News Highlights: Ethiopia’s navy plans, Eritrea takes chair of Khartoum Process, report accuses EU of complicity in refugee abuse

In this week’s news highlights: Eritrea chairs the Khartoum process; France to help Ethiopia in building its navy; the Ethiopian Airlines disaster; Eritrean civil society launches social media campaign against the regime; the UN Human rights Council discusses human rights in Eritrea; Sudanese President reshuffles cabinet; Libya asks support in rescue activity in the desert; Panel on Libya crimes in Geneva; German Government responds to voluntary returns in the context of the EU-Turkey deal, and Amnesty International condemns EU for accountability in abuses along Balkan Route and the EU responsibility in Libya humans rights violations. 


Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Eritrea takes over as chair of Khartoum process
The Eritrean government has taken over the chair of the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative, also named the Khartoum process – a policy platform for governing action on trafficking and smuggling of people between the European Union and Africa. Established in 2014, the Khartoum process brings together 37 states in Europe and Africa, along with the European Union and African Union. has invited the Steering Committee of the Khartoum Process, with the goal of soliciting suggestions regarding the next steps of the Khartoum Process and 2019 work plan. The chairmanship comes despite the reports of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which alleged crimes against humanity, and despite evidence pointing to involvement of Eritrean officials in trafficking networks.

Ethiopia: Ethiopia to build its navy with the support of France
French President Emmanuel Macron left Ethiopia after an official visit, during which a defence agreement was signed. Eritreahub reports that it includes new cooperation agreement: France will help Ethiopia to set up a military navy. However, landlocked Ethiopia has had no access to the sea since 1991, when Eritrea gained its independence. Several locations for the establishment of this Ethiopian navy are being discussed: Somalia, Somaliland and Djibouti. According to Eritreahub, the most serious option, however, is Eritrea. 

Ethiopia: Ethiopian Airlines crash kills 157 people, among which 21 UN staff members
After the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing on Sunday 10 March, which was supposed to fly to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, 35 countries mourn the deaths of their nationals.. The Boeing 737 max from Ethiopian Airlines on the Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) – Nairobi (Kenya) line crashed about six minutes after takeoff. All 157 people, including the 8 crew members, died in the crash. Among the dead were many traveling to a UN environment conference in Nairobi. The World Food Programme, the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Environment agency all lost staff in the crash, writes the East African newspaper.

Eritrea: Eritrean civil society protests against the regime through a viral social media campaign
Eritrean Diaspora around the world launched a campaign against the regime themed “Enough!”, “NO To Dictatorship – YES To Justice!”. The campaign caught many Eritrean opposition groups and civic organizations by surprise, as the campaign is is driven mainly by eritrean people with no affiliation to the traditional opposition parties, civic movements and known activists. Most Eritreans are participating in the campaign by posting and sharing messages of support on Facebook.

UN: Human Rights Council calls for more efforts on human rights in Eritrea
The UN Human Rights Council  held an interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Eritrea this week. Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that after a 20-year military stalemate, the conclusion of the peace agreement with Ethiopia came at a crucial moment for Eritrea. Eritrea was called to engage with the Special Rapporteur and to reform its military service and place limits on its terms; to release all political prisoners and to stop the continuing practice of arbitrary arrests. Eritrea was called on to use recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review as a roadmap. 

Sudan:  Omar al-Bashir reshuffles government positions amid protests
According to the SUNA agency, on Friday 8th March, the Sudanese president has reshuffled his cabinet, appointing at least 15 new ministers. The most important changes have affected the ministers of petroleum, finance and the interior; the political move comes amid vigorous protests calling for the president to quit. At the end of February, in reaction to the anti-government protests, the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir  declared a state of emergency in the country.

North of Africa

Libya: Libyan official asks for more support in desert rescue operation
During a meeting on Tuesday 12 March in Tripoli, Lbiya, with the head and members of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior for illegal immigration in Libya, Mohammed Al-Shaibani, underlined the need to support the desert rescue operations of migrants and refugees. He has stressed the need for for supporting the voluntary repatriation for migrants, to ensure safe return to their countries. 

Libya: The International Commission of Jurists hosts a panel discussion about crimes in Libya
The NGO International Commission of Jurists is hosting a panel discussion on liability for crimes within the jurisdiction of international law in Libya on Tuesday 19 March in Geneva. The event is organised in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Netherlands and the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany. Panelists will discuss shortcomings in Libyan law and practice for ensuring accountability, political and security challenges, the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the consequences for tackling human trafficking and abuse of migrants, based on the alarming reports of the OHCHR, UNCHR, IOM and international NGOs. 


EU: Report states EU is complicit in human rights abuses against refugees and migrants along Balkan route
According to the report of Amnesty International published on Wednesday 13 March, European governments are complicit in the systematic, illegal and frequently violent forced returns and collective expulsions of thousands of asylum-seekers to squalid and unsafe refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The report Pushed to the edge: Violence and abuse against refugees and migrants along Balkan Route, reveals that other European governments are not only turning a blind eye to violence committed by the Croatian police, but also funding its activities, by giving priority to border control over respect for international law. They are thus fuelling a growing humanitarian crisis at the borders of the European Union, asserts Amnesty International.

Germany: German Government responds on the voluntary returns from Greece
In its response to a parlamentary question by 22 Parliamentarians, the German government stated that 5000 people, who had requested asylum in Greece, left Greece via voluntary return programmes in the context of the EU-Turkey deal. In Turkey there are 3.9 million registered refugees, 143 000 of which live in refugee camps. The EU states that it supports 1.5 million Syrian refugees who live outside of the camps through the “Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN)” . Parliament Member Ulla Jelpke comments that the German government pretends that the EU-Turkey deal is a success as long as those seeking protection are prevented from entering the EU; but in truth, the german PM  underlined, the situation of refugees in Turkey is dire.

EU: In cooperating with Libya, Europe is colluding in rape and torture of refugees, says Amnesty researcher
An opinion article by Matteo De Bellis from Amnesty International highlights 3 testimonies from refugees in Libya: Farah – who tells the story of his wife and deceased baby – Abdi – who describes the situation in Libya detention centers – and Emmanuel who expresses his disbelief about the fact that refugees and migrants are returned to Libya by the coast guard. All have tried to leave their countries and have experienced misery and torture in Libyan detention centres and trafficking warehouses. The article assigns responsibility to the EU for human rights abuses in Libya, as it is financing while aware of the abuse. The article calls on the EU to take responsibility and find a solution for refugees.