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US State Department – Daily Press Briefing – June 9, 2016
Mark C. Toner
Daily Press Briefing Transcript
June 9, 2016
QUESTION: I have a question about Eritrea.
MR TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea held a press conference yesterday to report its findings to the media. The Commission of Inquiry says, I quote, “The commission has concluded that Eritrean official have committed crimes against humanity, the crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, persecution, rape, murder, and other inhumane acts have been committed as part of a widespread and systematic campaign against the civilian population since 1991.” And also, if you remember, the State Department also released its own Human Rights Report on Eritrea.
So what is the U.S. reaction regarding —
MR TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: — this new report from the United States —
MR TONER: Well, we’re —
QUESTION: — the United Nations?
MR TONER: Sure. We’re reviewing the – I think it’s the second report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. We’re concerned by the commission’s assertion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991. We have, as you know, repeatedly expressed grave concern about the human rights situation overall in Eritrea, and the findings of the commission only, I think, reinforce our concerns. We continue to support international efforts to improve respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Eritrea.
QUESTION: And a quick question. The Eritrean Government —
MR TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: — and its supporters rejected the report, claiming that it’s politically motivated. Do you think it is?
MR TONER: Again, we’re reviewing the report. The concerns – or the allegations it raises are concerning to us, and I think we would encourage the Government of Eritrea to honor its commitment to return the duration of natural – there’s several steps that they can take, let’s put it this way, to address some of the concerns about human rights. One, they can return the duration of national service to 18 months, they can also develop an independent judiciary, and they can also release persons who’ve been arbitrarily detained, and that includes journalists and members of religious groups. So we would urge them to take action to improve the overall human rights situation in Eritrea.