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The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Eritrea

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 1 June 2011
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Eritrea, 1 June 2011, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
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: 5,200,000
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 Review2001200220032004200520062007200820092010

2010 Key Developments: The political system remained frozen in 2010, with no plans for national elections despite 17 years of independence and 10 years of tense peace with Ethiopia. The government continued to use the threat of arrest and an onerous conscription system to maintain control over the population. Diplomatic friction with neighboring Djibouti eased during the year after Eritrea withdrew its forces from contested territory and agreed to a negotiated settlement.

Political Rights: Eritrea is not an electoral democracy. The only legal political party, the Popular Front for Democracy and Justice, maintains complete dominance over the country's political life and has become harshly authoritarian since the end of the war with Ethiopia. The constitution provides for an elected legislature that would choose the president from among its members by a majority vote. However, this system has never been implemented, as national elections have been postponed indefinitely. President Isaias Afwerki has remained in office since independence. Corruption appears to have increased in recent years. Senior military officials have been accused of profiting from the smuggling and sale of scarce goods such as building materials, food, and alcohol; charging fees to assist the growing number of Eritreans who wish to flee the country; and using conscript labor for private building projects.

Civil Liberties: The government controls all broadcasting outlets and banned all privately owned newspapers in a 2001 crackdown. A group of journalists arrested in 2001 remain imprisoned without charge, and as many as half of the original 10 are believed to have died in custody. There was a fresh wave of arrests in 2009, and at least 17 journalists were known to be behind bars at the end of 2010. 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 is not recognized. Independent nongovernmental organizations are not tolerated, and international human rights groups are barred from the country. In 2010 Eritrea accepted a recommendation by the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent national human rights institution, but no such body had been formed by year's end. The judiciary has never issued rulings significantly at variance with government positions, and constitutional due process guarantees are often ignored in cases related to state security. Torture, arbitrary detentions, and political arrests are common. The government maintains a network of secret detention facilities and frequently refuses to disclose the location of prisoners to their families. The Kunama people, one of Eritrea's nine ethnic groups, reportedly face severe discrimination. Freedom of movement is heavily restricted, and most able-bodied men and women are subject to the system of obligatory military service, which is often open-ended in practice. The government has made genuine attempts to promote women's rights, but traditional societal discrimination against women persists in rural areas. Female genital mutilation was banned by the government in 2007, but the practice remains widespread.

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