UN Human Rights Council extends Special Rapporteur on Eritrea amid crackdown on Christians

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed arrive for an inauguration ceremony marking peace between their countries.Reuters

The UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, where Christians have been subjected to a fresh wave of intimidation.

The resolution was tabled by the Permanent Missions of Austria, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, and ensures that the role of Special Rapporteur continues for another year. 

The Special Rapporteur is responsible for monitoring the human rights situation in Eritrea, but the country has failed to cooperate by refusing successive requests to visit, despite its obligations as a Council member. 

In a recent report, the current Special Rapporteur for Eritrea, Daniela Kravetz, said that recent steps towards peace in the region had "raised expectations" of political and institutional reform within the country. 

Eritrea has signed peace agreements with neighbouring Ethiopia and borders between the two countries re-opened earlier this year.

The developments led Catholic bishops in the country to write to the Eritrean government calling for a national reconciliation process to ensure justice for all. 

Despite this plea, the government has seized nearly a dozen Catholic-operated health centres in recent months, many of them in remote areas. 

Arbitrary arrests of Christians have also continued in the country, which has a poor track record on human rights and religious freedom. 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas welcomed the renewal of the Special Rapporteur's mandate and called on Eritrea to improve the human rights situation in the country. 

"The mandate holder plays an essential role in maintaining scrutiny on a government which is responsible for crimes against humanity and ongoing gross violations," he said.

"We reaffirm our commitment to fully support the Special Rapporteur, and call on member states to assist the mandate holder wherever and whenever possible.

"We also encourage the government of Eritrea to cooperate fully with the mandate holder in order to meet the modest benchmarks stipulated in her report, and to view its time on the Council as an opportunity to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms for its citizens."