Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights UK (EHDR-UK)

  Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights-UK (EHDR-UK) is a UK based voluntary activist movement working for the respect of human and democratic rights of Eritreans in Eritrea and abroad. It is independent of any political persuasion or religious creed. It was set up in May 2002 in response to the deteriorating human rights and political situation in Eritrea.

  We at EHDR-UK are appreciative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Human Rights Report 2005 which highlighted the human rights situation across the globe and the initiatives the UK Government and its EU partners have taken to support the respect of human rights in our world today. Indeed, injustice somewhere is a risk to justice everywhere, and hence human rights abuse should be an issue of concern to every human being. It is therefore in this light that we seek to highlight the plight of Eritreans, whose human rights are continuously being trampled upon by a regime that is following a brutally dictatorial course upon which it openly embarked in 2001, heralded by the arrest of 11 top party and government officials and the shutting down of all privately owned newspapers. Today Eritrea is the scene of gross human and democratic rights abuse that spans across every aspect of Eritrean life. However, we feel that the report has largely omitted many of these and neglected to include Eritrea in the list of countries that warrant serious concern owing to their poor human rights records. We think this is a serious omission.

  Over the year covered by the report, there were a number of new and continuing worrying developments. These include:

    —  Over 40 young people were killed in Adi Abieto detention centre in November 2004 when they tried to escape from forced recruitment into the army;

    —  There were reports of 161 young Eritreans being gunned down when they tried to escape from the inhospitable Wia military training/detention camp in April/May 2005;

    —  Hundreds of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians were detained over the last year from weddings and other social events, all churches not belonging to the three official churches remain closed and their activities banned since May 2002. A number of Muslim teachers were disappeared in 1994 and have not been heard of since;

    —  Eritreans continued to flee to the neighbouring countries in their thousands;

    —  The number of new Eritrean asylum seekers in the UK and EU continued to increase;

    —  The former high ranking ministers and officials (also known as G11) who were members of parliament and many others remain in unknown detention centres incommunicado detention. The Government also started a new wave of re-incrimination in order to set the scene for their execution. None of them have been seen in public and there is grave concern about their well being;

    —  All the independent journalists remain incommunicado detention and the country is still without independent media;

    —  The rule of law is seriously hampered in Eritrea and arbitrary arrests without due process are the norm;

    —  The country's parliament has not met for a number of years now;

    —  The Constitution which was ratified by the Constituent Assembly in 1997 remains unimplemented;

    —  Political parties are still not allowed in Eritrea.

  The above list and the evidence we are providing fully demonstrates the need for taking actions that ensure that the human and democratic rights of every Eritrean are respected in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We, therefore, urge that Eritrea be added to the list of "countries of concern". Furthermore, we urge the Committee to recommend further action be taken by Her Majesty's Government on the Eritrean authorities until the human rights situation improves in the country. The UK with its European partners has already taken some bold steps against similar states such as Burma and Zimbabwe. We feel that the situation in Eritrea is at least as bad if not worse than those states. We urge the Committee to recommend travel bans to officials of the Government and the ruling party in order to persuade the Government of Eritrea to adhere to the various human rights agreements that the nation is a party to. It is our sincere hope that the evidence presented below will achieve our main aim of highlighting the gross human and democratic rights abuse in Eritrea.

Noel Joseph

Executive Director

Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights UK

7 November 2005

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