In the course of 3 to 16 December 2018, ELS participated in major events that took place in Frankfurt, Geneva and The Hague.
From 14 to 16 December 2018, ELS attended a symposium, facilitated by Eri-Platform, and conducted under the banner of “The Imperative for Common Action.” The symposium, which took place in Frankfurt (Germany), is one of several such initiatives by Eritrean diaspora grassroots movements striving for the establishment of a politico-legal system anchored on respect for the rule of law. ELS was represented at the event by Mr. Wesenseghed (Seghed) Hagos, who participated as a panellist in a session themed “Rule of Law and Human Rights in Eritrea.”
Mr. Hagos highlighted that the mere presence of promulgated laws does not necessarily imply commitment of a government to respect for the rule of law. Such a commitment depends on effective institutional framework supported by democratic establishments that are genuinely accountable to the people (for example, an independent judiciary and a democratically elected parliament).
In contrast, Mr. Hagos underlined that with no functioning parliament, Eritrea has suffered for long time due to the insatiable appetite of the incumbent government to remain in power. This was made possible by destroying national institutions of democratic accountability that should have nurtured a gradual emergence of a political culture faithful to the noble objective of respect to the rule of law. He also highlighted that according to operational Eritrean laws, the incumbent government that transformed itself from a liberation movement to a transitional government in the early 1990s had effectively completed its transitional mandate in 1997, after which it has unilaterally imposed itself on the Eritrean people without a formal consent of the latter to be ruled by the former.
The Frankfurt Symposium concluded, among other things, by calling on all concerned Eritreans to bring their resources together in order to work effectively for the realisation of the much-anticipated transition to a democratic political order. The symposium also decided to establish a mobilizing taskforce to reach out to all concerned Eritreans and friends of Eritrea in the realisation of the most pressing objectives of our time.
In a similar development, ELS participated in another major event that took place in Geneva on 13 December 2018. The event, in which Dr. Daniel Mekonnen from ELS made a presentation, was organised by the Geneva-based NGO, UPR Info.
UPR Info is an organisation committed to the protection and promotion of human rights through the effective utilisation of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). UPR Info regularly organises events known as UPR pre-session presentations that take place one month ahead of the actual UPR process of every Member State of the UN. Eritrea’s Third UPR Cycle will take place in January 2019.
At the UPR pre-session on Eritrea, Dr. Mekonnen highlighted on two major themes, namely: devitalisation of judicial independence and suppression of the right to freedom of expression in Eritrea. The first theme was based on the stakeholder report (civil society report) of ELS that was submitted in July 2018 as part of the standard UPR procedure of involving civil society organisations in the assessment of UN Member States. The second theme was based on a joint stakeholder report of PEN Eritrea, PEN International and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Dr. Mekonnen took the second initiative as part of his commitment to PEN Eritrea in which he also serves as member of its Advisory Council. Over and above emphasising on the major themes of the stakeholder reports cited above, Dr. Mekonnen noted that in the case of Eritrea the UPR process has been abused by the Eritrean Government as a platform for paying lip service to the noble objective of protecting and promoting human rights. A summarised version of the ELS stakeholder report is available here: https://goo.gl/JQozFm
In another important engagement, ELS participated in a one-day consultation in The Hague, organised by the International Criminal Court (ICC), focusing on the development of a new and improved Legal Aid Policy. Dr. Daniel Mekonnen of ELS participated in the event, representing the President of the International Criminal Bar (ICC), in which Dr. Mekonnen sits at the Council of the ICB representing ELS. Following this, Dr. Mekonnen also attended several meetings and one-to-one consultations at the 17th Session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute that took place in The Hague from 5 to 12 December 2018. Among other things, Dr. Mekonnen discussed with like-minded civil society organisations the possibility of implementing accountability measures in Europe and elsewhere for gross human rights violations – based on the principle of universal jurisdiction (the idea that a national court of any country may prosecute individuals for grave violations of international law committed anywhere).