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ERITREA/HUMAN RIGHTS: UNITED NATIONS RIGHTS EXPERT TO GATHER FIRST-HAND INFORMATION FROM ERITREAN REFUGEES

25 April 2013

GENEVA (25 April 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, will carry out an official visit to Ethiopia and Djibouti from 30 April to 9 May 2013 to collect information directly from Eritrean refugees on the human rights situation in their country.

“Due to lack of access to Eritrea, I will engage with all others concerned by human rights in Eritrea, including those who consider themselves to be victims of alleged human rights violations, human rights defenders and other civil society actors,” Ms. Keetharuth said.

“In my first field mission, I will gather first-hand information from Eritrean refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries,” explained the rights expert, while expressing her appreciation that neighbouring Ethiopia and Djibouti have agreed to provide her access to the Eritrean refugee population residing in those two countries.

Since her appointment in November 2012, the Special Rapporteur has made several requests to visit Eritrea, which have so far not been granted. She has repeatedly urged the Eritrean authorities to collaborate with her mandate with a view to addressing its human rights challenges. In her view, the mandate offers an opportunity for the Eritrean Government to engage in a fresh and constructive dialogue on human rights issues brought to the fore by an array of stakeholders.

During her mission, Ms. Keetharuth will interview Eritrean refugees in various places to assess allegations of widespread and systematic violations of human rights in Eritrea contained in reports she has received from a variety of sources. The result of her findings, which would be strictly limited to the situation inside Eritrea, will be reflected in her first report to the Human Rights Council in June 2013.

Apart from courtesy meetings with Government authorities in both countries, the human rights expert is planning to meet Eritrean refugees in various places throughout the countries to collect information about alleged human rights violations in Eritrea.

The Special Rapporteur will issue a news release with her preliminary findings on the situation of human rights in Eritrea at the end of her field visits to neighbouring Ethiopia and Djibouti 

Sheila B. Keetharuth was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea during the 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012.  She took her functions on 1 November 2012.  As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity.  A lawyer from Mauritius, she has extensive experience in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, advocacy, training and litigation in human rights in Africa.

UN Human Rights, country page – Eritrea: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ERIndex.aspx

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For use of the information media; not an official record

HR13/094E