A year-long United Nations (UN) human rights inquiry has concluded that Eritrea may have committed crimes against humanity. The report details extrajudicial killings, widespread torture, sexual slavery and forced labor.
The findings of the investigation, published on Monday, showed that under the 22-year leadership of Eritrea's president, Isaias Afwerkia, the government of the northeast African country has developed a repressive mass-surveillance society, fuelled by routine arrests, torture and killings.
Indefinite conscription of all Eritreans has also been implemented, forcing many to work in slave-like conditions in the military and other state jobs, sometimes for decades.
"The commission finds that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the government," the 484-page UN report said, adding that some of the abuses "may constitute crimes against humanity."
The extremity of the situation in Eritrea has also sparked a mass exodus from the country, with some 5,000 Eritreans fleeing every month. After Syria, Eritrea is now the second largest source of migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe.
"In desperation, they resort to deadly escape routes through deserts and neighboring war-torn countries and across dangerous seas in search of safety," the report said, adding that fleeing Eritreans "risk capture, torture and death at the hands of ruthless human traffickers."
Call to the international community
The three-member UN commission leading the inquiry said in a statement on Monday that the violations in the country were occurring on a "scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere" and urged the international community to welcome fleeing Eritreans instead of sending them "back to danger."
The findings of the probe will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on June 23.
ksb/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)