2010 Human Rights Report

from US Department of State
Published on 08 Apr 2011 View Original

Eritrea is a one-party state that became independent in 1993 after its citizens voted for independence from Ethiopia, following 30 years of civil war. The People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), previously known as the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, is the sole political party and has controlled the country since 1991. The country's president, Isaias Afwerki, who heads the PFDJ and the armed forces, dominated the country. The government continued to postpone general elections which have not taken place since independence in 1993. The government continued to use border disputes with Ethiopia and Djibouti as a pretext for curbing human right and civil liberties. Although civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, consistent and systemic gross human rights violations persisted unabated at the government's behest.

Human rights abuses included abridgement of citizens' right to change their government through a democratic process; unlawful killings by security forces; torture and beating of prisoners, sometimes resulting in death; abuse and torture of national service evaders; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, including of national service evaders and their family members; executive interference in the judiciary and the use of a special court system to limit due process; and infringement of privacy rights. National service obligations are effectively open-ended although the government does not acknowledge this circumstance. There is no due process and persons remain in jail for years. The government severely restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. The government also limited freedom of movement and travel for all citizens, foreign residents, the UN, humanitarian and development agencies; it harassed and tightly controlled the movements of foreign diplomats.

Foreign diplomats are required to apply for travel permits in writing 10 days in advance, even for consular emergencies, and travel permit applications were often not answered or refused. Restrictions continued on the activities of national and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs). Female genital mutilation (FGM), although prevalent in rural areas, declined significantly in urban areas, according to trusted sources. Societal abuse and discrimination against women, members of the Kunama ethnic group, gays and lesbians, members of certain religious groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS remained areas of concern. There were limitations on worker rights, and the government was party to forced labor on its citizenry. Children were engaged in forced labor.