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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on Eritrea, notably the cases of Abune Antonios and Dawit Isaak

4.7.2017 - (2017/2755(RSP))

with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
pursuant to Rule 135 of the Rules of Procedure

Cristian Dan Preda, Lars Adaktusson, Sandra Kalniete, Mairead McGuinness, Elmar Brok, Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, Patricija Šulin, Ivan Štefanec, Luděk Niedermayer, Tomáš Zdechovský, Jaromír Štětina, Pavel Svoboda, Michaela Šojdrová, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Milan Zver, Dubravka Šuica, Sven Schulze, Elisabetta Gardini, Krzysztof Hetman, Claude Rolin, Joachim Zeller, Maurice Ponga, Eduard Kukan, Lefteris Christoforou, Adam Szejnfeld, Bogdan Brunon Wenta, Romana Tomc, Roberta Metsola, Jiří Pospíšil, Csaba Sógor, Marijana Petir, Tunne Kelam, Brian Hayes, Seán Kelly, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, Ivana Maletić, Andrey Kovatchev, Laima Liucija Andrikienė, Željana Zovko on behalf of the PPE Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0464/2017

Procedure : 2017/2755(RSP)
Stadium plenaire behandeling
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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, and notably that of 10 March 2016,

- having regard of the report of 23 June 2017 of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea,

- having regard to the Statement of 14 June 2017 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council,

- having regard to the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea released on 8 June 2016,

- having regard to the UN Human Rights Council resolutions on the situation of human rights in Eritrea,

- having regard to the UN Security Council resolution 1907 (2009) imposing an arms embargo on Eritrea, travel bans on its leaders, and froze the assets of some of the country's political and military officials,

- having regard to the UN Security Council resolutions 2023 (2011) reinforcing sanctions against Eritrea and 2244(2015) extending arms embargoes imposed on Somalia and Eritrea,

- having regard to the European Council Decision 2010/127/CFSP of 1 March 2010 concerning restrictive measures against Eritrea, amended by the Council Decision 2010/414/CFSP of 26 July 2010 and further by the Council Decision 2012/632/CFSP of 15 October 2012,

- having regard to the European Council Regulation (EU) No 667/2010 of 26 July 2010 concerning certain restrictive measures in respect of Eritrea,

- having regard to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights,

- having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

- having regard to Rule 135 of its Rules of Procedure,


A. whereas for decades, Eritrea, a one-party state, has been considered by human rights observers one of the most authoritarian and repressive countries in the world; whereas the Government of Eritrea has undertaken a widespread campaign aimed at maintaining control over the population and restricting fundamental freedoms, under the pretext of defending the integrity of the State;

B. whereas Presidential and parliamentary elections planned for 1997 never took place and the Constitution ratified in the same year has never been implemented; whereas the country has known no national elections for 24 years, and has virtually no independent judiciary, no functioning national assembly and no civil society;

C. whereas the enjoyment of rights and freedoms are severely curtailed in an overall context of a total lack of rule of law; whereas in June 2016, a report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea concluded that since 1991, Eritrean authorities have been responsible for systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity in the country, and including enslavement, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, persecution, gender-based and sexual violence, and murder; whereas these crimes are committed in total impunity;

D. whereas there have been continuous reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions of people, with thousands of people detained for an indefinite period of time for trying to leave the country, escape the mandatory military service or simply exercising their right of freedom of expression;

E. whereas an estimated number of 400,000 people are currently in unlimited forced national service and subjected to forced labour, with little or no pay; whereas women conscripts are forced to endure domestic servitude and sexual abuse;

F. whereas freedom of media is curtailed in the country; whereas all media are owned by the government and all independent newspapers were closed in September 2001; whereas according to Reporters without Borders, dozens of journalists are currently detained in Eritrea without being charged or tired, and the country ranks 179 out of 180 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index; whereas conditions in detention are reported to be inhumane and often causing the death of prisoners;

G. whereas Dawit Isaak, an Eritrean-Swedish journalist and writer, has been held incommunicado for 16 years, without charge or trial, following his arrest in September 2001; whereas Isaak has not been heard of since 2005 and his location is unknown; whereas in March 2017, he was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 in recognition of his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression;

H. whereas freedom of religion is practically nonexistent in Eritrea; whereas human rights observers have reported on campaign of arrests and persecution targeting specific religious communities and citizens who practice religions other than the four authorised by the government; whereas thousands of Christians are detained pending a denial of their faith;

I. whereas the patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church Abune Antonios was removed from office in January 2006 and subsequently arrested in May 2007 for refusing to excommunicate those opposing the government; whereas since then, he has been held in a location unknown where he has been denied medical care;

J. whereas in June 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea reported that the Eritrean authorities had not made any effort to address the human rights situation and had shown no willingness to tackle impunity in the country;

K. whereas the EU has imposed sanctions against Eritrea since March 2010 in order to implement UNSC resolution 1907 - including arms embargo, travel restrictions and asset freezes relating to persons who constitute a threat to the peace and national reconciliation;

L. whereas the EU is an important donor for Eritrea in terms of development assistance; whereas in January 2016, in spite of the European Parliament’s serious concerns and opposition, a new National Indicative Program (NIP) was signed by the EU and Eritrea under the 11th EDF allocating 200 million euro of assistance to the country for the next five years, and focusing on renewable energy and governance;

M. whereas the country is facing recurrent droughts, extreme weather conditions and other natural hazards, which affects economic and human development, and considerably increase the vulnerability of rural populations; whereas the UN estimates that 1,5 million people are currently in need of assistance and lack basic access to drinking water, sanitation, medical services and school;

N. whereas Eritrea is among the countries facing considerable challenges to ensure food security; whereas the Eritrean President has dismissed the food crisis fears and denied the severity of the current risk for its population;

O. whereas the regime’s brutality and the alarming human rights situation in Eritrea is the cause of massive displacement and a global refugee crisis; whereas according the IOM, 5,000 people fleeing every month which results in Eritreans being the fifth-largest group of incoming migrants to Europe in 2016;

P. whereas Eritrea is eligible to the EU Trust Fund for Africa and is supportive of the Khartoum Process in addressing the issue of migration and human trafficking, the framework of which takes into account the implementation of concrete projects, including capacity building of the judiciary and awareness-raising;

Q. whereas the regime extends its totalitarian grip to the diaspora community via a 2 % income expat tax, and by spying on the diaspora and targeting family members who remained in Eritrea;

1. Deplores the continued absence of rule of law in Eritrea and condemns in the strongest terms all human rights violations and exactions perpetrated by the Eritrean government and authorities, as reported by UN experts and human rights organisations, and in particular those potentially amounting to crimes against humanity;

2. Reminds the Eritrean authorities of their obligations to guarantee fundamental rights, as provided for in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international and regional human rights instruments ratified by them;

3. Urges the government of Eritrea to put an end to the system of indefinite national service by demobilizing the national service conscripts who have completed their mandatory 18 months of service, and by effectively ending the practice of engaging them in forced labour after such a period;

4. Expresses deep concern over the lack of freedom of expression and media, as well as the detention of political prisoners carried in contradiction to the principles of rule of law; urges the Eritrean authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and notably Dawit Isaak and Abune Antonios;

5. Condemns the use of the “Diaspora tax”; urges the government to end “guilt-by-association” policies that target family members of those who evade national service, seek to flee Eritrea or don't pay the 2% income tax the Eritrean government imposes on Eritrean expats;

6. Recalls that freedom of religion is a fundamental right, and strongly condemns any violence and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief as well as the constant persecution of religious leaders and worshippers;

7. Calls for a referral of the human rights situation in Eritrea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), as recommended by the UN Commission of Inquiry, and for a thorough investigation into the allegations of serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity committed by the Eritrean authorities in order to make sure that all those found responsible are held accountable;

8. Expresses its full support to the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea; calls on the EU, in collaboration with the UN and the African Union, to closely monitor the overall situation in Eritrea and to report all cases of violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms;

9. Recalls that respect for human rights should be at the core of EU external action; calls on the Commission to ensure that its aid does not benefit the Eritrean Government but is strictly assigned to the needs of the Eritrean people for development, democracy, human rights, good governance and security, and freedom of speech, press and assembly;

10. Recalls that the EU’s partnership with Eritrea is governed by the Cotonou Agreement, and that all parties are bound to respect and implement the terms of that agreement, in particular respect for human rights, democracy and rule of law; calls, therefore, on the EU to ascertain conditionality of its aid and make use of all available instruments and tools to ensure that the Eritrean government respect its obligations to protect and guarantee fundamental freedoms, including by considering the launch of consultations under article 96;

11. Believes that the governance component of the NIP should be strengthened and strongly focus on implementing the recommendations of the UN-led Universal Periodic Review on human rights, that the recommendations of the third report of the Universal Periodic Review should be implemented forth with;

12   Encourage Eritrea to engage with the International Community in the field of human rights, request the HRC to co-operate with Eritrea in capacity building in the judicial system by organising seminars and training for judges and lawyers as a constructive way forward, recognise that a delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner of the HRC will visit Eritrea in July and calls on them to report on what they see and have access to all parts of the country but especially prisons where facilities can be surveyed and reported upon.

13.  Reiterates its deep concern about the current devastating climatic conditions in the Horn of Africa, including Eritrea, and the serious risk of food and humanitarian crisis that they entail; calls on the EU, together with its international partners, to scale up its support to the affected populations and to ensure that necessary funding and assistance are provided;

14.  Calls for the respect of international human rights norms and standards concerning refugees; believes that the international protection for Eritrean refugees fleeing human rights violations should be continued;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the EU Council and Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the President and Government of Eritrea, the institutions of the African Union, the United Nations Secretary-General, the United Nations General Assembly, the Co-Presidents of the ACP EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the PAN-African Parliament (PAP).