African Commission on Human RightsThe Centre for Human Rights in Pretoria calls for the African Union to act to bring pressure to force the Eritrean government to end the detention of Eritrean officials and journalists.

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Statement by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, to the 56th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Banjul, The Gambia, 22 April 2015

Since the arrest and incommunicado detention by the Eritrean government of 11 high-ranking officials, and 18 journalists in 2001, the Commission has taken numerous measures to ensure their release.

Responding to communications arising from the Crackdown, the Commission in 2003 found Eritrea in violation of the Charter, in respect of the 11 politicians, and recommended that the detainees be freed. It issued a similar finding and recommendation in 2007, in respect of the 18 journalists. It adopted resolutions in 2009 and 2011, expressing regret at the state’s non-compliance and again urged the state to comply.  The Special Rapporteur Adv Tlakula also recalled that the Commission, through her mandate, has directed three urgent appeals to the government of Eritrea.

Today, fourteen years later, their fate remains unknown. Some may have died; those still living have been held incommunicado, most likely in containers in the desert.

The Centre for Human Rights therefore called on the Commission to urge the AU political organs to exert concerted pressure on Eritrea to comply. As it seems that the legal processes are not yielding any results, it is now time to involve the political organs of the AU. In line with its approach to the explicit non-compliance by Botswana with the its decision in the Good case, the Commission should, in its next activity report, urge the AU Assembly to take appropriate measures, as allowed for under article 23(2) of the AU Constitutive Act, to exert further political pressure on Eritrea to comply with the Commission’s numerous decisions and resolutions pertaining to these detainees