UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Monday condemned Eritrea [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] for its failure to address the human rights violations in the country. In her opening statement [text] to the 20th Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council [official website], she expressed her concern for the people in Eritrea who are victims of human rights violations such as arbitrary detention, torture, summary executions, forced labor, forced conscription and restrictions to freedoms of movement, expression, assembly and religion. She also added that around 5,000 to 10,000 are currently held in detention for political reasons. The High Commissioner reported that the Eritrean government has failed to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] to address the prevalent problems and did not respond to her suggestions of measures that could be implemented to solve them. She called on the government to address the human rights issues and comply with international standards.
Eritrea officially separated from Ethiopia and became a recognized nation in 1993 after the Eritrean people voted for independence in a referendum overseen by the UN. The countries continued to dispute the demarcation between them, resulting in a two-year border war from 1998 to 2000 resulting in around 80,000 casualties. The conflict was brought to an end through UN intervention. In 2009, the specially-established Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission [official backgrounder] awarded damages [JURIST report] that resulted from the border war. The Permanent Court of Arbitration [official website] awarded USD $174,036,520 to Ethiopia and $161,455,000 to Eritrea as well as an additional $2,065,865 to individual Eritrean claimants. In the same year, Eritrea was added [JURIST report] as one of the countries with the worst human trafficking records in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 [materials; introduction, PDF] by the US Department of State [official website].