On June 8th, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea released its second report discussing the human rights situation in Eritrea. The commissioners recommended in the report that the United Nations Security Council refer the situation in Eritrea to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court due to the fact that “Eritrea is not in a position to provide accountability for [its] crimes and violations.”
The 94-page report further details human rights atrocities also recorded in last year’s report, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, and religious persecution.
While from the outside it may appear that Eritreans have religious freedom, it is quite far from the truth. In an attempt to assume complete control of religious activities and teachings, the government only recognizes four religious denominations: Islam, Eritrean Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Lutheranism. Church leaders are often selected by the government, while sermons and activities are regulated. Other faiths and denominations are forced to meet and worship in secret, and if discovered, face severe consequences amounting to persecution.
This year’s report included the testimony of an individual who faced persecution in Eritrea due to their faith:
“I left Eritrea on 20 January 2016 because I was not able to practice my religion freely and I was detained many times for being a member of [a non-recognised religion]. I was detained the last time on 9 March 2014. We were 58 people, including women and children, worshipping together when the military police stormed the premises and arrested us all. They took us to [the local] police prison. They beat us very badly and many of us sustained injuries. When we arrived at this prison we met 50 other Protestants from [a banned church] detained for practicing their faith […] On 29 March 2014, 11 of us refused to renounce our faith, so were transferred to an underground prison. On 27 April 2014, five persons agreed to renounce their faith and were released after signing documents saying that they were now members of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. On 5 May 2015, we were transferred to a military prison […] In all, we were 108 religious prisoners in this prison. I was beaten once there because I refused to renounce my religion. On 12 November 2015, while working in the garden, I managed to escape. Persecution on religious ground has not improved and people are still being arrested for worshipping. I know that many of those arrested have died in their respective prisons due to torture and pneumonia, for which some have been forbidden proper medical treatment. Protestants detained are only released after denouncing their faith and promising to worship in the Eritrean Orthodox Church.”
On Tuesday, June 21st, the Commission presented this year’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Jubilee Campaign accredited a team of individual’s not only to attend the HRC session, but to host a side-event that discusses the human rights violations occurring in Eritrea through the stories of victims.