A fierce contest for international public opinion is under way among Eritreans across the world.

Mass Signing Petitions

The trigger for this activity is next month’s publication of a U.N. Commission of Inquiry report into the state of human rights in the Red Sea state.

The Commission was required by the U.N. to: “investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring full accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity.”

This instruction – issued by the U.N. on 22 July 2015 – was a considerable blow to the Eritrean regime: especially the suggestion that the abuses might be so severe that they amount to ‘crimes against humanity’.

To try to undermine the Commission’s  creditability President Isaias Afwerki has been mobilising the Eritrean diaspora and a group of his international allies.

This is no spontaneous outburst of public anger against the U.N.: it is a show of strength, carefully organised by the Eritrean government.

Martin


The government offensive

Documents leaked from the Eritrean capital provide an insight into the scale of the official operation.

The government’s plan is to collect 300,000 signatures to present to the UN protesting against the work of the Commission.

News of this development has been revealed by a whistleblower in Asmara, who goes by the name of ‘Samuel’.

Quotas and pressure

On April 20, Samuel’s Facebook page SACTISM posted a seven-page document in Tigrinya. It was a letter from Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs detailing a the government’s strategy to denounce the UN Commission of Inquiry and its ‘fabricated’ reports. Each Eritrean foreign mission is required to fulfil an allocated ‘quota’. [See below]

The letter, dated 12th of April 2016, is addressed to “All Eritrean missions” and to “Eritrean consulates in Canada and Australia” with copies to “(1) Coordinating committee; (2) Coordinator of Action Europe, Ambassador Fisehatsion Petros; and (3) Eritrean permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Ghirma Asmerom.

The letter urges those it addresses to collect signatures from 16th of April until 27th of May 2016 to fulfil their respective country’s ‘quota’. The document lists 25 countries including the Scandinavia region and sets the target number of signatures for the petition.

For Eritreans in the diaspora this is not a mere request.

Living – as many of them do – in countries like Sudan, they are open to real pressure to comply with this request for support. Refusal would leave the exiles open to accusations of being unpatriotic, which would result in them being denied all official assistance from any Eritrean embassy. This would prevent this vulnerable community from obtaining passports, visas or any other form of official documentation or permission.

Documenting the Eritrean regime’s global reach

What the Eritrean government instructions indicate is just how extensive and complex the regime’s hold really is.

A translation of the document, revealed on ‘Samuel’s’ Facebook page, is provided below.

It shows in detail the clear line of control from President Isaias Afwerki and his closest circle of advisers, through the embassies and into the ruling party’s network in each country, to members of the Eritrean exile community.

It confirms, for example, that Meseret Bahlbi, who had brought cases against academics and newspapers in the Netherlands as an individual, is in fact on the ruling party’s European Central Committee.

As a Dutch judge ruled recently: “…it can be assumed that [the plaintiff] is linked to the Eritrean regime and the political ideology of this regime actively supports.”

International ‘friends’ of the regime

What the documents also reveal is the network of the Eritrean governments closest international supporters.

Of these Herman Cohen (the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1989 to 1993) is probably the most important. He has intervened in support of Eritrea on several occasions.

In December 2015, for example, he called for UN sanctions against the regime to be lifted. He previously called for Eritrea to be ‘brought in from the cold.’

This is the full list of these international allies of President Isaias.

  • Ambassador Herman J Cohen (United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1989 to 1993.)
  • Emilio De Luigi (Author, born in Eritrea)
  • Charles Cantalupo, (Professor of English, Comparative Literature and African Studies, Penn State Schuylkill)
  • Samuel Mahaffy (Eritrean born consultant and lobbyist)
  • Peter Schwidtal (Founder of the Project Eritrea in 1995, Chairman of the Organization ARCHEMED)
  • Toni Locher (Member Friends of Eritrea club)

Resisting the government’s campaign

The Eritrean government is not having thing all its own way. The Eritrean opposition is mobilising its supporters to show their backing for the U.N. Commission of Inquiry.

“Thousands of Eritrean refugees and European-Eritreans from all over Europe will be marching in Geneva, on the 23rd of June 2016,” the exiles say.

Last year saw clashes in the Swiss city between supporters and opponents of the Eritrean regime. The U.N. Commissioners were threatened with violence.

Joachim Rücker, the president of the UN Human Rights Council, started his opening statement by saying:

“It has been brought to my attention that the members of the commission of inquiry on Eritrea have been subjected to various threats and acts intimidation in their hotels and in the streets since their arrival in Geneva. Security around members of the commission has had to be redoubled and contacts established with the hosts country’s police. We have also taken security measures to ensure that the interactive dialogue proceed with calm and dignity. Substantive disagreement with members of the CoI or other mandate holders can always be expressed. It is however totally unacceptable for them to be subjected to threats and intimidation in the context of discharging their mandates which are established by the United Nations Human Rights Council”.

Hopefully this will not be repeated, but competing demonstrations are almost certain to take place in Geneva again this year.

_____________________________________________________

Documents translated from leaked Eritrean government documents

Eritrea: Petition against the Commission of Inquiry

A recent document sent by the PFDJ to force Eritreans in the diaspora to “petition against the unjust position against Eritrea of the Commission of Inquiry and Special Rapporteurs” was leaked and posted on Facebook on April 19.

Before it was launched an emergency meeting was held.

At the meeting were present:

  • The Director of the Office of the President and Minister of Information Yemane GebreMeskel,
  • Minister of Energy and Mines General Sibhat Efrem,
  • Chief of Staff of the Eritrean Defense Forces General Filpos WeldeYohans,
  • Chief of Foreign Intelligence Colonel Gaim TesfaMikael,
  • Temporary Coordinator of the Higher Commission for Human Rights Ambassador TesfaMikael Gerahtu and
  • Chief of Police and Security Forces Brigadier General Sm’on GebreDngl.

Committees for the petition

The committees for the petition have started work in Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

To make the campaign successful the following ambassadors and YPFDJ members have already started a busy schedule in Europe. Embassies in Europe and Africa have been ordered to draw a target and action plan document within four days and present it to the Political Adviser to the President Yemane Gebreab. Organization and financial issues will be the responsibility of Ambassador Fs’hazion Petros and Ambassador Grma Asmerom, Permanent Representative of the State of Eritrea to the UN. Below are listed the names of the organizing diplomats and YPFDJ members.

  1. Osman Saleh, Misister of Foreign Affairs
  2. Hanna Simon, Eritrean Ambassador to France
  3. Secretary of the Eritrean Embassy to the Scandinavian region, Yonas Manna
  4. Stifanos HabteMariam, Eritrean Ambassador to the UK
  5. Petros Tsegai, Eritrean Ambassador to Germany
  6. Fs’hazion Petros, Eritrean Ambassador to Italy

Yemane Gebreab has selected YPFDJ members to facilitate the campaign. Some of them are listed below.

Members of the Central Committee of YPFDJ Europe:

  1. Zer’ay Tekle, Chairman of YPFDJ Europe
  2. Eden Kebede
  3. Solomon SereqeBrhan
  4. Yodit Tekeste
  5. Tedros Yared, YPFDJ Norway
  6. Senai Solomon, YPFDJ Denmark
  7. Sirak Bahlbi, PFDJ Europe
  8. Redi’et Kfle, YPFDJ America
  9. Semhar Brhane, YPFDJ Germany
  10. Meseret Bahlbi, YPFDJ Holland
  11. Biniam Tareqe,  Amanuel Mengstu,  Dejen Melles,  Millen Daniel YPFDJ Sweden
  12.  Semhar GebreAb, YPFDJ Germany
  13. Benhur Grma, YPFDJ Canada
  14.  Mikael Haile, YPFDJ America
  15. Sm’on Tesfamariam, YPFDJ and Red Sea Institute
  16. Daniel Goit’om, YPFDJ Europe
  17. Ft’hawi Mehari, YPFDJ Europe
  18. Saul Bahta, YPFDJ Switzerland

The following friends of the regime have been selected to work with members of the diaspora raised youth:

  • Ambassador Herman J Cohen (United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1989 to 1993.)
  • Emilio De Luigi (Author, born in Eritrea)
  • Charles Cantalupo, (Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature and African Studies, Penn State Schuylkill)
  • Samuel Mahaffy (Eritrean born consultant and lobbyist)
  • Peter Schwidtal (Founder of the Project Eritrea in 1995, Chairman of the Organization ARCHEMED)
  • Toni Locher (Member Friends of Eritrea club)

Dr Gidewon Abbai, Sofia TesfaMariam, Dr Tesfai Aradom, Saba GebreGiorgis are among the 17 people have been tasked with facilitating communication between the friends of the regime. Sofia TesfaMariam and others have studied and approved the identities and backgrounds of the following and many others.

  1. Habtom Kidane, Uganda
  2. Afwerki Kehase Ar’aya, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya
  3. Mengst’Ab (Godney) Berekhet, Uganda
  4. Samuel Jimie, Kenya
  5. Dawit Agefa, Uganda
  6. Berekhet Yemane, Uganda
  7. FreWeyni Kahsai, USA
  8. Fshaie Tseggai, USA
  9. Aster Tekle, USA (Member of the National Union of Eritrean women, Virginia, USA)
  10. Yodit Negassi, USA
  11. Yemane Fqadu, Seattle, USA
  12. Grmai GebreMariam
  13. Rahel Abrha Zekarias, USA, (Washington DC)
  14. Hanna AndeMariam, USA
  15. Akhbret, USA (Minnesota)
  16. Almaz Nabu, USA
  17. Biniam Hruy, UK

_____________________________________________________

The State of Eritrea

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

April 12 2016

To: All Eritrean Missions and Eritrean Consulates in Canada and Australia

Copies: To members of the organizing committee

Petition Organizer Europe Ambassador Fs’hazion Petros

Permanent Representative for Eritrea at the Un Ambassador Grma Asmerom

As can be remembered the need for a global Eritrean defensive effort has been discussed the launch has been decided after it was demanded by the people in protest of the unjust reports and authority of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea. An outline and orientation document prepared by the Global Eritrean Action for Justice is hereby attached. Eritrean Global Action for Justice will send a form to be filled on the internet. Accordingly I give the following reminders:

  1. This should be given priority focus according to the outlined aims and organization as a high priority challenge and public diplomacy campaign.
  2. Every mission will prepare an action plan that shows the target and organization of their campaigns in accordance with the orientation documents and will submit them until Friday, 15th of April 2016.
  3. Keeping this in mind, ideas and experience can be added and organized efforts should be made for all missions to work together and create an organized network for greatest success.
  4. Many citizens will travel to the country for the 25th Independence Day celebrations and so a special organization should be adopted to collect their signatures before they leave for Eritrea.

In relation to this according to the decisions taken at all Eritrean organizations peaceful demonstrations will be arranged. To allow time to begin the preparations from now Eritrean Global Action for Justice is preparing the guidelines. June 21-23 2016 should be assumed the scheduled date although further information will follow about the exact date.

Victory to the Masses

(Signed, sealed)

Secretary of the Organizing Committee

Global Eritrean Action for Justice

Guidelines and general instructions for the petition against the unjust position against Eritrea of the Commission of Inquiry and Special Rapporteurs

Schedule:

  1. The petition effort starts on April 16 and ends on May 27 2016.
  2. From May 31 to June 6 the collected petitions will be sent to the outlined addresses (The 32nd meeting of the Human Rights Council will commence on June 13 The Commission of Inquiry report can be expected to be presented from June 21st to 23rd)

 

Method:

  1. The forms can be filled on paper and online
    • Contents of the form
  • Every individual participant fills their names, addresses, and signatures (guidelines have been prepared and should be translated into Tigrinya and Arabic)
  • Any information and signatures should be filled clearly and carefully
  • Nine people sign on every single form
  • The part for serial numbers will is left blank to be filled later
  • Signed forms are to be collected as soon as possible, scanned and sent to the provided addresses (check attachment #3 for details)
  • Scanned forms are kept in the following manner
  • It’s saved as EritreaPetition2016
  • Which country and city it is collected from
  • Page numbers (from-to)
  • Scanned forms are sent from each city to eritreangloabalmekete@gmail.com
    • Online Forms
  • The designated websites will be notified and similar instructions as above are followed. Information about the websites will be sent out until April 17 2016.
  • Online petitions are registered with individual names
  • All the petitions collected online will be collected in excel sheets, printed and sent to the specified addresses
  • The collected excel sheets are also sent to Global Eritrean Action for Justice eritreanglobalmekte@gmail.com
    • Global Eritrean Action for Justice will as soon as possible present the method and form with which it will present the petitions to the UN headquarters at Geneva

 

Mobilization and Targets

  1. In every country a schedule for the greatest success of the plan will be drawn and people will be organized on the smallest scale down to families. Organizers, promoters and assistants will be assigned.
  2. In consideration of the planned number of half a million signatures and the targets the work will be arranged accordingly (see attachment #1 for country quotas). Weekly reports of daily follow-ups will be sent to Global Eritrean Action for Justice.
  3. Every citizen takes forms and gives it to their family, relatives, friends, colleagues, etc… and helps others to fill the forms. Groups, organizations, communities take responsibility and lead this action in their respective countries. Reports of all the citizens who were able to make others fill the forms and returned them, promoters (agitators) and organizers will be kept properly.
  4. Petitions can be filled by Eritrean associations and organizations and should be registered as ‘Eritrean Organizations’.
  5. Partner organizations and pro-Eritrea individuals are registered as ‘Partner Organizations’ and efforts should be made to collect the signatures of other individuals and organizations that stand for justice.

Addresses for sending the petitions

  1. The filled forms with the accompanying reminders are sent to Secretary General of the UN, High Commissioner for Human Rights, President of the Human Rights Council, Members of the Human Rights Council (the addresses for the countries will be sent by the Eritrean Global Action for Justice), four bodies of the European Union, the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea and the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.
  2. The signed petitions are also to be sent to the foreign ministers of the countries where Eritreans live.

Evaluation and report

  1. Evaluations for cities and countries are to be sent until June 30th

 

Victory to the Masses!!!

_____________________________________________________

 1.   Letter with a suggested critique of the U. N. Commission on Inquiry

(copy from Israel, but apparently these forms are available in many different countries)

 

Netherlands Letter

Translation

  1. Personal Information
  • Full name
  • Sex
  • Address (Street, Zip Code, City, Country)
  • E-mail and telephone

 

  1. Confidentiality

I, the undersigned, hereby acknowledge that I do not want my information to be provided to other organizations or persons.

If my testimony is needed and if my safety is guaranteed I can, of my own volition, testify before the Commission of Inquiry.

  • Testimony
  • How you left the country, the journey you went through and things that happened there
  • The reasons for leaving the country
  • The pressures and violations you endured in the countries you passed through to get to Israel
  • The pretexts you used to get residence papers in this country and the present status of your papers
  • Mention names and addresses of non-Eritrean asylum seekers you know who have acquired papers by presenting themselves as Eritreans
  1. Exposing lies and accusations

(Using your experiences and the experiences of others to expose these lies and accusations)

  • Sexual violations and torture on women
  • Government policies on the equality of women like equal participation, equal education, equal job opportunities, and equal land use rights, the illegalization of female circumcision, etc.
  • Mention the respect that our society has for women
  • Mention that rape is not acceptable in our culture and society and that it is illegal, and it is punished by law on the rare occasion it happens
  • When women write this they should mention the respect and treatment of their fellow men
  1. Forced labor and National Service
  • Mention in which round of national service you did your national service, the work campaigns that you participated in for the good of the people and what satisfaction that gave you
  • The knowledge, education, profession, experience, care, harmony, and discovery of other ethnic groups and parts of society
  1. Murder everywhere
  • Mention that the Eritrean people naturally do not have a culture of murder
  • That peace and stability has progressed in Eritrea
  • Mention that murder is punished by law by accompanying with examples you know
  • Mention that the Commission of Inquiry’s report that murder happens everywhere is a complete lie
  • Repression and violations
  • Mention that there are no human rights violations or crisis in Eritrea
  • Mention that the people and the government live by mutually supporting each other; for example mention that the people participate in government work projects with awareness and with the belief that those projects belong to them
  • Whenever any rights violations happen the people notify the concerned authorities and that they correct the wrong doers, and moreover receives due legal treatment in a court of law

 

  • Migration and the criminals who ran migration
  • Mention that Eritrean youth have become the victims of human traffickers by accompanying your experiences and the experiences of others you know
  • The suffering, torture and death and the huge amounts of money asked of migrants on the journey by accompanying it with your experiences and the experiences of others you know
  • Mention human traffickers and their associates that you know
  • Mention the measures that the government has taken against human traffickers and their associates

 

  1. Development in Eritrea
  • Mention the peace, stability, social harmony, and mutual respect, unity of the people, work and dedication in Eritrea. Mention the rights and opportunities for women, children and the disabled.
  • Projects that have shown results in changing the economy and lives of the people in education, health, clean drinking water, transport, agriculture,
  • The closing of the gap between urban and rural areas, between near and far
  • Strengthening the rule of law, mention that the recent proclamation on the rights of the people have helped people understand their rights
  1. The influences of external conspiracies

Mention the external conspiracies against Eritrea, Ethiopia’s refusal to move out of sovereign Eritrean land, the silence of the international community, illegal and unjust sanctions, that are trying, hate policies and actions

  1. Opposing the mistaken aims of the Commission

I testify that according to my knowledge and experience the accusations against Eritrea by the Commission of Inquiry are baseless lies. (Write by mentioning some of the accusations)


2. Letter from the Netherlands

Netherlands Letter

To:          The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea

UNOG – OHCHR

8-14 Rue de la Paix

CH-1211 Geneva 10

Switzerland

 

UN Human Rights Council

UNOG – OHCHR

8-14 Rue de la Paix

CH-1211 Geneva Switzerland

In Eritrea There is No Violation of Human Rights, but a Strong Drive for Development Aimed at Ensuring Social Justice

I, the undersigned Eritrean citizen, in regard to the call made by the Inquiry Commission for Eritrean citizens to give their testimonies about the alleged human rights violations in Eritrea that have existed since the country’s independence, give my testimony as follows.

I would like to say that there have not been any human rights violations in Eritrea after its independence. As an Eritrean who has respect and goodwill for my people I must use my rights to expose the false accusations against my country and give my testimony as such.

In truth and justice, if there is a desire to improve the situation in Eritrea, the international community should have helped to uphold the international court ruling that was reached in accordance with the Algiers Agreement. The fact that we have not chosen war to reclaim our invaded sovereign territory that is still under Ethiopian control should have served to bring the admiration of the international community. On top of still having invaded our sovereign land, Ethiopia, regardless of it capabilities, is promising now and again that it will invade Eritrea and bring a regime change. Eritrea has a right to protect itself, and is therefore a must that it has to enlist its citizens for defense.

National service was launched to rebuild the war torn infrastructure and to revive the dead economy that the new state inherited from the previous government. Four rounds of national service finished their stay within the standard schedule and went back to their civilian lives. But after Ethiopia declared war on Eritrea and after it disregarded the international boundary ruling the time for repatriation for national service recruits was extended. But this can improved with time. There are no plans and work is being done to take national service back to its normal duration in the near future.

In connection to this, I call on the international community to find, in accordance with the Algiers Agreement, a solution to the problem that exists between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

To understand socio-economic development in Eritrea, the testimony of officials who visit Eritrea, representing the European Union or their individual countries, is enough. To mention some: members of UK and Danish parliaments, European Union representatives, European Union commissioner representatives, diplomats and UN officials posted in Asmara can be mentioned. The aid agreement reached between the EU and Eritrea is a good example of this.

Of the many achievements that the people and the government of Eritrea are accomplishing through the policy of self-reliance, the following can be mentioned. Even remote villages have been linked with roads, clean water and electricity have been provided and more work is underway to reach those remaining without these services, that clinics and hospitals have been built to provide people with medical services and that they are saving many lives; that universal education, which is not common in many other countries, is provided by the government up to the end of secondary education can be mentioned as some of the many admirable achievements of the Eritrean government. The aim of the government of Eritrea is to ensure social justice, and regarding the issue of human rights, the government is making great efforts to provide food for cheap and fair prices and to provide job opportunities. The government is also working on building infrastructures like dams, reservoirs, the improvement of farm land, setting up of factories, etc… that can help to ensure human rights. Because of this Eritrea has repeatedly been known as a green island in a region constantly under attack by drought and whose peoples have been attacked by hunger and become the victims of begging and aid.

In the fight to ensure national development the benefits of the progress in mining is showing results as it is a source of our progress. Successful national development projects develop the national economy, and a developed economy has a great input in bringing national justice. And this is why the Eritrean people stand by their government to work to ensure the success of development projects.

The exodus of our youth is getting worse because of the red carpet reception by developed nations. But the exaggerated numbers of our refugees are because of other refugees from neighboring countries and other African countries who are hiding their identities and presenting themselves as Eritreans. The Austrian ambassador to Ethiopia’s statement, which said that “40% of asylum seekers who present themselves as Eritreans are Ethiopians,” is enough proof of this. In addition to Ethiopians, it is becoming clear that many Sudanese and Somali nationals are presenting themselves as Eritreans to find asylum.

According to the reasons I mentioned above, I humbly give my testimony that the people and the government of Eritrea are working to ensure the success of their development programs and that there is no torture or human rights violations that the government commits against its people.

 

Full name: ________________________________________________

Address:     __________________________________________________________

____________________________________________

e-mail: ___________________________________________________

 


3. Petition against against the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur

Petition

A document distributed by the ruling party (PFDJ) regarding the organization of a campaign against the Commission of Inquiry to force Eritreans in the diaspora to “petition against the unjust position against Eritrea of the Commission of Inquiry and Special Rapporteurs” had been leaked and posted on Facebook on April 19 2016 on the site Sancticism.


 4. Photographs of the mass signing of petitions attacking the Commission of Inquiry

Mass Signing Petitions

Mass Signing of Petitions 2