Eritrea escapes U.N. Security Council referral over human rights

Fri Jul 1, 2016 5:02pm GMT

By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - Eritrea may escape censure by the U.N. Security Council over its human rights record after the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a watered-down resolution against the African state on Friday.

A U.N. investigation set up by the Human Rights Council said last month that Eritrea's leaders should be tried for crimes against humanity, including torture, rape, murder and enslaving hundreds of thousands of people.

The investigators, who published a 484-page report a year ago detailing the crimes and the country's use of a "vast security network", recommended that the situation in the country to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

But the resolution on Eritrea passed by the Human Rights Council on Friday merely requested that the U.N. General Assembly in New York submit the investigators' work to "relevant organs of the UN for consideration and urgent action".

An earlier draft had said the General Assembly should involve the Security Council to hold wrong-doers accountable via the "appropriate international and/or regional criminal justice mechanism".

The council did "strongly encourage" the African Union to mount an investigation and bring suspects to justice, but its treatment of Eritrea is more conciliatory than its actions against North Korea, subject of an earlier U.N. investigation.

The text of the Eritrea resolution, which was initiated by Somalia and Djibouti, was watered down after several countries - among them the United States and China - objected to the tough language.

At a drafting meeting earlier in the week, U.S. diplomat Eric Richardson said the Eritrea report did not have "the same level of sophistication and precision" as the report on North Korea and the United States could not support the language of the text without revisions.   Continued...

A general view shows palm trees along the main street of Eritrea's capital Asmara, February 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
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