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Eritrea: Human Rights

Volume 471: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in Eritrea; and if he will make a statement. (181819)

We monitor events in Eritrea closely and remain deeply concerned about Eritrea’s human rights record.

Our embassy in Asmara is aware of the detention without charge by the Eritrean Government of members of minority religious groups, journalists, leading political figures and members of civil society. This is unacceptable and contravenes international human rights agreements to which Eritrea is a party.

Our ambassador in Asmara raises these issues with the Eritrean Government at every suitable opportunity. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials do likewise with the Eritrean embassy in the UK.

We also raise our concerns on human rights through the EU. For example the EU lobbied Eritrea on the sixth anniversary of the detention in September 2001 of the G11, 11 members of the Eritrean political party who protested at the government’s direction in a letter to President Isaias, together with a number of journalists who were also detained at that time.

Following up on reports of human rights abuses is not easy in Eritrea. There are no independent local journalists. There are neither local nor international human rights non-governmental organisations operating in Eritrea. The police and security services are not willing to engage with embassies on these matters. Travel restrictions mean foreign diplomats may only leave Asmara with written permission.

We will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Eritrea, raising our concerns with the Eritrean Government whenever possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the treatment of Christians in Eritrea; and if he will make a statement. (181820)

We continue to be concerned by reports of detentions of members of minority Christian Churches. While Orthodox Christians, Catholics and the major Protestant Churches, who make up an estimated 40-50 per cent. of the population of Eritrea, are usually able to worship openly, some church activities can be restricted and members of smaller churches are not free to pursue their faith.

We will continue to urge the Government of Eritrea to allow all its citizens to worship as they wish, as set out in article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.