U.N. extends special rapporteur for Eritrea

The United Nations agreed Thursday to extend a mandate for a special rapporteur in the African country of Eritrea for one year, but countries on the continent mostly abstained or voted against it.

Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed speaks during a joint press conference in Hungary in January. The United Nations extended a special monitor for the country Friday, which critics have complained about human rights abuses. Photo by Zoltan Mathe

Twenty-one countries involved with the United Nations Human Rights Council voted for the resolution. The country has been criticized for its human rights record in the past. The resolution also called for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to give an oral update on the country by next March.

Among the 13 countries voting against the resolution were Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Somalia and Togo. Eritrea had criticized Sheila Keetharuth, the current U.N. special rapporteur, in the past. Thirteen other countries abstained.

“We sincerely believe that this resolution, and the special rapporteur, can help translate our collective hope — and Eritrea’s stated political will — into real improvements for the human rights of the people of Eritrea,” said a statement for Britain, which voted for the resolution.

“So that Eritreans no longer leave their country to escape indefinite national service, arbitrary arrest or detention. So that all Eritreans can enjoy freedom of expression, religion and peaceful assembly,” the statement continued.

Eritrea and Ethiopia were entangled in a bloody border war from 1998 to 2000. Since that time, Ethiopia’s economy has grown and politics have grown more diverse while Eritrea has remained controlled by one party. Some charged that it continues to lack political freedom.

ByClyde Hughes