Eritrea: Conscientious objectors imprisoned for a decade - without charge

Little is presently known about the fate of conscientious objectors in Eritrea, especially those who don't belong to well-organised religious groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Recently, the Jehovah's Witnesses released information that at least 17 of their members are imprisoned for their conscientious objection, some of them since September 1994, without being charged, but often subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Paulos Eyassu, Negede Teklemariam, and Isaac Mogos have all been imprisoned on 24 September 1994 for refusing to join the military and take up arms. Although the maximum penalty for this "crime" is 3 years, they are still in prison 10 years later.

According to Amnesty International's 2004 report, Conscription for national service continued, with very little demobilization since it began in 1994. National service regulations oblige all men and women aged between 18 and 40 to do six months' military training and 18 months' development service, often construction work, with further reservist obligations. Military service was extended indefinitely during and after the war with Ethiopia and many reservists were recalled. The right to conscientious objection is not recognized by the authorities.

Sources: Amnesty International: Country Report Eritrea 2004, Jehovah's Witnesses, 23 September 2004.