UN experts call on Ethiopia to stop deporting Eritreans

GENEVA, July 13 (Reuters) – A group of United Nations investigators and experts called on Ethiopia on Thursday to halt the deportation of Eritreans, as well as the arbitrary detention of Eritrean refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

The group, who make reports on rights issues on behalf of the U.N., also condemned what they called the “summary expulsion of hundreds of Eritreans” by Ethiopia at the end of June.

“Collective expulsions are prohibited under international law,” they said in a statement.

“Deporting migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers without conducting an individual and objective risk assessment of their exposure to human rights violations, including torture and enforced disappearance, upon return is refoulement.”

Under international human rights law, the principle of non-refoulement guarantees that no one should be returned to a country where they would face abuse or punishment.

Ethiopia’s official Human Rights Commission said on June 24 it was monitoring the forcible return of about 200 Eritreans.

The Ethiopian Refugee and Returnee Service said last month that the people deported were not refugees or asylum seekers – a statement the U.N. experts said contradicted other reliable sources.

“According to several credible sources, the group included both registered and unregistered refugees and asylum seekers,” the experts’ statement said.

Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Tesfahun Gobezay, head of the Ethiopian Refugee and Returnee Service, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Neighbouring Eritrea’s government has for years subjected its population to repression, including forced labour and conscription, and has imposed harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and religion, causing many to flee.

Ethiopia and Eritrea are historical adversaries, though Eritrean troops fought alongside their Ethiopian counterparts and allied militias in a recent two-year conflict that pitted Addis Ababa against rebel forces in the Tigray region.

In November, the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces signed an agreement to end the hostilities.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Geneva and Dawit Endeshaw in Addis Ababa; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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