Many of us might remember the hopes connected with Eritrean independence back in the early 1990s. I myself remember reading about self-reliant development, the formation of cooperatives, and in general about Eritrea taking a path which would not rely on international institutions such as the World Bank, which drove many other countries into huge external debts. However, 14 years later the situation looks entirely differently, and this issue of The Broken Rifle can only give a glimpse of what is actually happening in the country.
Eritrea, located in the horn of Africa, won its de-facto independence on 24 May 1991 after 30 years of a bitter, bloody and costly armed struggle against rule by its neighbour, Ethiopia. Eritrea formally declared independence on 24 May 1993 after an overwhelming yes vote in a referendum overseen by the United Nations.
How the list works
First are prisoners' names (in bold), followed by their sentence, then their place of imprisonment and, finally the reason for their detention
Information about countries where prisoners have had their sentences suspended, where sentences have been served or completed during the year, or where there are simply too many imprisoned COs to list, are in italics.
Although Armenia passed a law on conscientious objection in 2004, the country continues to imprison conscientious objectors.
I was born on 10 January 1981 in Asmara. I was just 15 years old, and we were told that we would get the results of the school leaving examinations only after basic training in the National Service. That's why I joined the military, hoping that my exam results were good and I could leave after basic training to study. In 1996 I was brought to Sawa for basic training.
I was born in Asmara on 12 December 1978. In 1996 I was drafted into the national service in Sawa.
During basic training the food was bad and so was the training. Our instructors did not stick to the training program but, for example, they had us wash their clothes or fetch water, forcing us to submit to their will. There wasn't enough to eat. Spoilt flour was used for baking.
Abraham Gebreyesus Mehreteab addressed the 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights on behalf of War Resisters' International. We document his statement below.
I'm representing War Resisters' International. We conduct research on conscientious objection to military service in many countries. Last year, we undertook a preliminary survey on the issue of Eritrean conscientious objectors. We learned that there are thousands of Eritrean conscientious objectors and deserters.
Thousands of people arrested on suspicion of evading military conscription and held at Adi Abeto army prison are thought to be at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment. At least a dozen prisoners have reportedly been shot dead and many more were wounded following a disturbance at the prison. On 4 November Eritrean security forces in the capital, Asmara, indiscriminately arrested thousands of youths and others suspected of evading military conscription. The arrests took place in the streets, shops and offices, at roadblocks and in homes.
Amnesty International reported on 28 July 2005 about the arrest of several hundred relatives of people who have evaded or deserted from the military. The arrests took place in the Debug region of southern Eritrea since 15 July.
The Broken Rifle is the newsletter of War Resisters' International, and is published in English, Spanish, French and German.This is issue 68, November 2005.
This issue of The Broken Rifle was produced by Andreas Speck. Special thanks go to NukeResister, Forum 18, Amnesty International, and all others who provided the information used in this issue, and to Mitzi Bales for help with editing. If you want extra copies of this issue of The Broken Rifle, please contact the WRI office, or download it from our website.