THE conduct and presentation of Sheila Keetharuth, the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, over the last two years has been neither that of an independent expert, nor that of an impartial observer. She has instead been one of an activist that is publicly engaged in an anti-Eritrea campaign on and off the cameras.
The Special Rapporteur came to the job with pre-conceived notions about the Government and people of Eritrea, notions derived from her previous engagements with hostile anti-Eritrea groups and individuals. Her cozy association with several anti-Eritrea individuals and groups is also a matter of public record.
Despite her known stance and record, the Eritrean Community in the Diaspora was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and had genuinely wanted to work with her so as to educate her on the realities in Eritrea and contextualize issues in the Horn of Africa.
The over 300 Diaspora Community organizations sent letters and requested to meet with her, but the Rapporteur made all kinds of excuses not to meet with them and refused to take note of their concerns and their testimonies. Instead, the Rapporteur chose to advocate on behalf of anti-Eritrea elements that have no constituency inside or outside Eritrea. The one or two times she wanted to meet, she was not prepared to listen and gather evidence, or vital information to help her understand Eritrea’s unique challenges. She chose instead to lecture intellectually sound Eritreans, in a condescending manner. It is indeed sad and unfortunate that the Special Rapporteur, supposedly an African herself, could not present herself in a manner that was consistent with that of a courteous, and most of all, humble African approach.
The Special Rapporteur’s report is filled with verbatim regurgitation of the many unsubstantiated allegations produced by the regime in Ethiopia and its handlers in the past 12 years. It does not seek to search for the truth or advance human rights in Eritrea. Almost all of her accusations are fabrications that border on plagiarism from other sources that are out there in the Internet. Her methodology is so unscientific no reasonable person can take her as credible.
When confronted with positive data and progress about Eritrea she is quick to dismiss it. For example she refuses to acknowledge the successes of the Government of Eritrea in providing adequate health and educational services to its people. She even had the audacity to question the Government of Eritrea’s reports on the achievement of 7 out of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), achievements which were touted and verified by the UNDP, UNICEF and other UN organs. In other words, she arrogantly places herself above every other UN agency and she is almost telling us she, and she alone, is competent to verify Eritrea’s success in the MDGs.
Eritrea does not seek certification from an obviously biased Rapporteur who has been chosen by certain quarters for her long anti-Eritrea stance. She had applied for this job claiming she can be an “independent” Rapporteur, however, she is not conducting herself in such a manner. It is time the world know the truth about this individual.
Her biased and divisive reports are an example of a transparent attempt at weakening the strong bond that exists between the government and people in Eritrea. She is also trying to prey on vulnerable populations, asylum seekers and migrants as unverifiable source for her own false reports. She knows very well all those who want to get political asylum have to tell a story that the west would find acceptable, and such reports cannot be taken as facts.
The Special Rapporteur would have served a greater purpose had she used her “interviews” with asylum seekers and migrants to gather information on the scourge of human smuggling and human trafficking that has caused irreparable psychological and physical problems for many and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds and on those who are responsible for this unfortunate situation.
Ignoring the well orchestrated pull factors that are trapping young Africans to menial jobs in the west, she wants to speculate on push factors that are non-applicable to very people she tells us are leaving Eritrea. Furthermore she claims the number of Eritreans in the past year has grown by 100%. However, she has no iota of evidence (a) that this number is verifiably true, (b) that all those that claim Eritreans are bona fide Eritreans.
In fact there is credible evidence that an overwhelming majority of those that claim refugee status as Eritreans are Ethiopians for the most Tigrean Ethiopians, done with the full cooperation of the minority government of Ethiopia.
The Special Rapporteur is also not qualified to tell the people of Eritrea what their priorities should be. Furthermore, she is in no position to dictate which aspect of the National Service is noble and which is not. Eritrea’s youth are working hard to ensure Eritreans from all walks of life get access to clean water, free education, adequate health care and food security. What is not noble about this? Aren’t these services part of the social and economic rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? To tell us that these activities are not “noble” and part and parcel of “nation-building”, to simply put it, is nonsense!
The Special Rapporteur is also not truthful in telling the UN the reason why the National Service is prolonged. It is because of the War that has been declared on Eritrea. Not taking occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory and the displacement of people from their homes as a violation of fundamental human rights is tantamount working for the Ethiopian regime and its handlers. By conveniently citing the Global Hunger Index of 2014, which is based on numbers from 2002, twelve year old data, the Special Rapporteur is deliberately trying to paint a non-existent reality in Eritrea. By knowingly using an Index that is far from credible shows how far she is willing to go to discredit Eritrea.
Attacking the National Service program and the contributions made by Eritrean youth to the development of their country, undermining the enormous gains made by Eritrean women since independence, and downplaying the progress made in Eritrea in the delivery of free access to healthcare and education for all, fabricating stories of unaccompanied 7-8 year old crossing hostile borders to reach refugee camps and insulting the culture of the people she knows from a distance, as she has never been to Eritrea, is unbecoming of someone who is supposed to provide a fair and balanced assessment to the UN body.
We ask that she revisits our previous correspondences and reports on Eritrea, its people and its policies and stop making unsubstantiated statements about our country of origin. We are all for genuine respect of human rights, a full respect of every aspect of human rights, political, social and economic rights not just giving a lip service.
If in the beginning we were willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, today, after two years of her vocal and public campaigns against our country, we are certain she is not interested in fact finding or working to advance Human Rights in Eritrea, but as a hired agent of a smear campaign against Eritrea.
We thus call on the UN Human Rights Council to end this politically motivated country specific mandate and work with Eritrea through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Mechanism.