Migrants arrive by boat at the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, February 15, 2015. REUTERS-Antonio Parrinello

1 OF 4.Migrants arrive by boat at the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, February 15, 2015.

CREDIT: REUTERS/ANTONIO PARRINELLO

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(Reuters) - Italy's coast guard went to the rescue of at least 1,000 migrants in difficulty in the sea between Europe and North Africa on Sunday, the third operation of its kind in as many days.

The coast guard said it had plucked more than 130 people from two rubber boats about 180 km (110 miles) south of the island of Lampedusa so far, and was working to save eight more vessels.

"We are certainly at more than 1,000 migrants" involved in Sunday's rescue operation, a spokesman for the coast guard in Rome told Reuters.

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Better weather since last week has encouraged migrants to make the perilous journey from North Africa, where a breakdown of order inLibyahas made it almost impossible to police the traffickers who pack people onto rickety boats.

More than 300 people died last week trying to make the crossing, which claimed 3,500 lives last year even beforeItalyclosed its Mare Nostrum search and rescue mission in December.

The coast guard ship Fiorillo and several cutters were sent to the latest rescue, along with four merchant ships and two tug boats which were diverted to join the operation. One navy ship, two police patrol ships and a Maltese vessel had also been mobilized, the coast guard spokesman said.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing byMark Heinrich)

Source=http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/15/us-italy-migrants-idUSKBN0LJ0L220150215

Issaias Afwerki WL

The swiss branch of HSBC bank hiding billions of dollars for corrupt clients has put a new spotlight on Eritrea. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, Eritrea had the highest amount of money hidden for a single client in the bank, according to the HSBC leak.

Many Eritreans are pointing fingers at their corrupt ruling party officials since the poor economy of Eritrea has not produced millionaire businessmen. While Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is infamous for claiming his salary is only $130 dollars; over $695 million dollars is allegedly stashed in one of his foreign bank accounts, according to the HSBC leak.

According to Diaspora Eritreans with links to the military in Asmara, international reports of around a billion dollar total deposit by Eritrea regime has rattled the capital city. It is the largest illegal HSBC bank deposit in Africa. Some generals are reportedly dissenting the regime as mid-level officials wonder which top generals might also be involved in this scheme.

Many Eritrean activists blame President Afwerki for the shortage of food and electricity in the country. Long lines for bread are common sights even in Eritrean cities. The UN has also put sanctions on the Isaias government due to its financial support for terrorist groups in Africa.

Last week, leaders of Djibouti, Somaliland and Ethiopia condemned the destabilization role of Asmara in the region.

Source=http://www.somalilandpress.com/eritreas-military-shocked-afwerki-bank-scandal/

 

The United Nations announced on Wednesday that as many as 300 migrants are thought to have perished in the Mediterranean Sea this week after their boats overturned while attempting to cross from Libya to Italy. Vincent Cochetel, the regional director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, called the incident a "tragedy on an enormous scale."

The migrants were “swallowed up by the waves,” another United Nations official said. Over the course of the past few months, several incidents involving migrants and refugees have captured (quickly fleeting) attention. Earlier this year, two cargo "ghost ships," carrying nearly 1,500 asylum-seekers and set to autopilot by fleeing smugglers, were rescued before they crashed into the Italian coast. That group constituted a tiny fraction of the 170,000 people intercepted by Italian rescuers in just over one year.

According to experts, Mideast conflict is part of what's spurring the largest mass migration since World War II.  

Late last year, the International Organization for Migration estimated that over 3,000 migrants had died while trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2014. "There needs to be a united response to the question of migration," said Pope Francis, following the rescue of 600 migrants traveling from North Africa to Sicily in November. "We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery."

This week's events involved four inflatable boats and severe weather. "The sea conditions were extreme," the AP reported, "with waves as high as eight metres (26 feet) and temperatures just a few degrees above zero. Twenty-nine died of hypothermia in the 18 hours it took the coast guard to ferry them to Italy."

The influx of migrants and refugees is coming from North Africa as well as the Middle East, where conflicts have spurred the largest mass migration since World War II—a time when, one expert told The Guardian, the migration was occurring in the opposite direction.

There are fears that the trend will only worsen. In October, Italy suspended Mare Nostrum, a search-and-rescue operation that was launched in 2013 following the deaths of several hundred migrants. Mare Nostrum was an aggressive undertaking that involved scanning the Libyan coastline looking for imperiled ships. Its replacement is Triton, a less-equipped European Union mission, which only monitors the waters close to Europe. However, by the time the boats get that far, it's often already too late.

ROME (Reuters) - Twenty-nine migrants died of hypothermia aboard Italian coast guard vessels on Monday after being picked up from a boat adrift near Libya, reigniting criticism of the government's decision to end a full-scale search-and rescue mission last year.

Two patrol boats picked up 105 people late on Sunday from an inflatable boat drifting in extreme sea conditions, with waves as high as 8 metres (26 feet) and temperatures just a few degrees above zero, the coast guard said in a statement.

The migrants who died spent 18 hours on the deck of one of the vessels taking them to the Italian island of Lampedusa, buffeted by high winds and spray. One survivor was taken by helicopter to Sicily in critical condition, Pietro Bartolo, Lampedusa's chief healthcare official, told Reuters.

Lampedusa's mayor, Giusi Nicolini, blamed last year's closure of Italy's search-and-rescue mission, known as Mare Nostrum, for the tragedy. Since then no navy ships capable of keeping large numbers of migrants below deck have patrolled the waters near the Libyan coast.

"Mare Nostrum was an emergency solution to a humanitarian crisis, so closing it was a huge and intolerable step backward," Nicolini told Reuters. Human rights groups had repeatedly warned that ending the mission would endanger lives.

"The small patrol boats were completely swallowed by the waves during the trip back. If Mare Nostrum were still going, the migrants would have been given shelter inside a large ship within an hour," Nicolini said.

Laura Boldrini, the president of Italy's lower house of parliament and a former spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, said on Twitter the "horror" of "people dying not in a shipwreck but of cold" was due to the suspension of Mare Nostrum.

Mare Nostrum was abandoned by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government partly due to public concern over the 114 million euro ($129 million) cost of the mission in its first year. Renzi has not commented on Monday's events.

Former prime minister Enrico Letta started Mare Nostrum after more than 360 men, women and children -- mostly Eritreans -- drowned when their overcrowded boat flipped over within sight of Lampedusa in October, 2013.

Now the European Union runs a border control operation called Triton, with fewer ships and a much smaller area of operations.

Civil war in Syria and anarchy in Libya swelled the number of people crossing the Mediterranean last year. Many paid smugglers $1,000-$2,000 to travel.

The United Nations refugee agency says 160,000 people made the sea crossing to Italy between January and November 2014 and a further 40,000 landed in Greece. Thousands have died attempting the journey.

Bartolo said that the 29 victims were all young men from sub-Saharan Africa, but he did not know their nationalities.

"To organised crime it's not important if people make it across the sea alive or dead," Nicolini said. "But now, without Mare Nostrum, it's as if no one, and not just the criminals, cares if they live or die."

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source+http://news.yahoo.com/least-25-migrants-die-being-picked-sea-italian-154946598.html

On 7 February 2015, a relatively large gathering of Eritreans in Geneva formed a new association that primarily aims to help a successful integration of Eritrean refugees in Switzerland where over 25,000 new caseload of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers have entered the country in the past few years.

The new community association, which will be known in French as d’Entraide Suisse-Erythrée (Eritrean-Swiss Mutual Aid), shall be free from political and religious affiliation. Existing Eritrean political and civil society groups as well as free individuals have committed themselves to promote the objectives of the community association.

The general assembly was informed by the organizing committee, mainly composed of young Eritreans raised in Eritrea and abroad, that a good number of support activities have been underway by volunteers in the community.

Genevemeeting 1

Four of the organizing committee members who led the proceedings of the general assembly included Tedros Eyasu, Sophia Ammar, Tedros Teklemariam, and Awet Aregai. Addressing the general assembly in turn, they explained to the general assembly the various objectives of the new mutual aid association which include the following:    

  1. Granting a range of assistance to newly arriving Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees to help them become self-supporting members in the society. In particular
  • Providing them necessary information related to job opportunities, housing, insurance etc
  • Translation assistance at administrative offices and at health centres
  • Taking preventive measures to avoid violent confrontations among them.
  1. Preparing education and capacity building programmes to help Eritrean refugees to integrate in the Swiss society.
  2. Creating a common centre where the asylum seekers, refugees and Swiss nationals of Eritrean origin can meet.
  3. Preparing the ground to preserve Eritrean cultures and traditions.

The general assembly adopted the constitution of the new association in a unanimous vote and mandated the organizing committee to lead the association till the next general assembly.

The general assembly also voiced commended the services of mothers in supporting the new refugees, many of them still living in under-ground bunkers, and warmly applauded the work of Swiss-born young boys and girls who are granting French classes to the refugees, several of them being under the age of 20

Geneve2.

In picture are among the young educators who availed themselves to talk about the project at the assembly. They are from left to right: Hannah Ammar, Niyat Tesfaldet and Veronica Almedom. Other youngsters who take part in the teaching courses are Filmon Zerai, Uda Bekit, Lina Hamde, Senait Almedom.

Two opposition members tell the Guardian how Eritreans are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the repressive regime

Issaias AfwerkiEritrea’s president, Isaias Afewerki, runs a one-party state and brooks no opposition. Photograph: James Akena/Reuters
Guardian Global development is supported by:
 About this content
Martin Plaut

Eritrea is the most closed and repressive country in Africa, routinely denying access to the international media. No foreign journalists are based in the country and there is no independent local press. However, in a rare and courageous breach of the wall of silence, members of the internal opposition spoke to the Guardian and Radio France International last weekend.


Since independence from Ethiopia in 1993 Eritrea has been ruled by as a one-party state by President Isaias Afewerki, who brooks no opposition.
Two members of the Eritrean resistance, speaking via a secure connection, described conditions inside the country. “Essentials like water, electricity or petrol have disappeared,” they said. Food is so expensive that even middle-class families find it difficult to find enough to eat.


They said tension in the capital, Asmara, is high, with reports of trucks filled with Ethiopian “mercenaries” – from the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM), known locally as Demhit, which Eritrea supports – ringing the city. The last round of compulsory military service failed, with only around 50 of the expected 400 conscripts reporting for duty. “We think it is highly likely that Demhit will carry out a door to door sweep to round up recruits,” said Sami (not his real name).


The TPDM, drawn from the ethnic group that now rules Ethiopia, has been given sanctuary, arms and training by Afewerki. Eritrea and Ethiopia have a long-standing border dispute, which has resulted in tens of thousands of troops confronting one another in the bleak, mountainous border region. Supporting Demhit is Eritrea’s means of maintaining pressure on the Ethiopian government.


A UN report published this month estimated that some 20,000 TPDM fighters are based in Eritrea, bolstering the president’s security. The report described them as having “a dual function as an Ethiopian armed opposition group and a protector of the Afewerki regime. Its fighters, who are from the same ethnic group as Afewerki, are seen to be personally loyal to him, unlike the defence forces whose loyalties have been questioned by the president in recent years.”

Since a failed army mutiny against the Eritrean regime in January 2013, the TPDM has become central to Afewerki’s survival. This reliance on foreign forces is deeply resented by the Eritrean population. “They demanded the identity documents of a friend of mine and I,” Sami said. “When this happened earlier this year there was a riot. People really hate them.”


Despite the intense security, the resistance is finding new ways of getting its message across. The group, which began over two years ago, started by helping organise phone calls from the diaspora abroad to Eritreans back home.


The resistance told the Guardian how it evaded tight security to put up posters protesting against conscription. “We lay on the streets, pretending to be homeless people,” said Sami. “It was freezing cold, but the security officials walked right over us. When they had gone we could put up our posters.


A smuggled video of “Freedom Friday”, now on YouTube, shows people in Asmara crowding round to read the posters.


Sami described the growing contempt for the regime. “In coffee bars you hear people talking – even high-ranking officials complain openly about the regime.” The government led the struggle for Eritrean independence, and for years relied on its legitimacy to demand the population’s support. “The movement was treated like a religion then, like the Bible or the Koran, and followed unquestioningly,” said Sami’s colleague, Temasgen. “Slowly, this has fallen away – and now it is gone.”


Both men know the risk they are taking in speaking to the international media. “I am willing to pay with my life,” Sami declared. “In history I would rather be remembered as someone who made the ultimate sacrifice rather than just sit and complain to my neighbours.”


They appealed for international pressure to be maintained on Afewerki: “Listen to our agony. We thank you for giving shelter to Eritrean refugees abroad, but if you are a decision-maker we beg you to keep up the pressure on the Eritrean regime.”


The opposition’s growing confidence and the fragility of the regime comes at a time when discussions are taking place about relaxing the sanctions against the Eritrean government. There are suggestions that the European Union is thinking about a new approach towards Asmara, and offering aid worth €200m (£158m) as a carrot for improved human rights.


Previous attempts by the former EU development commissioner Louis Michel to negotiate the release of the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak in return for aid resulted in empty promises. Neither Dawit nor other political prisoners were freed. Instead, repression intensified, resulting in an exodus of refugees, who find their way across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to arrive at Calais in their hundreds.

Source=http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/oct/28/eritrean-resistance-pressure-isais-afewerki

PDF

(London 04-02-2015)

Over a hundred UK based Eritreans participated in giving evidence and insight into the human rights violations taking place in Eritrea to the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea, during their investigative visit to the UK from the 23rdto the 31stof January.

A coalition of Eritrean human rights organisations based in the UK supported the mission by   mobilising the public, raising awareness and supporting victims who volunteered to give testimony, evidence or information about human rights violations in Eritrea. Although many victims found the process emotionally taxing they nonetheless expressed   willingness and continued to engage in a process that is anticipated to bring forth a ground breaking focus on human rights violations being perpetrated in Eritrea.

Basing themselves in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow the investigation team met with victims and families of victims who have first-hand information on extrajudicial   killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances, violations of religious rights, gender based violations, violations against national service conscripts, violations of freedom of expression and association and much more. Additionally there were focus group meetings held in the presence of the Commissioners who were provided with insight into the background against which the individual violations are being perpetrated.

In response to the large number of people willing to come forth with their evidence both here in the UK and across many other Eritrean communities, the Commission has extended the deadline that was due to expire on the 31st of January 2015.for a period of one month. The new deadline for written submissions is 28 February 2015.

The UK based consortium of human rights organisations would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who took part in giving   testimonies individually or as participants in a focus group as well as the many groups and individuals who facilitated workshops and information sessions and facilitation of individual and group interviews. 

The consortium of UK based human rights organisations includes: Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights – UK (EHDR – UK), Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE), Release Eritrea and Suwera Human Rights Centre (SHRC).

The Consortium would also encourage all Eritreans, victims of direct or indirect violation of their dignity and human rights or who have information about those violations to contact the Commission directly at the following email address:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Further information about the Commission can be obtained from their website:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIEritrea/Pages/commissioninquiryonhrinEritrea.aspx

Musikalische Unterhaltung in Koeln

Thursday, 05 February 2015 19:14 Written by

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) conducts research on the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people. The Director of PRIO annually lists candidates for Nobel Peace Prize. The Eritrean priest, Father Mussie Zerai is on top of such a list this year.

While the PRIO Director’s  comments may be relevant on the issue, his speculations do not confirm, nor endorse, any candidate, and are not in any manner based on privileged access to the decision-making of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Neither the Director, nor the Institute he leads, have any form of association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee. ... Each year, PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken presents his own shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize. He offers his opinion on the most likely laureates, based on his independent assessment. The PRIO Director’s view on the most likely Nobel Peace Prize laureates is widely covered by international media, and it has been offered since 2002. 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee bases its decision on valid nominations received by the 1 February deadline (in addition to potential nominations put forth by the Committee members at their first meeting after the deadline). Anyone can be nominated, but only a number of people have the right to nominate, including members of national assemblies and governments, current and former members of the Committee, Peace Prize laureates, professors of certain disciplines, directors of peace research and foreign policy institutes, and members of international courts. The Director of PRIO holds such a position, but, as a principle refrains from making nominations, given his active role as a commentator. The laureate is normally announced at 11 o'clock on the Friday of the first full week in October.

Harpviken's 2015 Nobel Peace Prize shortlist

1.    Mussie Zerai

2.    Novaya Gazeta

3.    Iraq Body Count

4.    Article 9 Association

5.    Zainab Bangura and Denis Mukwege

In 2015, Harpviken’s favourite is Mussie Zerai, the Catholic Priest of Eritrean origin who resides in Italy, and whose widely distributed phone number has been the last hope for many desperate refugees aboard brittle boats crossing the Mediterranean. Number two is Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that continues to challenge political developments in Russia and its immediate neighbourhood, despite the loss of several of its journalists in violent attacks. Third on the list is Iraq Body Count, for pioneering civil society monitoring of war casualties and proving its importance for ethical accountability. Number four is Article 9 Association, working to preserve Article 9 in the Japanese constitution, which renounces Japan's right to engage in war or to maintain military forces capable of engaging in war. The fifth and final suggestion is for a combined prize to Zainab Bangura and Denis Mukwege, who in their different capacities stand at the forefront of the global struggle against sexual violence. 

About Father Mussie Zerai

Aba Mussie

Mussie Zerai

Mussie Zerai is a Catholic priest, who combines his duties for the Eritrean Catholic community in Switzerland, with running the Agenzia Habeshia, a charitable trust he set up in 2006 to campaign for the rights of North African refugees. His phone number is widely shared by migrants waiting for the risky trip across the Mediterranean, who call him if in distress, with Zerai conveying the reports to the rescuers. Occasionally, he appears in the media to place responsibility on those who could have prevented the deaths on sea. ‘I don't encourage anybody to come to Italy, or Europe in general…’, states Zerai, ‘these people must flee in order to save their lives’. The migration across the Mediterranean is an escalating humanitarian disaster, and Europe struggles with how to respond. Worldwide, migration caused by war, economic scarcity, and environmental change, is also increasing dramatically.  A Nobel Peace Prize to reward the courage and moral integrity of a single person seems particularly timely this year. One alternative candidate, amongst many, who would speak to the same cause, is Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, the Italian island which has impressed the world with its humble hospitality and insistence on the dignity of the refugees reaching its shores.

(It is to be recalled that a Swiss newspaper has also named Father Mussie of a busy mobile telephone to be considered for Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to save lives of so many Eritreans in the Mediterranean Sea – Harnnet.org).

Norwegian Body Includes Eritrea Priest in List of                                                                                                             Nobel Peace Prize Candidates for Year 2015

By prio.org

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) conducts research on the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people. The Director of PRIO annually lists candidates for Nobel Peace Prize. The Eritrean priest, Father Mussie Zerai is on top of such a list this year.

While the PRIO Director’s  comments may be relevant on the issue, his speculations do not confirm, nor endorse, any candidate, and are not in any manner based on privileged access to the decision-making of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Neither the Director, nor the Institute he leads, have any form of association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee. ... Each year, PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken presents his own shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize. He offers his opinion on the most likely laureates, based on his independent assessment. The PRIO Director’s view on the most likely Nobel Peace Prize laureates is widely covered by international media, and it has been offered since 2002. 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee bases its decision on valid nominations received by the 1 February deadline (in addition to potential nominations put forth by the Committee members at their first meeting after the deadline). Anyone can be nominated, but only a number of people have the right to nominate, including members of national assemblies and governments, current and former members of the Committee, Peace Prize laureates, professors of certain disciplines, directors of peace research and foreign policy institutes, and members of international courts. The Director of PRIO holds such a position, but, as a principle refrains from making nominations, given his active role as a commentator. The laureate is normally announced at 11 o'clock on the Friday of the first full week in October.

Harpviken's 2015 Nobel Peace Prize shortlist

1.    Mussie Zerai

2.    Novaya Gazeta

3.    Iraq Body Count

4.    Article 9 Association

5.    Zainab Bangura and Denis Mukwege

In 2015, Harpviken’s favourite is Mussie Zerai, the Catholic Priest of Eritrean origin who resides in Italy, and whose widely distributed phone number has been the last hope for many desperate refugees aboard brittle boats crossing the Mediterranean. Number two is Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that continues to challenge political developments in Russia and its immediate neighbourhood, despite the loss of several of its journalists in violent attacks. Third on the list is Iraq Body Count, for pioneering civil society monitoring of war casualties and proving its importance for ethical accountability. Number four is Article 9 Association, working to preserve Article 9 in the Japanese constitution, which renounces Japan's right to engage in war or to maintain military forces capable of engaging in war. The fifth and final suggestion is for a combined prize to Zainab Bangura and Denis Mukwege, who in their different capacities stand at the forefront of the global struggle against sexual violence. 

About Father Mussie Zerai

http://www.asmarino.com/images/AITV/abba-mussie.jpg

Mussie Zerai

Mussie Zerai is a Catholic priest, who combines his duties for the Eritrean Catholic community in Switzerland, with running the Agenzia Habeshia, a charitable trust he set up in 2006 to campaign for the rights of North African refugees. His phone number is widely shared by migrants waiting for the risky trip across the Mediterranean, who call him if in distress, with Zerai conveying the reports to the rescuers. Occasionally, he appears in the media to place responsibility on those who could have prevented the deaths on sea. ‘I don't encourage anybody to come to Italy, or Europe in general…’, states Zerai, ‘these people must flee in order to save their lives’. The migration across the Mediterranean is an escalating humanitarian disaster, and Europe struggles with how to respond. Worldwide, migration caused by war, economic scarcity, and environmental change, is also increasing dramatically.  A Nobel Peace Prize to reward the courage and moral integrity of a single person seems particularly timely this year. One alternative candidate, amongst many, who would speak to the same cause, is Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, the Italian island which has impressed the world with its humble hospitality and insistence on the dignity of the refugees reaching its shores.

(It is to be recalled that a Swiss newspaper has also named Father Mussie of a busy mobile telephone to be considered for Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to save lives of so many Eritreans in the Mediterranean Sea – Harnnet.org).

Freedom in the World 2014

Wednesday, 04 February 2015 23:51 Written by

Eritrea

Top of FormBottom of Form

OVERVIEW: 


President Isaias Afwerki’s personal authority was publically challenged in 2013 for the first time in more than a decade when, on January 21, more than 100 soldiers occupied the Ministry of Information, took over the state-run television channel, Eri-TV, and demanded democratic reforms, including the implementation of Eritrea’s constitution and the release of thousands of political prisoners. The revolt was quelled within hours, as the government reportedly negotiated with the soldiers. Their message was pulled off the air mid-broadcast, and calm was restored following negotiations in which the soldiers agreed to return to their barracks. Reports suggest there were between 60 and 200 arrests in the days following the incident, though details are vague due to the intense secrecy surrounding the Eritrean regime.

Several other incidents in 2013 suggested that, for some, discontent with the regime was reaching a breaking point. A number of high-profile defections were confirmed, including Eritrea’s former information minister, two senior Air Force pilots, and the national football team, all of whom left the country in late 2012. In October, more than 250 Eritreans and Somalis tragically drowned as they tried to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa in an overcrowded boat. Another 200 people were missing, and presumed dead. The incident illustrated to many the plight of ordinary Eritreans.

POLITICAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES: 

Political Rights: 1 / 40

A. Electoral Process: 0 / 12

Following Eritrea’s formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Isaias Afwerki was chosen by a Transitional National Assembly to serve as president until elections could be held. He has remained in charge ever since. His rule has become harshly authoritarian, particularly since the end of a bloody border war with Ethiopia in 2000.

A new constitution, ratified in 1997, called for “conditional” political pluralism and an elected 150-seat National Assembly, which would choose the president from among its members by a majority vote. This system has never been implemented, and national elections planned for 2001 have been postponed indefinitely. The Transitional National Assembly is comprised of 75 members of the ruling party—the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)—and 75 elected members. In 2004, regional assembly elections were conducted, but they were carefully orchestrated by the PFDJ and offered no real choice to voters.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 0 / 16

Created in 1994, the PFDJ is the only legal political party. The PFDJ and the military are in practice the only institutions of political significance in Eritrea, and both entities are strictly subordinate to the president.

C. Functioning of Government: 1 / 12

Corruption is a major problem. The government’s control over foreign exchange effectively gives it sole authority over imports, and those in favor with the regime are allowed to profit from the smuggling and sale of scarce goods such as building materials, food, and alcohol. According to the International Crisis Group, senior military officials are the chief culprits in this trade. The UN Eritrea and Somalia Monitoring Group has accused senior officers of running a lucrative criminal network smuggling people and arms out of the country. 

The government operates without public scrutiny and few outside a small clique around the president have any insight into how policy and budget decisions are made and implemented.

           

Civil Liberties: 2 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 0 / 16

The law does not allow independent media to operate in Eritrea, and the government controls all broadcasting outlets. A group of 10 journalists arrested in 2001 remains imprisoned without charge, and the government refuses to provide any information on their status. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 28 journalists were in prison in Eritrea at the end of 2012. In September 2013, a dissident group drawing inspiration from January’s army mutiny said it had begun circulating an underground newspaper in Asmara written by a team based inside and outside the country.

The government controls the internet infrastructure and is thought to monitor online communications. Foreign media are available to those few who can afford a satellite dish.

The government places strict limits on the exercise of religion. Since 2002 it has officially recognized only four faiths: Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Lutheranism as practiced by the Evangelical Church of Eritrea. Members of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches face persecution, but the most severe treatment is reserved for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are barred from government jobs and refused business permits or identity cards. According to Amnesty International, members of other churches have been jailed and tortured or otherwise ill-treated to make them abandon their faith. As many as 3,000 people from unregistered religious groups are currently in prison because of their beliefs. Abune Antonios, patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, has been under house arrest since speaking out against state interference in religion in 2006.

Academic freedom is constrained. Students in their last year of secondary school are subject to obligatory military service. Academics practice self-censorship and the government interferes with their course content and limits their ability to conduct research abroad. Eritrea’s university system has been effectively closed, replaced by regional colleges whose main purposes are military training and political indoctrination. Freedom of expression in private discussions is limited. People are guarded in voicing their opinions for fear of being overheard by government informants.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 0 / 12

Freedoms of assembly and association are not recognized. The government maintains a hostile attitude toward civil society, and independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are not tolerated. A 2005 law requires NGOs to pay taxes on imported materials, submit project reports every three months, renew their licenses annually, and meet government-established target levels of financial resources. The six remaining international NGOs that had been working in Eritrea were forced to leave in 2011. The government placed strict controls on UN operations in the country, preventing staff from leaving the capital.

The government controls all union activity. The National Confederation of Eritrean Workers is the country’s main union body and has affiliated unions for women, teachers, young people, and general workers.

F. Rule of Law: 0 / 16

The judiciary, which was formed by decree in 1993, is understaffed, unprofessional, and has never issued rulings at odds with government positions. Most criminal cases are heard by the Special Court, composed of PFDJ loyalists chosen by the president himself. The International Crisis Group has described Eritrea as a “prison state” for its flagrant disregard of the rule of law and its willingness to detain anyone suspected of opposing the regime, usually without charge, for indefinite periods. In 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that there were between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea. They include surviving members of a group of ruling party-members who publicly criticized Afwerki in May 2001. Eleven of them were arrested for treason, along with a number of journalists, but were never charged. Many of the jailed dissidents and journalists were subsequently reported to have died in custody, but the government refuses to divulge information about them.

Torture, arbitrary detentions, and political arrests are common. Prison conditions are harsh, and outside monitors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross are denied access to detainees. Juvenile prisoners are often incarcerated alongside adults. In some facilities, inmates are held in metal shipping containers or underground cells in extreme temperatures. Prisoners are often denied medical treatment. The government maintains a network of secret detention facilities.

The Kunama people, one of Eritrea’s nine ethnic groups, face severe discrimination. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals face legal and social discrimination due to the criminalization of same-sex sexual relations.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 2 / 16

Freedom of movement, both inside and outside the country, is tightly controlled. Eritreans under the age of 50 are rarely given permission to go abroad, and those who try to travel without the correct documents face imprisonment. The authorities adopt a shoot-on-sight policy toward people found in locations deemed off-limits, such as mining facilities and areas close to the border. Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers who are repatriated from other countries are also detained. These strict penalties fail to deter tens of thousands of people from risking their lives to escape the country each year.

Government policy is officially supportive of free enterprise, and citizens are in theory able to choose their employment, establish private businesses, and operate them without harassment. In reality, a conscription system ties most able-bodied men and women to obligatory military service and can also entail compulsory labor for enterprises controlled by the political elite. The official 18-month service period is frequently open-ended in practice, and conscientious-objector status is not recognized. The government conducted raids in several cities in October 2013, detaining young men of fighting age and sending them to military training camps. Reports suggest as many as 1,500 men were seized in Asmara alone.  The government imposes collective punishment on the families of deserters, forcing them to pay heavy fines or putting them in prison. The enforced contraction of the labor pool, combined with a lack of investment and rigid state control of private enterprise, has crippled the national economy. The government levies a compulsory 2 percent tax on income earned by citizens living overseas, and those who do not pay place their relatives back home at risk of arrest.

Women hold some senior government positions, including four ministerial posts. The government has made attempts to promote women’s rights, with laws mandating equal educational opportunity, equal pay for equal work, and penalties for domestic violence. However, traditional societal discrimination against women persists in the countryside. While female genital mutilation was banned by the government in 2007, the practice remains widespread in rural areas.

The U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report ranks Eritrea at Tier 3, describing it as a source country for individuals subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Source=https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2014/eritrea#.VNKFBNLF8TE