Conscientious objection and desertion in Eritrea

In close cooperation with Connection e.V. from Germany, War Resisters' International now published an English edition of the documentation on conscientious objection and desertion in Eritrea. At the time of writing this newsletter, Abraham Gebreyseus from the Eritrean Anti-Militarism Initiative will also be addressing the United Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, to draw attention to grave human rights violations, which are documented in the publication.

Presentation for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights 61st session, Geneva, 14 March - 22 April 2005

Mr Chairman

I'm representing War Resisters' International. We conduct research on conscientious objection to military service in many countries. Last year, we undertook a preliminary survey on the issue of Eritrean conscientious objectors. We learned that there are thousands of Eritrean conscientious objectors and deserters.

In Eritrea the right of conscientious objection is not recognized by law with the present government. Some members of religious groups such as the Jehovah Witnesses are in custody since more than 10 years because of their convictions to refuse to serve in the military. They never had a hearing in court.

Arbitrary detention, torture, deployment at the front line, forced labour - all without any hearing - have been common ways to punish deserters and objectors. A very often used way of military punishment is to tie victims and to lay them in the sun for days or sometimes weeks.

Furthermore relatives of deserters are threatened to push their children to send them to their units.

Although it is difficult to know the exact number, thousands from the army are evading the military service. They declare their objection through various means. They conscientiously object, desert or flee the military dictatorship. A lot of the deserters are asking for political asylum in foreign countries.

We request the UN Commission on Human Rights to take note of the continuous violations against conscientious objectors and that it take further measures to ensure that conscientious objectors and deserters get asylum protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees..

We also request the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to investigate the situation of conscientious objectors and other members of the army, particularly in Eritrea.

And we request the Eritrean government that it comply with Commission Resolution 1998/77: and in particular that it

  1. releases immediately all conscientious objectors;
  2. recognizes the right to refuse the military service on reasons of conscience, including profound convictions, arising from religious, ethical, humanitarian or similar motives;
  3. introduces an alternative service compatible with reasons for conscientious objection.

Thank you very much.

Abraham Gebreyesus Mehreteab is an activist with the Eritrean Anti-Militarism Initiave, based in Germany, and represented War Resisters' International at the Commission on Human Rights

Source: Connection e.V. and War Resisters' International: Eritrea: Conscientious objection and desertion

Veröffentlicht in CO-Update, April 2005, No. 8