By Eritrean Foreign Ministry,
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea presents its compliments to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Internal Trade of Canada (DFAITC) and has the honour to convey the following:-
In its communications of July 27, 2012, reference number GFA0022, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Internal Trade regrettably invokes the biased and politically-motivated allegations of the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group to express concern on a number of policies and normative practices of the Government of Eritrea.
Several UN Security Council Members have publicly expressed their disappointment and chided the Monitoring Group for its obvious political bias, lack of professionalism and objectivity during the report-appraisal sessions in the past. Furthermore, other countries have lamented the compromising liaison that had apparently been established between certain individuals in the Monitoring Group and some powerful permanent members of the UN Security Council. Reports are indeed rife these days that as a result of all the drawbacks, some UNSC member States who have all along harboured grave reservations on the working methods of the Monitoring Group are reluctant to renew the appointment of its chairperson. In the circumstances, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs finds it unfortunate for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada to take the lopsided reports of the Monitoring Group at face value and consider unwarranted measures that will have negative implications to our bilateral ties.
In as far as the substantive issues raised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade are concerned, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to emphasize the following:-
1) The “recovery and rehabilitation tax” is governed by transparent Eritrean laws. It was enacted by the National Assembly in 1994 to encourage Eritreans in the Diaspora to contribute to the rehabilitation of a country devastated by three decades of war for national independence and freedom. The tax is not imposed through extra-judicial means. The presumption that the tax is
collected through “extortion, threats of violence and fraud” is a malicious lie at variance with the facts. The Monitoring Group reportedly used the “testimonies” of 42 obscure individuals to make this preposterous assertion.
It did not bother to check the veracity of these claims or the potential political or other sinister motivations of these individuals. As pointed out earlier, the levying of the nominal 2% tax is not conducted through extra-judicial means. As in any other taxation system, there are certain consequences, clearly stipulated by law, that are applicable in case of unjustified tax evasions. In this particular instance, the explicit administrative measures consist of denial of specific entitlements and services (land allocation etc.) to those directly accountable. These administrative measures are not applied extra-territorially, i.e. in the country of residence of the person concerned, and/or by proxy (to relatives or other persons affiliated to the individual concerned). Several governments levy various types of taxes from their citizens who reside abroad. So Eritrea’s practices are not outside established norms; they are governed by explicit and transparent laws and they do not employ unorthodox and unlawful means. The accusation of “extortion, fraud and threat of violence” is not only baseless but an inexcusable insult to the people and
government of Eritrea.
2) “Donations to Eritrean national defense” is a broad historical concept that requires precision. Eritreans abroad had a long history of providing humanitarian and other financial support to the EPLF during the thirty years of struggle for national liberation and independence. This act cannot be misconstrued as unlawful. It is revived periodically through voluntary initiatives of Eritreans abroad in times of war when there are actual or imminent military threats to the sovereignty and integrity of their beloved country. When Ethiopia declared war against Eritrea in 1998, for instance, Eritrean communities in various countries raised some funds under this banner. But these are episodic instances; the amounts raised are not substantial and they are funneled to support victims of war; the internally displaced; families of martyrs and the war-wounded.
3) The Note Verbale also refers to “Canada’s concern by Eritrea’s history of support of armed opposition groups in the region and urges Eritrea to respect the arms embargo“. In the first place, we would like to underline that Eritrea’s publicly pronounced and earnestly pursued regional policy is firmly anchored on the promotion and maintenance of a safe and cooperative
neighborhood. The main pillars of this policy include:
i) the promotion of regional security architecture that can play a pivotal role in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts;
ii) strict adherence to non-interference and international laws and convictions of conflict settlement and associated instruments; and
iii) cultivation of robust bilateral ties of all-rounded cooperation with individual neighboring countries.
In this context, Eritrea firmly adheres to the supremacy of the rule of law and believes that all disputes that may arise between neighboring States must be resolved through bilateral diplomatic means or through legal arbitration as enshrined in Article 33 of the UN charter. In all instances of border dispute that arose with its neighbors since its liberation in 1991, Eritrea has invariably employed, in good faith, bilateral diplomatic channels or legal arbitration mechanisms. Eritrea has fully respected and faithfully implemented all the arbitration decisions; whether the substantive Award upheld or rejected its claims. Eritrea is thus not engaged in reckless acts of regional destabilization through mindless support to armed groups as a turbulent regional environment would only undermine these fundamental principles and above all jeopardize its national security interests.
But what cannot be glossed over, and this is one of the unpardonable omissions of the Monitoring Group in its biased reports, are the myriad acts of destabilization and aggression that Ethiopia continues to perpetrate against Eritrea in violation of international law. Ethiopia continues to occupy, with impunity, sovereign Eritrean territories in breach of the “final and binding” Award of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commissions.
The Ethiopian regime has been and continues to finance, train and arm several subversive groups, including two jihadist armed organizations, to advance its broader aims of destabilizing Eritrea. It pursues an open policy of “regime change” and has recently began to launch, well-publicized, intermittent military aggressions against Eritrea.
Ethiopia’s brazen acts of aggression and its occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories are tolerated by the UN Security Council and the international community at large because it enjoys the unwarranted diplomatic and political protection of the United States. This is also the reason why the Monitoring Group has shunned Ethiopia’s persistent acts of destabilization even though they constitute the primary threat to regional peace and security. In the circumstances, Eritrea believes that the sanctions resolutions, and especially the arms embargo, are not lawful as they infringe on Eritrea’s legitimate rights of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.
In this connection, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to take this occasion to remind the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the moral and legal responsibilities of Canada to uphold the UN Charter and international law. We would like to remind the Government of Canada that the Algiers Peace Agreement was guaranteed by the UN Security Council. The Agreement contained specific provisions for punitive action to be taken against the transgressing party on the basis of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Ethiopia has violated this treaty; Ethiopia has stubbornly refused to respect the arbitral Award and continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories for ten long years since the EEBC decision was announced in April 2002. And Ethiopia is currently engaged in reckless and provocative acts of aggression against Eritrea. The attentions of the Government of Canada should therefore be directed against the menace to regional peace and security posed by the unlawful acts of Ethiopia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada the assurances of its highest consideration.
Asmara, August 2, 2012