By Tom Miles 1 July 2016
GENEVA (Reuters) – Eritrea may escape censure by the U.N. Security Council over its human rights record after the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a watered-down resolution against the African state on Friday.
A U.N. investigation set up by the Human Rights Council said last month that Eritrea’s leaders should be tried for crimes against humanity, including torture, rape, murder and enslaving hundreds of thousands of people.
The investigators, who published a 484-page report a year ago detailing the crimes and the country’s use of a “vast security network”, recommended that the situation in the country to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
But the resolution on Eritrea passed by the Human Rights Council on Friday merely requested that the U.N. General Assembly in New York submit the investigators’ work to “relevant organs of the UN for consideration and urgent action”.
An earlier draft had said the General Assembly should involve the Security Council to hold wrong-doers accountable via the “appropriate international and/or regional criminal justice mechanism”.
The council did “strongly encourage” the African Union to mount an investigation and bring suspects to justice, but its treatment of Eritrea is more conciliatory than its actions against North Korea, subject of an earlier U.N. investigation.
The text of the Eritrea resolution, which was initiated by Somalia and Djibouti, was watered down after several countries – among them the United States and China – objected to the tough language.
At a drafting meeting earlier in the week, U.S. diplomat Eric Richardson said the Eritrea report did not have “the same level of sophistication and precision” as the report on North Korea and the United States could not support the language of the text without revisions.
Eritrea has rejected all the allegations in the U.N. investigators’ report. Ghebreab Yemane, an adviser to President Isaias Afwerki, told the council the resolution was unfair, unjust and a deliberate U.S. and European attempt to “ratchet up harassment of Eritrea.”
“Its grave consequences will not be limited to Eritrea but will engulf the entire region,” he said. “This resolution will be used and abused to fan the flames of war.”
Eritrea and its neighbour Ethiopia have both accused the other of sparking a border clash on June 12.
Yemane blamed Ethiopia for “some of the worst human rights abuses and massacres of its people”, saying it was ironic that Ethiopia could use the council to lobby for the adoption of the resolution against Eritrea.
(Reporting by Tom Miles, editing by Larry King)