Press Release: Peacekeeping Mission Should Not Be a Safe
Haven for Criminals
By: Commission for Coordination with the UN Mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia
May 6, 2004
On May 1, 2004, a helicopter owned by the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission
in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) was instructed to fly out, from Senafe to Adi
Grat, a fugitive wanted for security reasons by the Government of Eritrea. The
said fugitive is one who had been disguising himself as an employee with the
UNMEE offices in Asmara until December 2003 when he last disappeared from the
close watch of the law and the city itself. Although the UNMEE offices have
been claiming that they had never heard from him ever since he last vanished
from Asmara, Eritrean national security forces have been able to confirm that
the suspect had been hiding out at the Indian peacekeeping contingent’s camp
in Senafe disguised as a colonel until he departed the camp heading for Adi
Grat on board an UNMEE helicopter. An UNMEE vehicle, bearing license plate number
912, picked him up immediately upon arrival at the airport in Adi Grat then
drove him off to his hotel. A short while later, the fugitive was spotted at
UNMEE’s main offices in Addis Ababa.
This incident, clearly in breach of the State’s peace and security, is just one example of the many unlawful acts of great concern previously perpetrated by members of UNMEE. The list of crimes perpetrated includes numerous illicit acts of greater magnitude. Both the Government of Eritrea and UNMEE hold in their possessions countless documents containing evidences and information attesting to the fact that many culprits wanted for security reasons have been crossing borders from and to Eritrea and Ethiopia on UNMEE vehicles and to which UNMEE has inexcusably been claiming that the “driver took off with an UNMEE vehicle” or that its employees drove the mission’s vehicles across the border. It is also not the first time that agents of foreign powers have been smuggled across the border using UNMEE’s helicopters.
Based on the Labor Code, the Government of Eritrea repeatedly requested that UNMEE provide information on the identities of civil workers employed by UNMEE in Eritrea to facilitate the mission’s work. To date, however, the UN mission has failed to show any signs of cooperation in terms of giving any proper response to this legal inquiry. Even worst is the fact that there are many individuals who are not employed with UNMEE, and yet are in possession of UNMEE identification cards either purchased or obtained through other means, and, what’s more, engage in illegal activities.
Preempting Unwarranted Consequences
At a time when terrorist activities have become a matter of great concern at the international level, if the very peacekeeping mission, which was appointed to monitor that the parties are adhering to the cessation of hostilities agreement, is found deploying its vehicles, helicopters and other facilities necessary for its peace-keeping mission on illegal activities outside its mandated task; if UNMEE’s official documents and other facilities become a cover for illegal persons and illegal activities; if UNMEE continues to abuse the privileges of immunity that it is granted in order to supervise the respect of peace and stability, then this is indeed a matter of grave security concerns. UNMEE has been repeatedly informed, with concrete evidence, that its offices are being used as hideouts for criminals, and that its property and official documents are facilitating illegal activities. The fact that UNMEE has to date not taken any concrete actions and shown no cooperation to correct its modus operandi and clean up its activities exposes to grave danger the peace and stability of the people and government of Eritrea, as well as the security and stability of our region.
Under such circumstances, therefore, it must be made clear that, in order to preserve the peace and stability of the people and the state, taking the necessary action to prevent illegal activities and crimes from happening is the national responsibility of the Government of Eritrea, and that this is its sovereign right for which it needs no permission or blessing from any quarters.
Code of Conduct and Respect for Culture and Values
Apart from the aforementioned major crimes against national peace and security, the fact that UNMEE has been either unable or unwilling to supervise the moral, ethical and disciplinary violations of its member has also been a cause of grave concern for some time now. It is an undisputable fact that the Eritrean people have, from the start, looked with respect at the mission of the members of the UN’s peacekeeping force, who came to monitor the cessation of hostilities agreement. Based on their civilized values of respect and hospitality towards guests, the Eritrean people have also rendered unreserved cooperation towards UNMEE.
Contrary to this respectful attitude of the Eritrean people, however, many UNMEE members, who are totally lacking in military discipline as well as ethical and moral values, have been observed to arrogantly claim immunity when they violate laws, destroy property, and cause the death of Eritrean citizens. Other illegal and immoral activities that UNMEE member have been found to engage in include: pedophiliac sexual acts with underage females; denying and abandoning Eritrean women whom they have impregnated or from whom they had children and leaving the country without providing them with alimony; disparaging and insulting Eritrean citizens; showing utter contempt for the culture and values of Eritrea, engaging in pornographic video and photography and selling such products in European markets; engaging in enraging activities that show total disrespect for the nation and its citizens such as tearing up the national monetary notes in front of citizens and even using the national currency in lieu of toilet paper; engaging in illegal commercial activities and transporting goods illegally from and to Eritrea and Ethiopia, etc. All these illicit activities have been reported to UNMEE, which it is clearly aware of. Although UNMEE has been stating that it will take action on its guilty members, it has to date not taken any credible and concrete steps to punish and/or prevent such crimes. On the contrary, we are witnessing that the Government of Eritrea is considered disrespectful just because it has cried foul about these follies and criminal activities.
Therefore, it becomes necessary for the Government to bear the responsibility of protecting the ethical and cultural values of its people, the rights of its citizens and the laws of the nation from being violated.
The Peacekeeping Mission and Its Freedom of Movement
Based on the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed in Algiers on 18 June 2000, the UN peacekeeping mission was mandated to form the Temporary Security Zone between Eritrea and Ethiopia and to monitor the implementation of the Agreement. Furthermore, UNMEE’s areas of operation are clearly identified by law. The Government of Eritrea has never prohibited UNMEE’s members from moving about in any location of their choice for sightseeing and leisurely purposes after their work period, like anybody else. But when UNMEE members were found wearing their uniforms and using official vehicles to operate outside their specific areas of operation, traveling long distances and engaging in activities incompatible with their mandate, in reconnaissance activities and gathering of information whose objectives are not clear, the Government has the national responsibility to impose the necessary restriction upon them so that they can operate within their areas of mandate and within their official capacity.
It is, therefore, because of the fact that UNMEE members have been found to operate in activities incompatible with their mandated tasks and outside their specific areas of operation using UNMEE facilities, and that these violations are illegal and have reached a stage of security concern, that the Government of Eritrea has recently restricted UNMEE members to the shortest and most efficient route in their movement to and from their bases of operation.
The Security Council and its Paradoxical Statements
At a time when the Ethiopian regime was creating numerous obstacles in order to scuttle the cessation of hostilities agreement and obstruct the formation of the Temporary Security Zone, it is a fact attested by UNMEE and the UN that the Government of Eritrea had given its unreserved cooperation, beyond the call of duty, for the success of the UN peacekeeping mission so that the warmongers and destabilizers would not find any cracks to disrupt the peace process. It is also a known fact that the TPLF regime refused to evacuate, according to the agreement, from some of the Eritrean territories it occupied, and worst, when it started to create new settlements in sovereign Eritrean territories, the April 13, 2002, ruling of the Boundary Commission was issued before the Temporary Security Zone could be established in its final form. Therefore, UNMEE was not successful in forming the Temporary Security Zone. Had the Government of Eritrea not patiently handled all the obstacles of the Addis Ababa regime, and UNMEE’s lame and indulgent approach towards the TPLF’s belligerent stance, the peace processes would have collapsed at the outset, as the TPLF regime had been hoping for. Regretfully, however, the obstructions of the TPLF regime did not cease in time. Currently, the TPLF regime has clearly made known to the UN, in writing, that it has rejected the “final and binding” ruling of the Boundary Commission, considering the Commission as null and void. Eritrea, therefore, stands alone without any partner in its steadfast adherence to the peace process.
At a time when the peace process is surrounded by such a critical and dangerous atmosphere, it is disturbing to witness the UN Security Council, which as always bases its stance on the biased position of UNMEE, issuing a clearly partial statement on 4 May 2004, calling on Eritrea to cooperate with the UN peacekeeping mission. With such a biased statement, the UN Security Council is trying to cast in negative light Eritrea’s correct measures, which would have enabled UNMEE to properly carry out its mandated task and ensure peace and stability. On the other hand, the UN Security Council’s statement minimizes the dangerous situation created by Ethiopia’s rejection of the very decision of the Boundary Commission of which the UN Secretary General himself has been one of the guarantors. Such an approach is saddening and unbecoming of the dignity and status of the UN as the embodiment of the international community.
Commission for Coordination with the UN Mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia
May 7, 2004