The government of Eritrea is a highly centralized, authoritarian regime. The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), is the sole political party. There have been no elections since the country’s independence from Ethiopia in 1991. Civilian authorities in the regime generally maintained effective control over most security forces.
A 2015 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) found “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the Government of Eritrea.” The COI also reported “the violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), national service, and forced labor may constitute crimes against humanity.”
During 2015, citizens did not have the ability to choose their government through the right to vote in free and fair elections. Incommunicado detention without charge continued under life-threatening conditions, which reportedly sometimes resulted in death. The government forced persons to participate in its national service program, routinely for periods of indefinite duration beyond the 18-month obligation.
Other abuses included killings and disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; arbitrary arrest; executive interference in the judiciary; lack of due process and excessively long pretrial detention; politically motivated detentions; evictions without due process; infringement on privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of speech and press; restrictions on academic freedom and cultural events; restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and religion; limits on freedom of movement and foreign travel; corruption and lack of transparency; violence against women; and alleged discrimination against ethnic minorities. The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity. Female genital mutilation/cutting, human trafficking, and forced labor occurred. Government policies limited worker rights.
The government did not generally prosecute or punish officials who committed violations, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Impunity was the norm.