Eritrea

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Persistent violations
  • Female genital mutilation[1]
  • Early marriage[2]
  • Sexual exploitation and abuse of children, particularly girls[3]
  • Corporal punishment[4]
  • Use of, and conditions in, detention for children[5]
  • Economic exploitation of children and child labour[6]
  • Children recruited to be soldiers and insufficient rehabilitation for former child soldiers[7]
  • Torture and degrading treatment of children by the police and military[8]
  • Children living and working on the streets[9]
  • Inadequate system of birth registration[10]
  • Inadequate education provision and high levels of illiteracy and dropouts[11]
  • Inadequate provision for children with disabilities, particularly with regards to education[12]
  • Inadequate health care provision, high rates of infant, child and maternal mortality[13]
  • Inadequate protections for internally displaced children[14]
  • Poverty affecting children, including inadequate access to food, water, housing and sanitation[15]

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Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  8. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  9. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  10. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  11. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  12. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  13. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  14. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  15. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review



Introduction

A multi-ethnic country located along the Horn of Africa, Eritrea borders Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, with a large stretch of Red Sea coastal territory. Independent by war from Ethiopia in 1991, the single party state has failed to move towards a genuine democratic system. Eritrea has severe restrictions on press freedom, with no independent media outlets permitted to operate, as well as suppression of rights to speech, assembly and association for political opposition and reports of extensive religious persecution.


Geography

Located in west Africa on the Red Sea, Eritrea borders Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The East African Rift cuts the country in two, with fertile lands to the west and desert to the east. The capital city is Asmara.

Population and Language

Eritrea is home to a little under 5.5 million people, an ethnically diverse population largely made up of Tigryinya, Tigre, Afar, Kunama, Bilen, Hedareb and Rashaida peoples, none of which account for a majority.

Tigrinya, Tigre, Arabic and English are all spoken by substantial communities within the country.[1]

History and Politics

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the territory now known as Eritrea came under the control of the Ethiopian Crown as part of a plan backed by the UN General Assembly. The two countries were governed as a federation until 1962, when Ethiopia annexed Eritrea and converted it into a province. Eritrea remained under Ethiopian control for the next 32 years, but groups developed in both states and fought a sustained guerilla war throughout the period. In 1991, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front captured the Eritrean capital, formed a provisional government and, following a referendum, declared independence.

Following independence, territorial disputes played a major role in national politics. Eritrea fought a war with Yemen over the ownership of islands in the Red Sea and, in 1998, border clashes with Ethiopia developed into a full-scale war leading to the deaths of as many as 70,000 people.[2] Following the ceasefire, the border dispute continued with UN peacekeepers along the border. The peacekeepers withdrew in 2008 at the direction of the UN Security Council, however, on the grounds that they were unable to fulfil their mandate.[3] A further dispute broke out with Djibouti during the same year, and the UN imposed sanctions on Eritrea during 2009 for its alleged support of Islamist military groups in Somalia.[4]

Isaias Aferki was elected President of Eritrea in 1993, and has retained power since. Presidential elections were initially scheduled for 1997, but were never held. Eritrea is run as a single party state under the People's Front for Democracy and Justice.

Economy

Eritrea was among Africa's fastest growing economies in 2011, with a projected GDP growth of 14 per cent, up from 2.2 per cent the previous year. A favourable harvest and profit within the mining sector served to achieve significant growth. The country nonetheless faces significant economic difficulties. Two-thirds of the population work in the agricultural industry, a unpredicatble enterprise given the instability in the industry. As a country on the Sahel, Eritrea experiences periodic droughts and chronic food shortages, and even during a good harvest, the Eritrean agricultrual industry can only provide 60 to 70 per cent of its population's food need. Reliance on agriculture and mining, therefore, leaves the national economy heavily reliant on food and resource prices.[5]

Media and Civil Society

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has rated Eritrea as the world's worst violator of press freedom every year since 2007 in its Press Freedom Index.[6] In 2001, the government instigated a crackdown on reformist members of the ruling party, and conducted corresponding repressive polices for the press, leading to the imprisonment of ministers, generals and journalists. The few independent newspapers that were operating at the time were banned, and Eritrea is now among the few country's in the world with no private media. RWB has reported that as many as 28 journalists were detained in 2011, many of whom were being held incommunicado.[7] Freedom House has also reported that as of 2010 it was almost impossible for foreign media to report from within the country, and that to do so would require a guarantee to report favourably on the regime.[8]

There are substantial barriers to civil society operating in the country. Under legislation implemented in 2005, NGOs are required to renew their licences annually, meet government-established target levels for financial resources and must submit project reports every three months. International NGOs are barred from the country and only six international humanitarian organisations had a presence in Eritrea as of 2010.[9]

Human Rights and Children's Rights

Eritrea has an appalling record on human rights. Compulsory national service and military conscription is in place for all men and women over 18 and all school children are required to complete the final year of their secondary education in a military camp. National services is widely used as a source of cheap or forced labour and takes place in harsh conditions. The UNHCR estimated that 3,000 Eritreans fled the country every month during 2011, among whom young people escaping the harsh conditions under indefinite national service were significantly over-represented. The State operates a “shoot to kill” policy for those trying to flee the country.[10]

Under national law, children should not be recruited to serve in the armed forces, but the Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern at the practice of recruitment and ill-treatment of under-age boys within the Eritrean military. Eritrean prisons are used to detain political prisoners, journalists as well as those who try to flee the country or desert the army. Prisoners are widely subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and frequently die from the harsh conditions in prisons.[11]

  1. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Eritrea Country Profile" 6 September 2012
  2. BBC, "Eritrea Country Profile" 14 June 2012
  3. United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, "Last peacekeepers leave UNMEE" 15 October 2008
  4. UN News Centre, "Security Council imposes sanctions on Eritrea" 23 December 2009
  5. The World Bank, "Eritrea Country Brief" October 2012
  6. Reporters Without Borders, "Press Freedom Index 2011/12"
  7. See Reporters Without Borders, "World report: Eritrea" and Press Freedom Barometer 2012"
  8. Freedom House, "Freedom of the Press 2011: Eritrea"
  9. Freedom House, "Freedom in the World 2011"
  10. Amnesty International, "World Report 2012: the state of the world's human rights"
  11. See CRIN, "ERITREA: Persistent violations of children's rights" 19 October 2012

Sources:

Quick Facts

  • Population: 5,415,300 (UNDP, 2012)
  • Population under 18: 2,588,000 (UNICEF, 2011)
  • Number of internet users: 377,636 (6.2% of the population) (Internet World Stats, 2012)
  • Human Development Index ranking: 181 (UNDP, 2012)
  • Happy Planet ranking: N/A