Militarisation in Eritrea is extreme, with indefinite conscription in often unbearable conditions. Conscientious objectors are imprisoned. Many people flee the country if they can, but if they arrive in Europe, they are not always given protection, and this month the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Swiss government is not in breach of the European Convention by expelling an Eritrean asylum seeker.

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for the attention of the Country Report Task Force on ERITREA

Military service, conscientious objection and related issues.

Prepared December 2016

Basic Information

HISTORY: Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after a thirty-year armed liberation struggle, and that year became the 184th member state of the United Nations.1 Following independence, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front transformed itself into the “Popular Front for Democracy and Justice”, and under that title has imposed military rule ever since. Between 1998 and 2000 a war with Ethiopia over a disputed border caused massive casualties: since then there have been simmering border tensions but no full-scale military conflict. Nevertheless, the level of militarisation in the country has if anything increased.

The United Nations has released a damning report into the operations of Canadian mining company Nevsun Resources in Eritrea, which accuses the company of using conscripted labour at it's Bisha Mine in the country. Nevsun estimated that the mine held over a billion pounds of copper and 2.7 billion pounds of zinc.

Read the submission from the European Union here.


24 June 2015

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea

The Human Rights Council this morning discussed the situation of human rights in Eritrea, holding an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and concluding its interactive dialogue with the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea.

Luwam Estifanos

Often (far too often) I think about what other people make of our stories, our Eritrean stories. Not the dramatic stories but the typical ordinary ones, the experiences which are familiar to all Eritreans. I am sure our stories of unimaginable pain inflicted unnecessarily by the very people who claim to have liberated us, come across as far too strange to belong to an ordinary life.

Like these stories …

It's now been 20 years since three Jehovah's Witnesses in Eritrea have been imprisoned. Paulos Eyassu, Negede Teklemariam and Isaac Mogos were arrested on September 24, 1994. In the early years of their detention they were subjected to severe treatment and torture in Sawa prison camp, but their ill-treatment has lessened in recent years. They have never been charged with any crime. At least thirteen other Jehovah's Witness COs are also detained in Sawa - it is likely to be many more.

A campaign has been launched by Eritreans in Diaspora to stop slavery in Eritrea. They regard military service as slavery since 20,000 Eritreans aged between 17 and 50 years are forced to enrol in national service each year, “required to work for unspecified periods, in slave-like conditions”, or else face incarceration in Eritrea's notorious prison system, where detainees are seldom released.

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