MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on Eritrea, notably the cases of Abune Antonios and Dawit Isaak
4.7.2017 - (2017/2755(RSP))
pursuant to Rule 135 of the Rules of Procedure
Elena Valenciano, Victor Boştinaru, Soraya Post, Jytte Guteland on behalf of the S&D Group
See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0464/2017
European Parliament resolution on Eritrea, notably the cases of Abune Antonios and Dawit Isaak
The European Parliament,
– having regard to its previous resolutions on Eritrea, in particular that of 15 September 2011 on the human rights situation in the country, including the case of Dawit Isaak, and of 10 March 2016
– having regard to United Nations Security Council resolutions 751 (1992), 1882 (2009), 1907 (2009), 2023 (2011) 2244 (2015), and 2317 (2016) which extended the arms embargo on Eritrea until 15 November 2017
– having regard to the Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council
for a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU Partnership of 4 May 2017
– having regard to the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (the Cotonou Agreement), as revised in 2005 and 2010, to which Eritrea is a signatory,
– having regard to Council Decision 2010/127/CFSP of 1 March 2010 concerning restrictive measures against Eritrea, amended by Council Decision 2010/414/CFSP of 26 July 2010 and further amended by Council Decision 2012/632/CFSP of 15 October 2012,
- having regard to case 428/12 (2012) filed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on behalf of Dawit and other political prisoners.
- having regard to the Final Declaration of the 60th session of the African Commission on Human and People’s rights of 22 May 2017
– having regard to the EEAS report on the Eritrea-European Union Partnership of 2015
– having regard to the National Indicative Programme for Eritrea under the 11th European Development Fund of 3 February 2016,
– having regard to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
– having regard to the Constitution of Eritrea adopted in 1997, which guarantees civil liberties, including freedom of religion,
– having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981,
– having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966,
– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,
– having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas Eritrea has one of the worst human rights records in the world, with routine human rights violations taking place every day and no improvement recorded in recent years;
B. whereas the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea has found that the violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture and sexual slavery), national service as a form of slavery, forced labour and the shoot-to-kill policy at the border may constitute crimes against humanity;
C. Whereas in September 2001 Eritrean authorities arrested dozens of citizens who had endorsed an open letter calling for democratic reforms, with those detained not being charged with a crime, nor placed on trial, with most of them remaining incarcerated to this day. Whereas despite widespread appeals from human rights groups and international observers, several have reportedly died in jail, Whereas however, on 20 June 2016 the Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh referred to the detainees as political prisoners and said “all of them are alive” and will be tried “when the government decides”.
D. Whereas Dawit Isaak, a dual citizen of Eritrea and Sweden was arrested on 23 September 2001, after the Eritrean government outlawed privately owned media, whereas Dawit Isaak was last heard from in 2005; Whereas Dawit Isaak’s incarceration has become an international symbol for the struggle for freedom of the press in Eritrea, most recently most recently acknowledged through the awarding by an independent international jury of media professionals for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017in recognition of his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression
E. Whereas, the family of Dawit Isaak have faced unbearable distress and uncertainty since his disappearance, having little knowledge of their loved ones well-being, whereabouts or future prospects.
F. Whereas 21 people were arrested in total during the September 2001 crackdown including 11 politicians – all former members of the Central Council of the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) including former Foreign Minister Petros Solomon after they published an open letter to the government and President Isaias Afewerki calling for reform and “democratic dialogue” Whereas the 10 journalists including Isaak were arrested over the following week.
G. Whereas Abune Antonios, the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the nation’s largest religious community has been in detention since 2007, having refused to excommunicate 3,000 parishioners who opposed the government.
H. Whereas a huge number of Eritrean people are arrested for various unjustifiable reasons such as expressing independent views or without any explicit justification, and thus for unspecified time periods; whereas detainees, including children, are held in extremely harsh conditions which in some cases amount to torture and denial of medical care;
I. Whereas there is no freedom of press, as independent media is forbidden in Eritrea, with the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranking Eritrea last out of the 170-180 evaluated countries for eight years in succession;
J. Whereas Eritrea is ranked 186th out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index for 2015, according to the UNDP Human Development Report of 2015;
K. Whereas in 2015 Eritreans fleeing their country accounted for the fourth-largest number of people risking the perilous journey to Europe (after Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans), who run the gauntlet of pitiless people-smugglers to make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing; whereas, therefore, the situation in Eritrea directly affects Europe, since if human rights were respected and upheld in the country and people could live there without fear, Eritreans would be able to return to their homeland;
L. Whereas, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, over 400 000 Eritreans, or 9 % of the total population, have fled; whereas UNHCR estimates that some 5 000 Eritreans leave the country every month, this being explained to a large degree by the persistence of severe human rights violations; whereas in 2015 in 69 % of Eritrean asylum cases refugee status was granted in the EU while an additional 27 % of applicants received subsidiary protection, illustrating the gravity of persecution in Eritrea;
M. Whereas Eritrea is supportive of the Khartoum Process (an EU and African Union initiative launched on 28 November 2014 with the aim of addressing the issue of migration and human trafficking), which encompasses the implementation of concrete projects, including capacity-building for the judiciary and awareness-raising;
N. Whereas many young people have fled the country to escape the repressive government and mandatory military conscription, which often starts at a very young age, with most Eritreans serving indefinitely, whereas the majority of those in national service remain in a situation of slavery, in which any work, job applications and the possibility of having a family life are controlled; whereas freedom of worship and conscience, freedom of the media and freedom of expression are not guaranteed;
O. whereas discrimination and violence against women are present in all areas of Eritrean society; whereas women are not only at extreme risk of sexual violence within the military and in military training camps, but also in society at large, whereas an estimated 89 % of girls in Eritrea have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); whereas however in March 2007 the government issued a proclamation declaring FGM a crime, prohibiting its practice and sponsoring education programmes discouraging the practice over that year;
P. whereas the EU initially imposed sanctions on Eritrea in March 2010 in order to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1907 (2009), and whereas these included an arms embargo, travel restrictions and asset freezes relating to persons who constitute a threat to peace and national reconciliation;
Q. whereas on 28 January 2016 the Eritrean Minister for National Development and the EU Head of Delegation signed the National Indicative Programme (NIP) under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) in Asmara, worth EUR 200 million for the next five years; whereas actions should focus on renewable energy, governance and public finance management in the energy sector in particular;
1. Condemns in the strongest terms Eritrea’s systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations. Calls on the Eritrean Government to put an end to detention of the opposition, journalists, religious leaders and innocent civilians; Demands that all prisoners of conscience in Eritrea must be immediately and unconditionally released or brought to a fair trial notably Dawit Isaak and the 17 other journalists detained since September 2001
2.Recalls the decision of the African Commission on Human and People’s rights of May 2017, and demands that Eritrea immediately confirms the wellbeing of Dawit Isaak, releases him, lets him meet family and legal representatives immediately and awards the necessary compensation for the years of imprisonment. Further calls on Eritrea to lifts the ban on independent media, as also ruled by the Commission.
3.Notes that in failing to respect the ruling of the African Commission, Eritrea continues to show flagrant disregard of international norms and fundamental rights including, the right to a fair, the ban on torture, freedom of Expression, the right to one’s family, and that each country shall respect the Charter
4. Calls on the Eritrean government to release Abune Antonios, allow him to return to his position as Patriarch, and cease its interference in peaceful religious practices in the country. Recalls that freedom of religion is a fundamental right, and strongly condemns any violence or discrimination on grounds of religion;
5. Calls for fair trials for those accused, and the abolition of torture and other degrading treatment such as restrictions on food, water and medical care; reminds the Eritrean Government of its due diligence obligation to investigate extrajudicial killings;
6. Demands that Eritrea sign and immediately enact the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and fully uphold its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, both of which prohibit torture; notes with concern that public and private actors, including companies, are severely restricted by government control; recognises that the lack of any public finance management, including the absence of a national budget, makes budgetary control impossible
7. Denounces the resumption of major EU aid to Eritrea and in particular the signing off of the NIP for Eritrea of EUR 200 million; calls on the Commission to review its scrutiny arrangements with the European Parliament, to carefully consider the concerns and suggestions expressed by the European Parliament and to guarantee that they are communicated to the EDF Committee; Believes that the EDF Committee should have taken into consideration the European Parliament’s previous recommendations not to adopt the NIP and to engage in further discussion;
8. Calls on the Commission to ensure that the funding allocated does not benefit the Eritrean Government but is strictly assigned to meeting the needs of the Eritrean people for development, democracy, human rights, good governance and security, and freedom of speech, press and assembly; urges the EU to ensure the conditionality of the recently agreed aid and also to ensure that the NIP supports Eritrea in operating an important shift in its energy policy in order to make energy accessible for all, especially in the rural areas which are currently still without electricity; believes, moreover, that the governance component of the NIP should strongly focus on implementing the recommendations of the UN-led Universal Periodic Review on human rights;
9. Encourages the Commission to seek clear guarantees from the Eritrean Government that it will implement democratic reforms and ensure respect for human rights, including by implementing the recommendations made by the 18th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, which it accepted on 7 February 2014;
10. Firmly underlines that Eritrea must allow international and regional human rights bodies, including special rapporteurs unhindered access to the country to monitor any progress. Asks the EU HR/VP to actively support the renewal of the mandate of UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. Encourages the Eritrean Government to undertake urgent reforms such as the loosening of the one-party state and the resumption of the National Assembly and elections;
11. Reminds the Eritrean Government that the right to leave one’s country is enshrined in international human rights law; calls on the government to allow freedom of movement and to stop collecting ‘diaspora tax’ from Eritreans living abroad;
12. Calls on the Eritrean Government to adhere to the period of service statute, to desist from using its citizens as forced labour, to stop allowing foreign companies from using such conscripts for a fee, to allow the possibility of conscientious objection to serving in the military and to ensure the protection of conscripts;
13. Reminds Eritrea of its obligations under ILO conventions, with particular regard to the right of civil society organisations and trade unions to organise, peacefully demonstrate, participate in public affairs, and campaign for better workers’ rights; calls on the Eritrean Government to repeal the policy that bans NGOs that have less than USD 2 million in their bank accounts;
14. Demands that the EU Member States adhere to the concept of non-refoulement, and reminds them that returning asylum-seekers are likely to be arbitrarily detained and tortured as a result of their attempts to flee;
15. Condemns the Eritrean Government’s policy of arbitrarily revoking citizenship, and demands that all Eritrean citizens are treated fairly and equally before the law; Stresses that addressing the justice deficit in Eritrea democratic governance and restoration of the rule of law must be prioritised by ending authoritarian rule by fear of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, of torture and of other human rights violations, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity;
16. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of the African Union, the East African Community, the Secretary-General of the UN, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Eritrean authorities.