Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

The Worst of the Worst 2010 - Eritrea

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 3 June 2010
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2010 - Eritrea, 3 June 2010, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 5,073,000
Capital: Asmara

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7 ↓
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2000200120022003200420052006200720082009

Ratings Change: Eritrea's civil liberties rating declined from 6 to 7 due to the government's persistent and intense repression of religious minorities, its dominance over the judiciary, and its harsh system of national service, which ties people to the state for much of their working lives.

2009 Key Developments: The government of Eritrea intensified its suppression of human rights in 2009, using arbitrary arrests and an onerous conscription system to control the population. Religious minorities faced particular pressure from the authorities, who continued to use a pliant judicial system to detain political prisoners indefinitely. Meanwhile, Eritrea defied a UN Security Council resolution instructing it to withdraw its troops from the disputed border with Djibouti following clashes between the two countries' armies in 2008.

Political Rights: Eritrea is not an electoral democracy. The Popular Front for Democracy and Justice maintains complete dominance over the country's political life and has taken significant steps away from a democratic system since the end of the war with Ethiopia. The 2001 crackdown on those calling for greater political pluralism and subsequent repressive steps clearly demonstrate the Eritrean government's authoritarian stance. The constitution provides for the legislature to elect the president from among its members by a majority vote. However, national elections have been postponed indefinitely. Regulations governing political parties have never been enacted, and independent political parties do not exist. In recent years corruption appears to have increased somewhat.

Civil Liberties: Government control over all broadcast outlets and the repression of independent print publications has eliminated the vehicles for dissemination of opposing or alternative views. In its September 2001 crackdown, the government banned all privately owned newspapers, and journalists arrested in 2001 remain imprisoned or died while incarcerated. There was a fresh wave of arrests in 2009. The government places significant limitations on the exercise of religion. It officially recognizes only four faiths: Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Lutheranism as practiced by the Evangelical Church of Eritrea. Persecution of minority Christian sects has escalated in recent years. Freedom of assembly does not exist. Independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are not allowed, and the legitimate role of human rights defenders is not recognized. International human rights organizations are barred from the country, and the government expelled three remaining development NGOs in 2006. The judiciary has never issued rulings significantly at variance with government's positions, and constitutional guarantees are often ignored in cases related to state security. Torture, arbitrary detentions, and political arrests are common. The Kunama people, one of Eritrea's nine ethnic groups, reportedly face severe discrimination. The government has worked to improve the status of women, codifying equal educational opportunity, equal pay for equal work, and penalties for domestic violence. However, traditional societal discrimination against women persists in the largely rural and agricultural country.

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