Eritrea is a highly centralized, authoritarian regime under the control of President Isaias Afwerki. The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), headed by the president, is the sole political party. There have been no elections since the country’s independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Civilian authorities in the regime generally maintained effective control over most security forces.
In 2016, the three most important human rights abuses included the inability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair elections; detention without charge under harsh conditions that reportedly sometimes resulted in death; and forced participation in the country’s national service program, routinely for periods of indefinite duration beyond the 18-month legal 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 internal movement and foreign travel; corruption and lack of transparency; violence against women and girls; and 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 abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Impunity was the norm.