Countries

Eritrea

Country Profile

Eritrea remains one of the most closed and repressive countries in the sub-region, with no independent civil society, political opposition, or independent media able to function freely.

On 15 June 2017, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, presented her report to the UN Human Rights Council in which she concluded that the government of Eritrea has made no effort to address the human rights concerns highlighted by the UN Commission of Inquiry.[1] On 6 July 2017, the European Parliament adopted a strong resolution condemning, among other issues, Eritrea’s systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations, and called on the Eritrean government to put an end to the detention of the opposition, journalists, religious leaders, and innocent civilians. The resolution also referenced Eritrea’s inhumane unlimited national service in light of many refugees fleeing into Europe on a daily basis.[2]

[1]     United Nations Human Rights – Office of the High Commissioner, “Eritrea accused over catalogue of human rights abuses – New report,” 15 June 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21751&LangID=E, Accessed 26 September 2017.

[2]     Parliament of the European Union, “European Parliament resolution of 6 July 2017 on Eritrea, notably the cases of Abune Antonios and Dawit Isaak,” 6 July 2017, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P8-TA-2017-0309&language=EN&ring=B8-2017-0470, Accessed 26 September 2017.

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Freedom of Association

The Eritrean government continues to repress religious freedom for unregistered – and in some cases registered – religious communities. In early May 2017, ten Christians, four women and six men, were reportedly arrested by security officers from a home in Ginda, about 45 kilometres northeast of Asmara. According to Open Door USA, they were being held at the Ginda Police Station without charge. The Christian persecution watchdog noted that many Christian prisoners in Eritrea are locked up in shipping containers with little ventilation and have died as a result.[1] 

Freedom of Expression

On 3 May 2017, World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO awarded its prestigious Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Dawit Isaak, a journalist with Swedish and Eritrean dual nationality who has been imprisoned in Eritrea for 15 years without ever speaking to a lawyer or seeing a judge. In 1993, Dawit founded the independent newspaper Setit, in the capital, Asmara. In 2001, his newspaper published an open letter calling for elections and the implementation of the promised constitution. The ensuing crackdown saw Dawit and ten other journalists arrested, seven of whom have since died in detention. The fate of Dawit and the other three – Emanuel Asrat, Temesgen Gebreyesus, and Seyoum Tsehaye – remains unclear, despite repeated requests from his family and the Swedish government.[2] On 6 July 2017, the European Parliament voted through a resolution calling for the immediate release of Dawit Isaak.[3]

On 6 June 2017, London-based charity One World Media presented Radio Erena with an award for their commitment to reporting politics, social issues, and local culture in the face of great adversity. The station, created by exiled HRD Biniam Simon, has broadcast by satellite from France since 2009.[4]

[1]     Open Door USA, “10 Christians Arrested in Eritrea,” 13 May 2017, https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/10-christians-arrested-eritrea/, Accessed 26 September 2017.

[2]     Reporters Without Borders, “Jailed Eritrean journalist awarded UNESCO press freedom prize,” 30 March 2017, http://www.refworld.org/docid/58de053b4.html, Accessed 26 September 2017

[3] Parliament of the European Union, “European Parliament resolution of 6 July 2017 on Eritrea, notably the cases of Abune Antonios and Dawit Isaak,” 6 July 2017, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2017-0309+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN, Accessed 20 October 2017.

[4]     Reporters Without Borders, “Radio Erena receives 2017 One World Media special award,” 6 June 2017, https://rsf.org/en/news/radio-erena-receives-2017-one-world-media-special-award, Accessed 26 September 2017.

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Don’t Shoot the Messenger! Journalists as Human Rights Defenders in the East and Horn of Africa

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