Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki attended a solemn Martyrs’ Day ceremony on the morning of June 20, laying a wreath at the Patriots’ Cemetery in Asmara.
The commemoration, which is particularly heartfelt in Eritrea in remembrance of the long conflict that led to the country’s independence from Ethiopia, was accompanied by controversy related to the report presented in Geneva by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the country, Mohamed Abdesalam Babiker, as part of the Human Rights Council being held from June 13 to July 8.
The report presented by Babiker denounced Eritrea’s continued involvement in the crisis affecting the Ethiopian regional state of Tigray, the concomitant increase in the recruitment process of Eritrean youth, and the permanent state of mobilization that would make the duration of the conscription of many young people effectively indefinite.
According to allegations in the same report, many Eritrean refugees forcibly repatriated from Tigray were allegedly arrested and then conscripted against their will, while no information was provided to their families regarding the fate of their relatives (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2022-06/un-rapporteur-eritrea-tigray-war-human-rights.html).
Mohamed Abdesalam Babiker’s paper follows a few days after Human Rights Watch’s Horn of Africa director Laetitia Bader’s call on the state of human rights in Eritrea, which was also sharply critical of the compulsory conscription system in the country (https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/06/13/statement-human-rights-council-eritrea).
The Eritrean government has firmly rejected the accusations made in the international arena, accusing the Eritrean TPLF of fueling until 2018 a smear campaign against Eritrea and stating how human rights “are embedded in the Eritrean nation-building agenda” (https://shabait.com/2022/06/14/50-hrc-eritreas-statement-on-the-id-with-the-sr-on-eritrea/).
According to what the Eritrean Minister of Information, Yemane Meskel, said via Twitter, Human Right Watch’s accusations are “indecent and perverse,” and demonstrate HRW’s lack of independence.