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Eritrea

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Last updated on 12.10.2020 at 09:58

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UN expert’s mandate renewed, Christians face continued persecution

UN expert’s mandate renewed, Christians face continued persecution

A resolution adopted to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea for a further year; American-Eritrean political prisoner Ciham Ali Ahmed, who has been in prison since she was 15 years old, has seen the first commitment from an American politician, Kamala Harris, concerning her case, which has been ongoing for eight years; Eritrea has continued with its repression of Christians, with reported cases of arrest and detention of Christians from minority church groups

Following a call from DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) and partners on the UN Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, a resolution to extend the mandate for a further year was adopted in mid-July 2020. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 24 in favour, 10 against and 13 abstentions. The decision was welcomed by rights groups.

Association

American-Eritrean political prisoner Ciham Ali Ahmed, who has been in prison since she was 15 years old, has seen the first commitment from an American politician concerning her case, which has been ongoing for eight years. Following a successful social media campaign launched on Ahmed’s birthday by One Day Seyoum, Senator Kamala Harris stated in mid-May 2020 that her office would be doing “all they can for Ciham”. who was imprisoned in 2012 and never formally charged or tried. She was arrested upon returning to Eritrea, most likely in relation to her father who was a minister in the government who previously fled Eritrea. Her fate or whereabouts remain unknown.

In separate developments, Eritrea has continued with its repression of Christians, with reported cases of arrest and detention of Christians from minority church groups. An annual demonstration was held online on 28th May 2020, protesting the reported persecution of Christians in Eritrea. Since then, 30 Christians were reportedly arrested at a wedding in Asmara in late June 2020. The group was taken to a local police station and followed a pattern of recent arrests in 2020 of Christians attending services or ceremonies, as reported by religious freedom groups.

In September 2020, it was confirmed that at least 27 prisoners, who had been detained due to their Christian religion, had been released, with some reports suggesting that up to 69 had been released. Some had been held in long-term detention without charge. Eritrea has long been denounced for violations of its citizens’ rights to freedom of religion or belief, including in reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Association in Eritrea

The brutality meted out by the Eritrean state means that no human rights organisations or activists are able to operate openly from within Eritrea.

The brutality meted out by the Eritrean state means that no human rights organisations or activists are able to operate openly from within Eritrea. Human rights organisations operating from outside Eritrea have described the country as ‘a big prison for its own people.’ People attempting to flee the country risk arrest and detention in one of Eritrea’s networks of secret detention centres across the country, in which detainees are kept in inhumane conditions and regularly tortured. As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, individual liberties are also denied through the continuing practice of forced and indefinite conscription into the armed forces, whereby conscripts are forced into harsh conditions, low pay and forced labour. A 2005 proclamation provides a regulatory framework for nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), but their activities are strictly limited to implementing relief and rehabilitation activities and those that seek to engage in other activities can be held criminally liable.

Peaceful Assembly in Eritrea

Eritrea’s constitution says that ‘all persons shall have the right to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably.’ In practice, this right is completely denied...

Eritrea’s constitution says that ‘all persons shall have the right to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably.’ In practice, this right is completely denied, and given the huge risks involved for protestors, most demonstrations against the state take place in other countries. Groups, including student unions, which were likely to stage protests against increasing repression, have been disbanded and their leaders arrested. Faced with the threat of attack, in 2013 and 2014 activists distributed posters calling for Eritreans to demonstrate their opposition to the state by staying at home and emptying the streets on Fridays.

Expression in Eritrea

For eight years, Eritrea has been ranked the worst country in the world on the World Press Freedom Index.

For eight years, Eritrea has been ranked the worst country in the world on the World Press Freedom Index. Human rights groups in the region report that at least 23 journalists are imprisoned in Eritrea, including Dawit Isaak and Seyoum Tshehaye, who have been held incommunicado since 2001; fifteen years later, their families do not know if they are still alive. The last foreign journalist was expelled from Eritrea in 2004, having reported on human rights issues. The government controls the only printing house in Eritrea and according to the International Telecommunications Union, less than 1% of people had access to the Internet in 2014. Despite the high risks, activists continue to try to circulate independent information, even distributing an underground newspaper in Asmara in 2013.