Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,
Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received
Communication sent on 11 October 2007 jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture
93. The Special Rapporteurs brought to the attention of the Government information they had received regarding Mr. Paulos Eyassu, Mr. Isaac Mogos, Mr. Negede Teklemariam, Mr. Aron Abraha, Mr. Mussie Fessehaye, Mr. Ambakom Tsegezab, Mr. Bemnet Fessehaye, Mr. Henok Ghebru, Mr. Kibreab Fessehaye, Mr. Bereket Abraha Oqbagabir, Mr. Yosief Fessehaye, Mr. Asmeron Beraki, Mr. Tesgabirhan Berhe, Mr. Yemane Tsegay, Ms. Akberet Ghebremichael, Ms. Rebka Ghebretinsaye, Mr. Fesseha Ghebrezadik, Mr. Tekle Kebede, Mr. Hagos Woldemichael, Mr. Worede Kiros, Mr. Tekle Tesfai, Mr. Yonathan Yonas, Mr. Ghebrenigus Habte, Mr. Ghebru Birhane and Mr. Tekleab Tesfamichael.
94. According to the information received these 25 Jehovah’s Witnesses were detained solely on the basis of their religious beliefs in the Eritrean prisons of Sawa Camp, Mai Serwa and Sembel Prison Asmara. The eleven first-named persons have been imprisoned for conscientious objection to military service whereas the others were arrested while attending religious meetings or sharing their faith with people in public. The Government had not designed any service alternative to military service, which would permit Jehovah’s Witnesses and others whose faith prevents them from serving in the army to satisfy the requirement of doing national service. Mr. Paulos Eyassu, Mr. Isaac Mogos and Mr. Negede Teklemariam have been imprisoned since 24 September 1994 in the Sawa prison for conscientious objection although the maximum legal penalty for refusing to perform national service is two years. Furthermore, they were denied any visitors, including their families. No specific charges have been filed against them and they have never been given a trial. The conditions of detention in Sawa Camp are harsh with overcrowding and extremely restricted access to medical care. Most of the prisoners are said to be held in metal containers and underground cells.
95. The Special Rapporteur regrets that she has not received a reply from the Government concerning the above mentioned allegation. She wishes to stress that the right of conscientious objection is a right which is closely linked with freedom of religion of belief. The Special Rapporteur would like to draw the Government’s attention to paragraph 5 of resolution 1998/77 of the Commission on Human Rights, which emphasizes that States should take the necessary measures to refrain from subjecting conscientious objectors to imprisonment. Imprisoning conscientious objectors for more than 13 years is clearly a disproportionate measure which violates the individuals’ right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid down in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).