suleiman Hussein said the UN council’s resolution constitutes “a huge blow” to the Eritrean government.
“It is also a very strong message to those who operated with total lawlessness for so long and that it won’t be long before the days of impunity and the rule by terror come to an end,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I hope they now know that they cannot get away with a systematic and widespread abuse of this magnitude … which is rarely seen elsewhere in the world.”
An Eritrean human rights defender Daniel Rezene Mekonnen described the resolution as “fair enough”, but added that he hopes for more concrete measures in the future.