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Eritrea: Christianity

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 18 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Eritrean government on the imprisonment of Christians in that country. (279604)

Our embassy in Asmara is aware of reports of the detention without charge by the Eritrean Government of members of minority religious groups along with journalists, leading political figures and members of civil society and returned asylum seekers. This contravenes international human rights agreements to which Eritrea is a party and is unacceptable. Eritrea should allow all its citizens to worship as they wish, as set out in Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UK raises human rights issues including religious freedom with the Eritrean Government both in Asmara and with the Eritrean ambassador to London on a regular basis. My noble Friend, the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, Lord Malloch-Brown, raised human rights with the Eritrean ambassador at the end of last year.

A huge obstacle to achieving any progress on human rights in Eritrea is that the Eritrean police and security services are not willing to engage with our embassy on human rights abuses. This makes following up reports of any abuses, including imprisonments, very difficult.

The EU has also tried to discuss human rights as part of the Article 8 Political Dialogue with Eritrea. Unfortunately, since initial discussions earlier this year the Government of Eritrea have twice refused to have human rights included on the Article 8 Dialogue agenda for discussion.

We will continue to raise human rights, including the detention without charge of minority religious groups, with the Eritrean authorities.