Submission on Eritrea to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights

This submission, by the campaign group Human Right Concern Eritrea, is in response to the Eritrean government’s own presentation to the Commission covering the period 1999 – 2016.

The full report is here: HRCE_SUBMISSION_ON_THE_INITIAL_REPORT_OF_THE_GOVERNMENT_OF_ERITREA_TO_ACHRP

Below is the introduction.


  1. Human Right Concern Eritrea (HRCE) is an Eritrean – led non-political human rights organisation. Presently, HRCE is unavoidably, located outside of Eritrea. Our focus is: research and documentation of human right issues affecting Eritreans both in Eritrea as well as in the diaspora. HRCE is also active in human right advocacy and as part of this effort has previously made submissions to: UN Human Right Council and other bodies that are following Eritrea.
  1. We have worked and are working closely with African and International human rights organisations, to ensure that human right violations in Eritrea are reported and that Eritrean voices are heard in International Human Rights Fora. HRCE is a founding member of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defender Network.
  1. HRCE, welcomes the submission by the Government of Eritrea of the report: “Eritrea: Initial National Report (1999- 2016)” (the Report). And, specifically we welcome the opportunity to engage with the report to truly improve the human right situation for Eritreans at home as well as in the Diaspora.
  1. We would encourage the Eritrean Government, in the future to submit such report on as and when they are due. The current report covers a time span of seventeen years (17) this makes it very difficult to engage in a meaningful way.
  1. We note that the structure of the Report is such as to indicate that “Everything is fine and proceeding on track” and that there is no reference as to which: a) provisions and or directives of the ACHPR and other International Human Right Treaties Eritrea has complied; and b) provisions and or directive of the ACHPR and other International Human Right Treaties Eritrea is yet to comply with. We strongly urge the inclusion of such statements in future reports as this would enhance dialogue and exchange of ideas.
  1. We note the explanation under the heading: “National Report: Scope and Methodology” as to the involvement in the preparation of the report of “Relevant Ministries and National Civic Organisations”. Though not specifically mentioned by name in the methodology section, it is clear from the context of the report that the relevant “Civic Organisations” are: National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW); the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) and the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW).
  1. While their participation is necessary, these organisations are not independent Civil Society organisations. They are mass movement organisations linked to the ruling party that played key roles during the liberation period. They supported the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) now the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) in the organisation and the execution of the “Liberation Struggle”. And, since have continued to operate as extensions of the PFDJ. An exception to the norm, for a brief period, was the NCEW which from 2000 to 2005 established an independent NGO called ESCA to address the post 2000 Eritrea Ethiopia conflict emergency. This experiment terminated in 2005.
  1. We note the lack of any mention of consultation with Faith Based organisation. A matter of high relevance in a country were faith is of primary importance to the people as well as the Government’s ongoing religious persecution of those faiths who insist in the right of conscientious objection to “Military Service” and who expressed differing opinions on matters of independence.
  1. Particularly in regard to faith, we highlight the recent tensions with the Muslim Community, the closure of the Catholic Theological School, as well as of six (6) the Health Clinics operated by Catholic Mission; the insistence that seminary students must undertake “National Service”; the ongoing arrest of Abbuna Antonios (Eritrean Orthodox Church) and the two Pastoral Letters Written by the Catholic Bishop in response to social political crisis in the country in 2001 and 2014.
  1. There is no indication, in the report, of any consultation or an open and frank engagement with the Eritrean Diaspora. This is an interesting omission given that Eritrean Diaspora features prominently in the “Nation Building/Development” section of the Report. The Diaspora is not merely an important source of: “Remittances” and the taxation a resource to be exploited. The Diaspora is increasingly made up of youth and unaccompanied minors fleeing the human right, economic and social conditions in the country and are seeking asylum and refugee status. This aspect of the Diaspora is hardly considered in the Report.
  1. The Report affirms that Eritrea is doing well and is on track on issues of governance, civil and political rights as well as the economy. In this document HRCE will endeavour to demonstrate that this is not the case. We will demonstrate that Eritrea is not on track or doing well in the areas of rule of law, effective accountable institutions for all, independence of the Judiciary, human rights, as well a building economic foundation.
  1. Presently the Fragile State Index places Eritrea within the category of countries designated as “alert”.  And, the expectation, given the current trend, is that no significant progress will be made building state institutions until 2030.
  1. Eritrea remains a one-party state, where only the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is legal. The Constitution, which guaranteed a multi-party system, was ratified in 1997 but has not been implemented and the process for adopting a new Constitution is not transparent.
  1. There is no independent media and there are no independent civil society organisations. Those organisations such as the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW); the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS); and the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW) are mass movement organisations formed during the liberation struggle and who post-independence have remained strongly affiliated and connected to the PFDJ and the Government. Faith based organisations have been circumscribed and limited to pastoral activities and religious based and ethnic based persecution remains a feature of the country.

2 comments

  1. African Human Rights Commission has not Uttered a word all these years, despite the terrible ordeal of all the refugees sunk in the Red Sea & more hundreds in the Mediterranean sea on route to Italy. These time an Urgent call should be done so that the commission has to challenge the regime in Asmara(Eritrea).
    N.B There is a negative voice from the White House, that they want to upgrade relations with the Tyrant regime and gain access to ports for military purposes. They are not ashamed of the past connivance with the Ethiopian Monarch Haile Selassie and denied the self determination of the Eritrean peoples. From 1952-1974 they have used Eritrean Land, Air & Sea as a spy station to their war
    activities and in blanket bombardment of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, while they treated Eritrean people as subhuman from their Marine bases and Red Sea ports of Eritrea and paying huge amount of money to the Monarch in Ethiopia as Royalties or Arms to suppress the Eritrean fighters (ELF). Today, they will try to save the neck of the President of the regime in Eritrea and evade the chance ICC standing for trials.
    Well off course the Human Rights situation is important and with the rapport of the UN Commission assigned to report to the Council at hand, also the successive appeals by Human rights to the UN HR Commission and the sittings in Geneva. As usual there are African Countries who are not themselves the good Boys, concerning Human Rights abuse and some may not care what happens in Eritrea. Many of them are blamed for that indeed, so it may not worry them. However, let us not be pessimistic and
    hopefully we may, by mere luck find a listening ear in that commission to support our appeal for understanding our grave situation c.q human rights issues.

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