Some 2,000 Eritreans marched through the streets of Tel Aviv Tuesday, arriving for a rally in front of the European Union’s offices in Israel. The protesters demanded that the EU approve a report by the U.N. that recommends putting leaders of their country on trial for crimes against humanity.
The EU has also recommended sending financial aid to Eritrea, in order to discourage migration of refugees from there to European shores. The protesters demanded that this aid end immediately as well. Protesters decried what they called “25 years of crimes against humanity in Eritrea,” as many of the signs carried by the protesters said.
Eritrea, carved out of Ethiopia and established as a country in 1991, is the single largest source of African refugees in Europe. According to the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which issued a report on the situation there earlier in June, the government has enslaved as many as 400,000 people, and tortured and killed tens of thousands.
Mike Smith, the Australian diplomat who chaired the inquiry, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that “Eritrea is an authoritarian state. There is no independent judiciary, no national assembly and there are no other democratic institutions. This has created a governance and rule of law vacuum, resulting in a climate of impunity for crimes against humanity to be perpetrated over a quarter of a century. These crimes are still occurring today.”
Molguta Tomozagahy, one of the organizers of Tuesday’s protest, said in a speech that “we believe that the international community, and in particular the European Union, is interested in resolving this matter in a way that will affect everyone positively. We hope that the U.N. report will cause the EU and Israel to do the right and just thing, in favor of human rights.”