Abraham Gebreyseus Mehreteab represents War Resisters' International at UN Human Rights Commission

On the 1st of April, I was able to give my presentation on a parallel meeting of NGOs which was organized by Conscience Peace Tax International. I presented a paper on Military service and Militarism in Eritrea. It was moderated by Rachel Brett from Quakers. There were three participants for the session:

  • Cristophon Blerwirth, senior Liaison Officer (Human Rights) Promotion Policy and Legal Advice Section department of International  Protection of UNHCR  He presented on the legal development for the determination of refugee status  in relation to Conscientious Objectors.
  • Abraham Mehreteab, Eritrean Antimilitarist Initiative (on the situation of Eritrean Military service and militarism)
  • Adam Maor from Israel; (personal experience of being a Conscientious Objector from the Israeli Army).
  • Mariam from the US Tax Peace Fund Campaign (on the Peace Fund campaign in the US)

It was a short presentation by each speakers followed by questioning and answering.

At this occasion, I had the opportunity to display the booklets and pamphlets of our initiative to the participants of the meeting.

Oral Statement

The second and major thing was the presentation of our statement for the UN Commission on Human Rights. It was done on the 5th of April in the afternoon. We had the anticipation that it would be possible to make the statement on Friday or early Monday. But the Commission was very busy and was not possible to present it in those times.

As we have already exchanged on the email, we have made some revisions on the original statement of our statement for the Commission.

As the result of the statement read for the Commission, The Eritrean Ambassador for the UN in Geneva, Dr. Amare Tekle,  responded using his right of reply. Besides our Statement there were two other organizations who also made a statement on Religious Persecution in Eritrea. Therefore, the Ambassador replied for the three organization and denounced our statement. In relation to Conscientious Objectors in Eritrea, he said that it is international obligation to carry out the military service and those people who are imprison in Eritrea such as the Jehovah Witnesses are, because they failed to fulfil their military duty. He stressed it is a national duty.

Meeting UN special Rapporteurs

After I delivered my statement to the Commission, I  had an opportunity to meet the following Special Rapporteurs and was able to present two copies of the  booklets and exchange the contact address:

  • Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion  or belief which includes Conscientious Objectors. She was very interested to work on the issue of Conscientious Objectors in Eritrea and asked the relevant information for her planned visit to Eritrea.
  • Manfred Nowak a Special Rapporteur on Torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.        

Remarks

It was a historical opportunity for Eritrean Conscientious Objectors to present their statement for the UN Commission on Human Rights. It was for the first time that Eritreans were able to raise the issue at the international level. Moreover, the meetings that I have done were very constructive, satisfactory  as well as eye opening. I believe that our initiative has benefited from such extraordinary occasion at the UN in advocating the  rights of  Eritrean Conscientious Objectors. In general it was a successful trip.

Abraham G. Mehreteab, Eritrean Antimilitaristic Initiative.

Published in CO-Update, May 2005, No. 9