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Gulf times: Eritreans rally over rights abuses report
AFP/Addis Ababa Hundreds of Eritreans demonstrate in front of the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa in support of the UN Inquiry report and asking for measures to be taken against Eritrea. Hundreds of Eritrean refugees demonstrated at the African Union headquarters yesterday in support of a damning report on gross human rights violations by their government, following rival marches elsewhere against it. The nearly 500-page UN report, released after a year of investigations, details how the Horn of Africa nation, under Isaias Afwerkis iron-fisted regime for the past 22 years, has created a repressive system in which people are routinely arrested on a whim, detained, tortured, killed or go missing. Demonstrations in support of Eritreas government have been held in Geneva, where the report was released in early June, with Asmara calling the report politically motivated and deliberately designed to tarnish Eritreas image. Protesters in Ethiopia however said the reports findings were correct. I left to escape the unlimited national service, said Yohannes Yosief, a young Eritrean refugee who has been in Addis Ababa for five years. Once you are enlisted in the military service, it is impossible to get out. The only way to escape is to go into exile. Asmara has dismissed the report and defended its controversial policy of decades-long national service from which about 5,000 people flee each month, saying that it has no other choice due to threats from long-standing enemy Ethiopia. Eritrea, which broke away from Ethiopia in 1991 after a brutal 30-year independence struggle, remains in a tense stand-off with arch-foe Addis Ababa after a 1998-2000 border war. Troops still eyeball each other along the frontier, with Ethiopian soldiers defying an international ruling to leave Eritrean land. Eritreans make up the second-largest number of people risking the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, after Syrians, running the gauntlet of ruthless people smugglers and treacherous waters in the hope of reaching the European Union. Why are they crossing? They are crossing because the regime in Eritrea is suppressing them. Its a political case, not an economic case, said protester Tewolde Gebreselassie.
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