UN protests arrest of 13 Eritreans working for UN mission


Feb 16, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — The United Nations said Tuesday it has protested the weekend arrests of 13 Eritreans working for the U.N. peacekeeping mission monitoring Eritrea’s tense border with Ethiopia.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the 30 other Eritreans working for the United Nations had gone into hiding for fear of being arrested by local authorities in the capital, Asmara.

“While we have protested this, the government of Eritrea still has not given us any official reason for these detentions,” Dujarric said.

A U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said Eritreans who work for international organizations, and are therefore exempt from national service, have been arrested in recent months and sent to the army.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council put off deciding the fate of the 3,800-strong peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea to give the United States another month to resolve a longstanding border dispute between the two Horn of Africa nations.

Eritrea late last year banned U.N. helicopter flights and expelled Western peacekeepers with the mission in apparent response.

UNMEE, which has monitored the Eritrean-Ethiopian border since 2000, has 3,000 troops mostly from India and Jordan, and several hundred civilian personnel, including Eritreans.

But since October, the mission has come under increasing pressure from Eritrea, which banned UNMEE helicopter flights, imposed restrictions and ground patrols and later expelled its North American and European staff.

The UN Security Council had threatened to slap sanctions on Eritrea if the restrictions were not lifted, but Asmara has ignored the demands and stepped up complaints that the UN and world powers are biased against it.

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