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Eritrea: Human Rights

Volume 495: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the human rights situation in Eritrea; and what steps he plans to take to have human rights included on the Article 8 Political Dialogue agenda for discussion between the EU and Eritrea. (282824)

Our ambassador to Eritrea regularly discusses the human rights situation with her EU counterparts in Asmara. The chief reason for these discussions is to raise human rights issues with the Government of Eritrea as part of the Article 8 Political Dialogue.

In furtherance of the EU's desire to discuss human rights with the Government of Eritrea, the EU Heads of Mission produced a human rights report at the end of January. Since initial discussions earlier this year the Government of Eritrea has twice refused to have human rights included on the Article 8 Political Dialogue agenda for discussion. However, when the EU Heads of Mission last met with the Government of Eritrea on 23 June 2009, we were encouraged by the Government of Eritrea proposing human rights form part of the agenda at the next Article 8 Political Dialogue meeting, scheduled for September.

On 18 September 2008 the UK took part in the European Parliament Human Rights Committee discussion on how to address the growing human rights crisis in Eritrea. At this meeting various non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, presented their human rights concerns to the Eritrean ambassador to Belgium and EU representatives.

My noble Friend, the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, Lord Malloch-Brown raised human rights with the Eritrean ambassador at the end of last year. In February 2009 Lord Malloch-Brown also took part in a debate in the House of Lords, which focused on the human rights situation in Eritrea.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in Eritrea; and if he will make a statement. (282825)

We continue to be concerned about reports of human rights abuses in Eritrea. A huge obstacle to making any factual assessment of the human rights situation in Eritrea is that the Eritrean police and security services are not willing to engage with our embassy on human rights abuses. This makes following up or corroborating reports of any abuses very difficult.

The UK raises human rights issues with the Eritrean Government both in Asmara and with the Eritrean ambassador to London on a regular basis, highlighting the amount of public and parliamentary interest we receive. My noble Friend, the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, Lord Malloch-Brown raised human rights with the Eritrean ambassador at the end of last year.

We also discuss human rights as part of the EU via the Article 8 Political Dialogue. EU Heads of Mission produced a human rights report at the end of January to discuss with the Government of Eritrea. Since initial discussions earlier this year the government of Eritrea has twice refused to have human rights included on the Article 8 Political Dialogue agenda for discussion. However, when the EU Heads of Mission last met with the Government of Eritrea on 23 June 2009, we were encouraged by the Government of Eritrea proposing human rights form part of the agenda at the next Article 8 Political Dialogue meeting, scheduled for September.

We will continue to seek to engage the government of Eritrea on human rights issues at both EU and bilateral levels.