Eritrea: teenagers trying to flee the country killed by Eritrean military

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Four male teenagers were caught and killed by Eritrean soldiers
after their attempt to cross the border to Ethiopia illegally. This was
reported by the Eritrean People's Party (EPP) on 11 February 2009.

The four teenagers were part of a group comprising six underages,
who were caught as they tried to escape crossing the border to
Ethiopia. Soldiers fired at them. One of them managed to escape to
Ethiopia. The remaining teenagers went back and hid, but surrendered to
the soldiers at last. They passed on their student papers and told that
they were from neighbouring villages. Nevertheless soldiers opened fire
and shot the remaining five teenagers. Goitom Solomon, Kiros Haile,
Tesfai Debessai and Mengistu Gergis were killed. Tekeste Woldai was
slightly wounded, could escape later and reported about the incident.

Eritrea is taking action heavily against runaways evading the draft
or trying to desert. All men and women,too, from 18 years on, are
liable to military service. Regularly military service will be
prolonged indefinitely. Deserters and conscientious objectors are
arrested unlimited and are being held in solitary confinement. Some
Jehovah Witnesses have been in jail for about 15 years. There are
estimations that only in the first two months this year some thousands
left the country to ask for shelter in other countries.

"Political repression has increased extensively in recent years",
the Eritrean Democratic Alliance wrote in their call for the
demonstration and funeral march on 28 February 2009 in Frankfurt. "Many
people opposing the regime and political opponents are arrested at
secret places and isolated. Nobody was tried, charged or sentenced. A
growing number of Eritreans only see the chance to escape.
"

In this context it is shocking that Switzerland now attempts to change
the asylum law, in order to not grant Eritrean deserters and draft
evaders asylum. The planned change of law is a reaction to a decision
of the Swiss Asylum Appeal Commission, a specialised court in asylum
cases which was replaced by the Federal Administrative Tribunal on 1
January 2007, from 20 December 2005. In this decision the Asylum Appeal
Commission came to the conclusion that "due to political reasons the
punishment for conscientious objection and desertion in Eritrea is
unreasonably severe. Persons who have a well-founded fear of being
subjected to such a punishment shall be granted refugee status.
"
And: "Fear of punishment for conscientious objection or desertion is
well-founded in cases where the person concerned has been in actual
contact with the military authorities. Such a contact may generally be
assumed in case of desertion from active military service. Furthermore,
every contact with authorities revealing that the person concerned was
to be recruited is relevant
".

This does not seem convenient for the Swiss authorities, as the number
of Eritrean asylum seekers increased within three years from 150 to
2850. The change of law would be in contradiction to the UNHCR handbook
on determining refugee status.

Source: Connection e.V.: Eritrea: Teenagers shot dead -
Eritrean opposition groups call for protest demonstration this
Saturday, 25 February 2009; Swiss Asylum Appeal Commission: Auszug aus dem Urteil der ARK vom 20. Dezember 2005 i.S. L.H., Eritrea, 20 December 2005; Swissinfo.ch: Schweizer Asylverfahren soll verschärft werden, 14 January 2009

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