July 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 June 2012
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Expected Council Action
In July, the Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea sanctions is due to submit for the first time a separate report on Eritrea as part of its final reporting obligations and is scheduled to brief the 751/1907 Sanctions Committee on the report. The Council is expected to renew the Monitoring Group’s mandate before it expires at the end of July.

The Council is also due to consider the Secretary-General’s report on Eritrea’s compliance with resolutions 1862, 2023  which demanded that Eritrea cease all efforts to destabilise other states and engage constructively to resolve its border dispute with Djibouti. At press time it was unclear whether there would be a separate briefing on the report.

Key Recent Developments
On 5 December 2011, the Council adopted 1844, 1907, called on it “to engage constructively” to resolve its border dispute with Djibouti and cease all efforts to destabilise other states in the region. It also imposed new measures to prevent Eritrea from using the diaspora tax or revenues from its mining sector to finance peace spoilers in Somalia and engage in other destabilising activities. China and Russia abstained, while the other 13 Council members voted in favour.

Prior to the adoption, the Council heard interventions by member countries of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), all speaking in support of the proposed resolution. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki had been invited to speak, but on 3 December Eritrea informed the Council that his participation would be logistically impossible and “a mere formality and utterly meaningless” because of the short notice. (The invitation was extended on 30 November 2011).

Following the adoption of resolution 2023, Eritrea has written a series of letters to the Council protesting the sanctions against it and calling for the establishment of “an independent, impartial and credible body” in place of the Monitoring Group which it claims lacks independence and impartiality. (The Monitoring Group’s 2011 report accused Eritrea of continued violations of resolutions 1844 and 1907 as well as involvement in a plot to disrupt the AU summit in Addis Ababa on 30-31 January 2011.)

In its letters, Eritrea has also consistently accused the Council of being one-sided in its approach to the issues in the region. More specifically, it has repeatedly called on the Council to address the unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia and ensure respect for the final and binding 2002 ruling of the Eritrea and Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC). It has also accused Ethiopia of flouting international law and the UN Charter by occupying territory awarded to Eritrea by the EEBC ruling.  

For its part, Ethiopia—in a a letter to the Council invoking its right of self-defense and then on 15 March announced that it had launched a military attack against positions on Eritrean territory, accusing Eritrea of training Ethiopian rebel groups. In response, Eritrea, in a 16 March letter, called on the Council “to shoulder its legal and moral responsibilities” and take “appropriate measures to rectify acts of aggression” against Eritrea.

On 18 April, the Sanctions Committee met with Ambassador Araya Desta (Eritrea). Desta reiterated previous criticism of the Monitoring Group, accusing it of having “glaringly failed to observe minimum standards of objectivity and political neutrality,” in particular with regard to its sources of information, and for operating outside its mandate. He also said Eritrea would welcome a visit by the Committee to discuss the sanctions regime and called on it to address continued violations by Ethiopia of Eritrea’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 13 March during the general debate of the Human Rights Council (HRC), Somalia delivered a statement on behalf of 40 countries on human rights in Eritrea. The statement lamented that Eritrea had never held national elections, did not allow independent media or international NGOs to operate, and severely restricted freedom of religion and belief. The statement invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to brief the HRC on Eritrea at its forthcoming session. In reply, Eritrea said that the Universal Periodic Review by the HRC was the most appropriate mechanism to examine human rights in countries.

In her opening address on 18 June to the 20th session of the HRC, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed deep concern over the human rights situation in Eritrea. Pillay said that credible sources indicated a wide range of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, torture, summary executions, forced labour, forced conscriptions and restrictions to freedoms of movement, expression, assembly and religion. She had written to the government in January offering to assist it in addressing human rights challenges and had subsequently provided a list of potential areas of cooperation that could be discussed. No reply had been received to this proposal.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is whether the sanctions on Eritrea are being effectively implemented. A related issue is whether they are having an impact in terms of changing behavior and ensuring compliance with relevant Council resolutions.

A second key issue is the Monitoring Group’s lack of access to Eritrea and to some extent Somalia and whether this impacts the quality and credibility of its work. (Eritrea has refused to issue visas to the group, while its coordinator, Matt Bryden, was declared persona non grata by the TFG of Somalia.)

A further issue is whether there is any merit to the concerns and requests brought forward by Eritrea.  

Another issue is whether the Council should adopt a more comprehensive approach to the region and address the unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Main options for the Council include:

  • renewing the Monitoring Group’s mandate relating to Eritrea without any significant changes;
  • re-engaging on the issue of the unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea by explicitly addressing Ethiopia’s noncompliance with the EEBC’s border-demarcation decision; and
  • considering the Secretary-General’s report on Eritrea in a public meeting in order to provide Eritrea and other states with another opportunity to present their views on the situation in the region.

Options in the Sanctions Committee include:

  • considering the recommendations of the Monitoring Group relating to Eritrea with a view to endorsing some or all of them;
  • moving to make the first designations for targeted sanctions under the provisions of resolutions 1844 and 1907 on Eritrea; and
  • finalising, with the assistance of the Monitoring Group, the due diligence guidelines relating to the Eritrean mining sector called for by resolution 2023.

Council Dynamics
A key concern among Council members seems to be the Monitoring Group’s lack of access to Eritrea and the impact this inevitably has on its ability to collect and verify information. As to Eritrean grievances about the Monitoring Group, members point out that if Eritrea really wanted to clear up any misconceptions it should cooperate with the Group. With regard to the invitation to the Sanctions Committee to visit Eritrea, members agreed it would be inappropriate to accept it as long as the Monitoring Group is not able to travel there.

With regard to the Secretary-General’s report on Eritrea, it seems to be surrounded by some controversy. The report was initially released on 8 June, but Council members were then informed that the report would be withdrawn and reissued later in the month. While the official explanation given was that some technical points had been omitted, it appears the US was unhappy with the report (as was Ethiopia). The withdrawal was not well received by other Council members, with some describing it as unprecedented and expressing concern about procedural aspects and perceptions of the Secretariat giving in to pressure. At press time, the revised report had yet to be issued and it was unclear whether it would be considered in a separate Council meeting or jointly with the Monitoring Group’s report.   

It seems that some of the negative reaction to the initial report might have been caused by a reference in it to the lack of progress in the implementation of the EEBC decision as an issue that continued to negatively impact the situation in the Horn of Africa and needed to be addressed and that this reference was considered to be outside the Secretary-General’s reporting mandate.

Other Council members seem to acknowledge that the unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea is relevant. Some believe, however, that this is an issue for the AU rather than the Council. There is also a sense that the Council’s ability to take any effective action on this issue is very limited given Eritrea’s intransigence and the close ties between the US and Ethiopia.  

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2023 (5 December 2011) condemned Eritrea’s violations of resolutions 1907, 1862 and 1844 and imposed new measures to prevent Eritrea from using the diaspora tax or revenues from its mining sector to commit further violations.
  • S/RES/2002 (29 July 2011) extended the mandate of the Monitoring Group for Eritrea and Somalia for another year and requested for the first time a separate report on Eritrea.
  • S/RES/1907 (23 December 2009) imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea for its destabilising role in Somalia and its failure to comply with resolution 1862. 
  • S/RES/1862 (14 January 2009) demanded that Eritrea withdraw its forces within five weeks to the positions of the status quo ante in its border dispute with Djibouti.
  • S/RES/1844 (20 November 2008) imposed targeted sanctions relating to the situation in Somalia.

Secretary-General’s Report

  • S/2012/412 (8 June 2012) was the Secretary-General’s report requested by resolution 2023.

Meeting Record

  • resumption 1 (5 December 2011) was the adoption of resolution 2023 with explanations of vote, including by China and Russia, which abstained.

Letters to the Council

  • S/2012/181 (27 March 2012) was a letter from Eritrea accusing the US of playing a destabilising role in the Horn of Africa region and calling for an independent inquiry.
  • S/2012/164 (16 March 2012) was a letter from Eritrea on Ethiopia’s 15 March incursion into Eritrean territory.
  • S/2012/158 (14 March 2012) was a letter from Ethiopia calling on the Council to ensure Eritrea’s compliance with relevant resolutions and stressing its own right of self-defense.
  • S/2012/126 (29 February 2012) was a letter from Eritrea calling on the Council to ensure respect for the EEBC ruling and reiterating its request for lifting of sanctions and establishment of an “enquiry committee.”
  • S/2012/57 (23 January 2012) was a letter from Eritrea urging the Council “to ensure Ethiopia’s prompt compliance with its treaty obligations and to respect international law.”
  • S/2012/47 19 January 2012) was a letter from Eritrea rejecting the accusations in Ethiopia’s 18 January letter.
  • S/2012/44 (18 January 2012) was a letter from Ethiopia accusing Eritrea of being behind the 16 January attack against a group of tourists.
  • S/2011/792 (20 December 2011) was a letter from Eritrea requesting the Council to “review and annul” all measures against it and to establish “an independent, impartial and credible body” in place of the Monitoring Group.
  • S/2011/753 (3 December 2011) was a letter from Eritrea declining the invitation for its president to address the Council on 5 December.
  • S/2011/663 (25 October) was from Eritrea to the Council requesting that the Eritrean president be invited to address the Council.
  • S/2011/652 (20 October 2011) was from Eritrea to the Council submitting its response to the report of the Monitoring Group.
  • S/2011/433 (18 July 2011) was from the Sanctions Committee chair transmitting the Monitoring Group’s latest report to the Council.
  • S/2011/434 (14 July 2011) was from Ethiopia to the Council transmitting the 4 July IGAD Assembly of Heads of Government communiqué calling for Council action against Eritrea.