Human rights in Eritrea

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Human rights in Eritrea are viewed as among the worst in the world, particularly with regards to freedom of the press.[1][2] Eritrea is a one-party state in which national legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed,[3] the judiciary is weak, and constitutional provisions protecting individual freedom have yet to be fully implemented.[1] Some Western countries, particularly the United States, accuse the Government of Eritrea of arbitrary arrest and detentions and of detaining an unknown number of people without charge for their political activism. However, the Eritrean government has continuously dismissed the accusations as politically motivated.[4] As an attempt at reform, Eritrean government officials and NGO representatives have participated in numerous public meetings and dialogues.[5] A new movement called Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea aimed at bringing about dialogue between the government and opposition was also formed in early 2009.[6]

Overview[edit]

Eritrea is a one-party state in which national legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed,[3] and its human rights record is considered among the worst in the world.[7][8] Since Eritrea's conflict with Ethiopia in 1998–2001, Eritrea's human rights record has worsened.[9] Human rights violations are frequently committed by the government or on behalf of the government. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association are limited. Those that practice "unregistered" religions, try to flee the nation, or escape military duty are arrested and put into prison.[9]

Helen Berhane, an Eritrean singer, who has written of her experiences at the hands of the State, courtesy of Church in Chains

According to Amnesty International Eritrea is one of the world's most repressive countries. In recent years, there have been increasing measures to prevent worshipers from practicing their faith. Some of the most prosecuted are Jehovah's Witness, and members of Evangelical congregations. The Eritrean government has shut down their churches, and persecuted many members of the congregations. After independence, President Issias Afwerki’s administration denied all basic rights to Jehovah's Witnesses. No members could receive any government assistance, or use any government services. Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to obtain national identification cards, without which they are not allowed to participate in the political and social sphere of Eritrea. National identification cards permit citizens to participate in everyday life, as well as in transactions with the government or any financial institution. The government began to informally allow Jehovah's Witness members to practice their faith within their home. They were still barred from practicing in any public space. Many families fled the country to seek asylum abroad due to mass persecution and imprisonment. According to Amnesty International, there are currently 250 families that have left Eritrea to seek asylum abroad.[10] Domestic and international human rights organizations are not allowed to function in Eritrea.[8] The registered, census-based religions are the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (a miaphysite Oriental Orthodox denomination), the Roman Catholic Church, Eritrean Lutheran Church, and Sunni Islam. All other religions are persecuted, including other denominations of Islam, such as Shi'ism, and other denominations of Christianity, such as any of the myriad Protestant denominations (other than the Eritrean Lutheran Church) and Jehovah's Witnesses. All denominations of Christianity were given freedom of worship until 2002 when the government outlawed worship and assembly outside the 'registered' denominations. Evangelical churches in Eritrea have been some of the most persecuted religious groups. For religious groups to participate and freely practice their faith they must apply for registration with the Department of Religious Affairs. The government has seized many churches and religious buildings.[10]

In 2003, there was a record number of arrests made on members of Evangelical churches. Law enforcements officials go to different religious gatherings or weddings to carry out mass arrests, "Police singled out religious weddings in homes as occasions to round up believers." It is normal for the government to make followers recant their faith, "The detainees were usually pressured under torture or ill-treatment, with the threat of indefinite detention, to sign a document agreeing to certain conditions of release, such as not to attend religious meetings. Some were reportedly forced to recant their faith and agree to rejoin the Orthodox Church." Many of these religious prisoners were often part secret trials, and secret prison sentences.[10] There has been no known reason for the "crackdown" on Evangelical churches, according to Amnesty International, "ongoing crackdown on minority religious groups was never given by the government but it appeared to be partly linked to government action against young people trying to avoid military conscription".[10] Religious prisoners are often tortured in Eritrea.[11] Freedom of worship is one of the top reasons thousands of Eritreans flee the country. There are thousands of Eritreans in Ethiopia, Sudan, Israel, Europe and the West seeking asylum.[7]

Freedom of speech and the press are severely constrained while freedom of assembly, association, movement, and religion also are restricted.

In 2015, a 500-page UNHRC report detailed allegations of extrajudicial executions, torture, indefinitely prolonged national service and forced labour, and indicated that sexual harassment, rape and prolonged sexual servitude by state officials are also widespread.[1][12] The Guardian cited the reports catalogue of 'a litany of human rights violations "on a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere"'.[12] The Council also asserted that these violations may amount to crimes against humanity.[1] Barbara Lochbihler, of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights said the report detailed 'very serious human rights violations', and indicated that EU funding for development would not continue as at present without change in Eritrea.[13]

The Eritrean Foreign Ministry responded by describing the Commission's report as "wild allegations" which were "totally unfounded and devoid of all merit".[14] A statement from Eritrean Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab accused the panel of being "entirely one-sided", and indicated that "Eritrea rejects the politically motivated and groundless accusations and the destructive recommendations of the COI. It believes they are an unwarranted attack not only against Eritrea, but also Africa and developing nations."[15] The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report was based on the testimony of 833 anonymous persons purported to be Eritrean. In reaction to this, a significant number of the Eritrean Diaspora population rejected the Commission of Inquiry report. 230,000 Eritreans signed Petitions against the paper and 45,000 Eritreans provided testimonies defending Eritrea, which did not appear in the report. 850 Eritreans asked to present themselves to appear in person in Geneva and give their testimonies to the UNHRC against the paper. In addition, more than 10,000 Eritrean demonstrated against the report in Geneva.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21] Several countries also rejected the report's abrasive language, especially the US and China. At a drafting meeting, U.S. diplomat Eric Richardson said the Eritrea paper did not have "the same level of sophistication and precision" as the report on North Korea and the United States could not support the language of the text without revisions. In addition, Eritrean Presidential Advisor Yemane blamed Ethiopia for "some of the worst human rights abuses and massacres of its people", saying it was ironic that Ethiopia could use the council to lobby for the adoption of the resolution against Eritrea.[22]

Since Eritrea's conflict with Ethiopia in 1998–2001, the nation's human rights record has come under criticism at the United Nations.[9] Human rights violations are allegedly frequently committed by the government or on behalf of the government. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association are limited. Those who practice "unregistered" religions, try to flee the nation, or escape military duty are arrested and put into prison.[9] During the Struggle for Eritrean Independence, many atrocities were committed by the Ethiopian authorities against unarmed Eritrean civilians (men, women, and children). Roughly, 90,000 Eritrean civilians were killed by the Ethiopian military.[23] During the 1998 Eritrean-Ethiopian War, the EPRDF government also deported and confiscated the private property of 77,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians.[24][25] The majority of the 77,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin were considered well off by the Ethiopian standard of living. They were deported after their belongings had been confiscated.[26]

All Eritreans between the ages of 18–40 must complete a mandatory national service, which includes military service. This national service was implemented after Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia, as a precautionary means to be protected against any threats on Eritrea’s sovereignty, to instill national pride, and to create a disciplined populace.[27] Eritrea’s national service requires lengthy, indefinite conscription periods, which some Eritreans leave the country in order to avoid.[27][28][29]

Reforms[edit]

Eritrean government officials and NGO representatives have participated in numerous public meetings and dialogues. In these sessions they have answered questions as fundamental as, "What are human rights?", "Who determines what are human rights?", and "What should take precedence, human or communal rights?".[5]

In 2007, the Eritrean government banned female genital mutilation.[30] Regional Assemblies and religious leaders also speak out continuously against the use of female cutting. They cite health concerns and individual freedom as being of primary concern when they say this. Furthermore, they implore rural peoples to cast away this ancient cultural practice.[31][32]

In early 2009, a new movement called Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea aimed at bringing about dialogue between the government and opposition was formed in early 2009. The group consists of ordinary citizens and some people close to the government. The movement was launched at a two-day conference in London, after previous attempts at dialogue failed.[6]

Historical situation[edit]

The following is a chart of Eritrea's ratings since 1993 in the Freedom in the World reports, published annually by Freedom House. A rating of 1 is "free"; 7, "not free".[33]1

International treaties[edit]

Eritrea's stances on international human rights treaties are as follows:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

1.^ Note that the "Year" signifies the "Year covered". Therefore the information for the year marked 2008 is from the report published in 2009, and so on.
2.^ As of 24 May (Independence Day) in 1993; 1 January thereafter.
3.^ The 1982 report covers the year 1981 and the first half of 1982, and the following 1984 report covers the second half of 1982 and the whole of 1983. In the interest of simplicity, these two aberrant "year and a half" reports have been split into three year-long reports through interpolation.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea". UNHRC website. 2015-06-08. Retrieved 2015-06-09. 
  2. ^ "Eritrea: Events of 2009". Human Rights Watch. 
  3. ^ a b Eritrea at the Wayback Machine (archived 24 July 2008). Grassroots International
  4. ^ "HUMAN RIGHTS AND ERITREA'S REALITY" (PDF). E Smart. E Smart Campaign. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Public Dialogue Human Rights in Eritrea". 1 June 2006. Archived from the original on 8 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-10. 
  6. ^ a b Plaut, Martin (2009-01-11). "Eritrea group seeks human rights". BBC News. 
  7. ^ a b "World Report 2006". Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on 11 February 2006. 
  8. ^ a b Eritrea. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. U.S. State Department
  9. ^ a b c d Associated Press (25 October 2013). "Eritrea's human rights record comes under fire at United Nations". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d [1]
  11. ^ CSW-USA on Eritrea CSW
  12. ^ a b Jones, Sam (2015-06-08). "Eritrea human rights abuses may be crimes against humanity, says UN". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-06-08. 
  13. ^ "Human rights: EU 'should put more pressure on Eritrea'". Deutsche Welle. 2015-06-23. Archived from the original on 2015-07-04. Retrieved 2015-07-04. 
  14. ^ "Eritrea: Asmara Lashes Out at UN's 'Vile Slanders'". AllAfrica news website. 10 June 2015. Archived from the original on 24 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  15. ^ a b http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/africa/116057-160608-eritrea-has-been-committing-crimes-against-humanity-for-25-years-un
  16. ^ https://www.tesfanews.net/diaspora-eritreans-rally-against-coi-report-geneva/
  17. ^ http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/06/22/thousands-eritreans-protest-un-report
  18. ^ http://www.hot91.com.au/news/national-news/54611-thousands-of-eritreans-protest-un-report
  19. ^ http://www.madote.com/2016/06/video-eritrean-demonstration-in-un.html
  20. ^ http://www.eastafro.com/2016/06/21/video-thousands-of-eritreans-demonstrate-in-geneva-against-the-un/
  21. ^ http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20067&LangID=E
  22. ^ http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKCN0ZH5GW?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true
  23. ^ http://www1.american.edu/ted/ice/eritrea.htm
  24. ^ https://www.hrw.org/worldreport99/africa/ethiopia.html
  25. ^ "A critical look into the Ethiopian elections". Archived from the original on 2006-11-29. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  26. ^ Natalie S. Klein Mass expulsion from Ethiopia: Report on the Deportation of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin from Ethiopia, June – August, 1998 "NOTE: This report is being reproduced, with the author's permission, by the Embassy of Eritrea, Washington DC, USA. The text is identical to the original. It has been reformatted and therefore pagination is not the same." — This website site is developed and maintained by Denden LLC and dehai.org. The site was initially developed by the Eritrean Media and Information Task Force (Badme Task Force), a volunteer group of Eritrean-Americans in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
  27. ^ a b National service in Eritrea. Economist. 10 March 201
  28. ^ "Professor to lecture on African refugees of Eritrea". The Daily Beacon. 
  29. ^ KIRKPATRICK, DAVID D. (5 May 2015). "Young African Migrants, Enticed by Smugglers, End Up Mired in Libya". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2015. 
  30. ^ "Eritrea bans female circumcision". BBC News. 2007-04-04. 
  31. ^ "Anseba Religious leaders condemn female circumcision". 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2006-09-10. [dead link]
  32. ^ "Religious leaders of Northern Red Sea region condemn female circumcision". 2006-09-09. Retrieved 2006-09-10. [dead link]
  33. ^ Freedom House (2012). "Country ratings and status, FIW 1973-2012" (XLS). Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  34. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 1. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Paris, 9 December 1948". Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  35. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 2. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. New York, 7 March 1966". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  36. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 3. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Archived from the original on 17 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  37. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 4. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Archived from the original on 1 September 2010. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  38. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 5. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. New York, 16 December 1966". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  39. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 6. Convention on the non-applicability of statutory limitations to war crimes and crimes against humanity. New York, 26 November 1968". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  40. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 7. International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. New York, 30 November 1973". Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  41. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 8. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. New York, 18 December 1979". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  42. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 9. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. New York, 10 December 1984". Archived from the original on 8 November 2010. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  43. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11. Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York, 20 November 1989". Archived from the original on 11 February 2014. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  44. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 12. Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. New York, 15 December 1989". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  45. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 13. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. New York, 18 December 1990". Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  46. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 8b. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. New York, 6 October 1999". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  47. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11b. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. New York, 25 May 2000". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  48. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 11c. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. New York, 25 May 2000". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  49. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 15. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York, 13 December 2006". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  50. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 15a. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York, 13 December 2006". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  51. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 16. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. New York, 20 December 2006". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  52. ^ United Nations. "United Nations Treaty Collection: Chapter IV: Human Rights: 3a. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. New York, 10 December 2008". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
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External links[edit]