The British government has given an assurance that aid to Eritrea under the European Union budget will have to take into account the country’s human rights record.

The statement came in an answer in Parliament to Keir Starmer, QC, the MP for Holborn and St Pancras. [See below for text]

The answer makes it clear that: “The EU’s development funds are conditional under the terms of the Cotonou Agreement. The EU’s 2014-20 development funding for Eritrea is under discussion and has not yet been approved.”

This needs to be seen in terms of the Cotonou Agreement, which includes a paragraph stating that: “Systematic account shall be taken in mainstreaming in to all areas of cooperation the following thematic or cross-cutting themes: human rights, gender issues, democracy, good governance…”

The government also pledges its support to the UN Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights in Eritrea and its continued investigation into human rights in the country.

Martin

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided the following answer to parliamentary question (6782):

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea brought before the UN Human Rights Council on 4 June 2015, what steps he has taken to (a) ensure that no UK or EU funding is provided to Eritrea that in any way strengthens or enhances their capability to repress or oppress the Eritrean people, (b) follow up the Commission’s finding within the UN and (c) provide assistance to the UN Somali/Eritrea Monitoring Group in investigating alleged abuses by the Eritrean government. (6782)

Tabled on: 13 July 2015

Answer:
Grant Shapps:

The UK does not provide direct funding to the Government of Eritrea. The only funding from the UK in Eritrea is to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). We also give core funding to a number of multilateral organisations that work in Eritrea, including the African Development Bank, EU and Global Fund. The EU’s development funds are conditional under the terms of the Cotonou Agreement. The EU’s 2014-20 development funding for Eritrea is under discussion and has not yet been approved. We share the Commission of Inquiry’s concerns regarding human rights in Eritrea, in particular widespread arbitrary detention and shortcomings in the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms. We regret the Government of Eritrea’s failure to receive the Commission in Asmara, which compelled the Commission to rely on witnesses who are outside the country. The UN Human Rights Council, of which the UK is a member, voted on 2 July 2015 to extend the Commission’s mandate for one year to allow the Commission to further investigate the human rights situation in Eritrea. The UK will continue to engage closely with the Commission, and with other parts of the UN system, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea. The Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group’s (SEMG) mandate is not to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Eritrea. The SEMG’s remit is to investigate any attempts by the Government of Eritrea to destabilise the Horn of Africa by supplying arms or financial support to Al-Shabaab. The SEMG is due to submit its full report to the UN Security Council this autumn. We have made clear to Eritrea that it must cooperate fully with the Monitoring Group.

The answer was submitted on 20 Jul 2015 at 15:28.