Population: 5,939,000
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 Review2002200320042005200620072008200920102011

2011 Key Developments: The Eritrean government's suppression of the basic political rights and civil liberties of its citizens continued in 2011. Plans for national elections remained on permanent hold 18 years after independence, and a ban on independent media and foreign organizations remained in place during the year. Meanwhile, a UN report accused Eritrea of planning a terrorist attack against neighboring Ethiopia.

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, but this system has never been implemented, as national elections have been postponed indefinitely. President Isaias Afwerki has remained in office since independence. Corruption continues to be a problem. 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 28 journalists were known to be in prison in 2011. 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. As many as 3,000 people from unregistered religious groups are currently in prison because of their beliefs; the majority are Pentecostal or Evangelical Christians. Three Christians incarcerated at a military detention center reportedly died from mistreatment during 2011. Freedom of assembly is not recognized. Independent nongovernmental organizations are not tolerated, and international human rights groups are barred from the country. In September 2011, Eritrea accused Amnesty International of infiltrating the country to try to foment a North African-style revolution. 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. In some facilities, inmates are held in metal shipping containers or underground cells in extreme temperatures. Prisoners are often denied medical treatment. The government maintains a network of secret detention facilities. The Kunama people, one of Eritrea's nine ethnic groups, reportedly face severe discrimination. Freedom of movement is heavily restricted. Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers who are repatriated from other countries are detained, and a number of repatriated Eritreans disappeared while in custody in 2011. Eritrea has been identified as a source country for human trafficking for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. The government has made various attempts to promote women's rights, but traditional societal discrimination against women persists in rural areas. While female genital mutilation was banned by the government in 2007, the practice remains widespread in the countryside.

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