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Eritrea: Religious Freedom

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the treatment of religious minorities in Eritrea; and if he will make a statement. (188014)

[holding answer 26 February 2008]: We monitor events in Eritrea closely and remain deeply concerned by reports of detentions of members of minority 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.

This is unacceptable and contravenes international human rights agreements to which Eritrea is a party. Eritrea should allow all its citizens to worship as they wish, as set out in Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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. My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch-Brown, personally raised the issue of human rights abuses in Eritrea with the Eritrean ambassador on 18 February.