Eritrea is a highly centralized, totalitarian regime under the control of President Isaias Afwerki. A constitution drafted in 1997 was never implemented. The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, headed by the president, is the sole political party. There have been no national-level elections since an independence referendum in 1993.
Police are responsible for maintaining internal security, but the government sometimes used the armed forces, reserves, demobilized soldiers, or civilian militia to meet domestic as well as external security requirements. Agents of the national security service, a separate agency that reports to the Office of the President, are responsible for detaining persons suspected of threatening national security. The armed forces have authority to arrest and detain civilians. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over most security forces. There were reports members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.
The country continued to experience significant adverse changes in its human rights situation due to its intervention in the conflict in northern Ethiopia, especially following the renewed outbreak of conflict in late August. The Eritrean Defense Forces were responsible for widespread and serious human rights abuses including executions, rape, and torture of civilians within Ethiopia. After re-entering the conflict in August, the government increased the number of Eritrean Defense Forces in Ethiopia and began a national mobilization of its militia.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: forced disappearance; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in a conflict, including reportedly unlawful civilian deaths, abductions, physical abuses, and use of child soldiers; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; severe restrictions on religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement and residence within the territory of the state and on the right to leave the country; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government restrictions on domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, workplace violence, femicide, and other forms of gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; existence and enforcement of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; outlawing of independent trade unions; and the worst forms of child labor.
The government did not generally take steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights abuses. Impunity for such abuses was the norm.
For Further Reference
Full U.S. Department of State Human Rights Country Report
U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom Country Report
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Annual Report Chapter on Eritrea
U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report Country Narrative
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Human Rights Watch World Report Country Chapter
Amnesty International Annual Report Country Chapter
Freedom House Freedom in the World Country Report