This report is drafted by DefendDefenders, (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project). The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders) is a regional civil society organization (CSOs) registered and based in Uganda. Established in 2005, DefendDefenders seeks to strengthen the work of human rights defenders (HRDs) throughout the East and Horn of Africa sub-region by reducing their vulnerability to the risk of persecution and by enhancing their capacity to effectively defend human rights. DefendDefenders focuses its work on Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia (together with Somaliland), South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
This report addresses several key points, including the following:
- Despite the 1997 Eritrean Constitution ostensibly guaranteeing freedom of conscience, religion, and expression, these rights have consistently been denied to Eritrean citizens by the state and the military. This includes restrictions on religious liberty except for individuals affiliated, with only four recognized religious’ groups, the Catholic, Lutheran, Eritrean Orthodox and Islamic faiths. There is severe persecution of minority religious denominations, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Violations of the right to freedom of expression persists in Eritrea, with the government controlling all media outlets since 2001, in addition to the incommunicado detention of at least 11 journalists.
- Eritrea consistently ranks among the worst countries in global freedom indices, with alarming statistics on jailed journalists and media censorship.
- Eritrea’s commitment to ensuring respect for the right to freedom of association and assembly remains unfulfilled. Arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detentions of individuals and groups critical of the authorities persist, instilling fear and suppressing the right to freedom of association.
- Political pluralism is hindered, as the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice continues to be the sole authorized party.
- Repressive legislation, such as the 2005 Proclamation Determining the Administration of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), heavily censors CSOs, rendering them virtually non-operational.
- Violence, intimidation, and harassment against citizens further suppress protests and public gatherings.
This report highlights grave concerns under various articles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and offers recommendations for the Commission’s consideration. It aims to draw attention to critical human rights issues in Eritrea and seeks to catalyze actions that will enhance the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.