No tangible change despite peace with Ethiopia
Despite the peace deal with longtime Ethiopia rival, this rapprochement has ushered in very little tangible change in Eritrea. Organisations such as Human Rights Concern Eritrea continue to document serious violations of human rights, including forced military service, arbitrary detention, and torture. Over 10,000 prisoners of conscience are incarcerated in inhumane conditions, without charge or trial as the state considers them a threat to “national security.” There are currently no democratic reforms taking place, and no sign of the implementation of the 1997 Constitution. The government continues to show no political willingness to stop forcing its youth into indefinite national service, a conscription policy that continues to drive the youth to seek migration to Europe and other African countries. At least 5000 people flee from Eritrea every month according to the United Nations.
In a positive development, as previously reported in The Monitor, three Ethiopian refugees took Nevsun Resources, a mining company operating in Eritrea, to court in Canada on allegations of slavery, torture, and forced labour. On 23rd January 2019, Nevsun presented arguments to the Supreme Court where it attempted to use the Act of State doctrine and forum non conveniens, which restrict courts from questioning the actions of a sovereign state within its own borders. Nevsun’s lawyers presented an argument not for impunity, but for justice through international tribunals, or through an act of parliament. The Supreme Court found that neither the Act of State doctrine nor forum non conveniens is relevant and applicable in this case, reasserting the ruling of the court of appeals.
Eritrea remains a dictatorship in which media operations are severely restricted. All news outlets inside the country are state-owned, and many journalists imprisoned without trial or charge. However, despite these challenges, an anonymous reporter known as ‘J’ has over the years taken this issue into his own hands to become the editor of the largest Facebook group reporting news in Eritrea, one of the few and rare voices independently reporting news in a country where there is virtually no press freedom. He gave a rare interview to BBC in January.