Eritrea

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ERITREA 2021

The arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of hundreds of individuals continued. Conscripts to mandatory national service were forced to serve for indefinite periods. Eritrea did not provide a Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Background

Since November 2020, the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) fought alongside Ethiopian government forces against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. During the conflict, members of the EDF, as well as Ethiopian security forces and militia, committed serious human rights violations, including sexual violence against women and extrajudicial killings of civilians, that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity (see Ethiopia entry).

Arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances

The Eritrean authorities continued to subject hundreds of individuals to arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance. Journalists, former politicians and practitioners of unauthorized religions remained in detention without charge or access to lawyers or family members. The whereabouts of 11 politicians and 17 journalists arrested and detained 20 years ago for criticizing the president’s rule remained unknown.

Among those forcibly disappeared were Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak, Berhane Abrehe, a former finance minister who published a book criticizing the president in 2018, and Ciham Ali. An Eritrean/US national, Ciham Ali was arrested in December 2012 at the Sudan border as she tried to flee Eritrea when she was 15. Shortly before the authorities took her, her father, then a minister of information in the Eritrean government, had gone into exile.

Forced labour

The government continued to conscript high-school students to the mandatory national service programme. Conscripts were forced to serve for indefinite periods and beyond the legal limit of 18 months. Thousands of individuals remained in indefinite conscription, sometimes having served for 10 years or more.

Right to health

The government response to Covid-19 was inadequate and there was no vaccination programme in place by the end of the year.