A SOAS Law student has given a powerful testimony at a UN session on human rights in Eritrea.

Vanessa Tsehaye, who attended the UN Human Rights Council Regular Session on 11 March 2019, spoke about the lack of political reform in Eritrea and the unjust treatment of dissidents who have publically demanded regime change.

Among these is Tsehaye’s uncle, Seyoum Tsehaye, a journalist and photographer who has been imprisoned without trial since 2001.

Having fought for Eritrean independence and finally seen this come to fruition in 1991, Seyoum Tsehaye had expected democracy to follow. However, unhappy with the post-war regime, Tsehaye was among several other journalists who spoke out publically to demand change. For this, he was sent to prison, where he still remains without trial or hope of release.

Vanessa Tsehaye told the council the story of her uncle, who had hope in a new State and government. However, in 2019, Eritrea’s constitution has still not been implemented and their parliament has not convened since 2002.

In a moving testimony, she addressed the council:

So I am wondering, what does it take for hope to die?

 

When the human cost of the Eritreans’ regime rule has been so high, and they have shown no signs of improvement, what makes so many people and governments around the world remain hopeful?

 

What we have been seeing from the European Union, from their individual member states, from the United States, from Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and many other countries, is not hope, it cannot be.

 

Because hope cannot exist in a vacuum. Hope needs at the very least evidence of intent to exist and evidence of progress to persist. Hope has an expiration date and in the Eritrean regime’s case, it is long overdue.

Tsehaye went on to urge the council to consider the ‘hurt test’, a technique she learned from her favourite Law professor, when considering how to proceed with Eritrea: ‘If I do this, who will be hurt?’ From the imprisoned individuals and their families, to those facing indefinite national service, Tsehaye asked the Council to consider the impact of their continued support of the Eritrean regime on its people.

Watch Tseyahe’s speech at the UN in full below.

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