April 16, 2009

Part 1: Background


Historical Context

Eritrea, which occupies an area of 120,000 square kilometers, borders Sudan, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. It consists of a high central plateau, lowlands in the west, and a long, strategically important coastline along the Red Sea. Eritrea’s approximately 4 million people are roughly equally divided between Christians, mostly residents of the highlands, and Muslims, largely located in the lowlands. Most Eritreans belong to the Tigre and Tigrinya ethnic groups and are linguistically divided among native Tigrinya and Arabic speakers, with smaller segments of the population speaking a variety of other languages.[1]

Contemporary Eritrea had its genesis in 1890, when Italy consolidated land it had acquired along the Red Sea Coast from Egypt. Between 1900 and 1908, Italy and the Ethiopian Emperor, Menelik II, signed three treaties purporting to establish the boundary between the Italian colony and Ethiopia. Italy’s oppressive colonial rule ended with World War II, when the British assumed interim administration of Eritrea.

Ignoring the pleas of many Eritreans for independence, in 1950 the United Nations General Assembly voted on a US-backed plan to merge Eritrea with Ethiopia as “an autonomous unit federated with Ethiopia under the sovereignty of the Ethiopian crown.”[2]In 1951, a UN-appointed commissioner oversaw the drafting of a constitution and the election of an Eritrean Assembly. British rule ended in 1952, a few months after the Eritrean National Assembly adopted the constitution.

Ethiopia, then ruled by Emperor Haile Selassie, soon encroached on Eritrea’s illusory autonomy and self-government.[3] By 1954 political parties were banned, the only independent Eritrean newspaper was closed, and by the late 1950s the Eritrean Assembly was forced to replace Tigrinya and Arabic, the official and most commonly spoken languages in Eritrea, with Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia.[4]A strike by Eritrean labor unions was violently suppressed. The federation was officially abolished by imperial Ethiopian decree on November 16, 1962.[5] The United Nations remained silent as Ethiopia unilaterally repudiated the 1950 UN resolution.[6]

Ethiopia’s repressive policies provoked a 30-year war of national liberation that continued after Haile Selassie was ousted in 1974 by Mengistu Haile Miriam and his Marxist military government, known as the Derg (“the committee” in Amharic). The conflict killed an estimated 65,000 Eritrean fighters and 40,000 civilians, maimed many times more, and caused perhaps as many as 700,000 Eritreans to flee to Sudan, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the world.[7]During the 1960s and early 1970s, an armed opposition movement called the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) led the insurgency against Ethiopia.[8] The Ethiopian military responded with collective punishment of the rural population, including the use of food as a weapon of war, scorched earth campaigns, forced relocation, and mass arrests, torture, unfair trials, and summary executions.[9]

By the 1970s a breakaway faction of the ELF had emerged, splintering the insurgency along ethnic and ideological lines. The breakaway faction became the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), led by Isayas Afewerki. Conflict between the ELF and EPLF inside Eritrea and in neighboring Sudan was at times intense between 1972 and 1975, and sometimes had a brutal impact on civilians.[10]

Unlike the original ELF leaders, who were mostly Muslims from the lowlands focused on independence, the mainly Tigrinya-speaking Christian highlanders who began to join the insurgency in the mid-1960s, and on a much larger scale in the 1970s, were largely secular, better educated, and imbued with Maoist and Marxist-Leninist ideology, intent not only on obtaining independence but on transforming Eritrean society.[11] That was especially true after new members returned from military and other training in Communist or Communist-aligned countries.[12]

The EPLF could be ruthless in dealing with dissenters. In 1974 it executed at least 11 dissidents. The victims, pejoratively known as the manqa (or menkaa) group, objected to the Soviet-style “democratic centralism” used by the leadership to impose policy decisions and to the use of force to suppress criticism.[13]The leadership’s actions, according to one authority, “set the tone for the way in which Eritrean society was mobilized by the leadership both during the armed struggle and after liberation.”[14]

In 1976, 150 EPLF members held an organizational meeting, at which Isayas Afewerki was chosen secretary-general.[15] As Dan Connell, a close observer of the EPLF has noted, a principal difference between the EPLF and its predecessors “was its commitment to simultaneous social and political struggle.... [I]t worked to transform the society it fought to liberate.”[16]In the absence of any major outside assistance, “[t]hroughout, the watchword was self reliance: doing more with less.”[17]

The war in Eritrea contributed to the overthrow in 1974 of Ethiopia’s emperor, Haile Selassie. Mengistu’s Soviet-backed Derg rejected negotiations with the EPLF and ELF and opted for continued warfare and internal repression. But by the late 1970s the Eritrean rebel movements controlled almost 90 percent of Eritrea and an Ethiopian rebel movement called the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was gaining ground in Ethiopia’s own northern Tigray region.[18]The Derg launched massive air and ground offensives in Tigray and Eritrea in response.[19] By 1982 the Derg had instituted tight controls over the civilian population in Eritrea, as well as on Eritreans throughout Ethiopia, including dusk-to-dawn curfews and stringent travel controls.[20] The Derg also encouraged civilians to spy on each other and placed those who made suggestions or protests at neighborhood meetings under surveillance or arrest, torture, or extrajudicial execution.

In early 1988 the EPLF and the TPLF, led by current Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, agreed to coordinate operations in a tactical alliance in spite of ongoing tensions between the two groups. Although the Derg tried to crush the EPLF and TPLF with saturation bombing, massive manpower, and severe famine,[21] by early 1991 the EPLF had defeated the Ethiopian army, which had been dislodged almost everywhere in Eritrea except Asmara. With the defeat of the Derg in May 1991, an EPLF Transitional Government was formed in Eritrea and a provisional government established in Addis Ababa by a coalition of Ethiopian armed movements called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by Meles Zenawi, agreed to hold a referendum on Eritrea’s future within two years, by 1993.

The first years of independence

In April 1993 Eritreans living in the country as well as those dispersed in 40 other countries voted overwhelmingly for independence from Ethiopia in a vote certified by both the UN and the Ethiopian government as free and fair.[22] In 1994 the EPLF dissolved itself, voting to transform itself into a mass political party—the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).[23] There were high hopes in Eritrea and abroad that independence would bring freedom and true self-governance.

In 1994 the Front established a transitional 150-member National Assembly to govern pending adoption of a constitution and elections. The Assembly’s membership was very narrowly based. Half consisted of the PFDJ central committee and the other half of PFDJ members selected by party leaders. The Assembly immediately chose the former EPLF leader and interim President Isayas Afeweki, now the PFDJ’s secretary-general, as Eritrea’s president.[24]

Alarmingly, arbitrary detentions, allegations of summary executions, “disappearances,” and suspicious deaths continued, marring the period between 1991 and 1998. Monitoring groups reported that over 100 political prisoners were detained in 1991 and subsequent years and held without charge or trial.[25]Some died in captivity and some disappeared—presumed to have been executed.[26] In addition, the government revoked the citizenship rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses because they allegedly refused to participate in the liberation struggle and the 1993 referendum, and refused compulsory national military service (see below).[27]Jehovah’s Witnesses were denied business and drivers licenses, passports, marriage certificates, and national identity cards essential for travel within Eritrea.[28]Three Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested in September 1994 for refusing military service remain in incommunicado detention without charge or trial more than 14 years later.[29]

Also alarming was the practice of secret administrative “trials” of opponents and the creation in 1996 of “special courts” outside the normal judicial system.[30] These extrajudicial bodies, staffed largely by military officers untrained in law, meet in secret, have authority to retry cases from civilian courts, are not limited by procedural rules, and issue judgments reviewable only by the president.

By contrast, a promising early development was the country-wide consultation and adoption of a constitution for a multi-party democratic system containing a robust list of human rights.[31] Although the interim National Assembly adopted the constitution in 1997, it has never been promulgated and implemented. On the contrary, in subsequent years, the government systematically denied Eritrean citizens the freedoms and rights embodied in the document. The government claims the border problems with Ethiopia and external interference, particularly from the United States, as the main impediments to political progress.[32]The government relies on similar justifications for never having held multi-party elections initially scheduled for 1997.[33]

The 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia

Eritrea’s relations with Ethiopia remained relatively close for the first few years after independence. But by 1997 there were increasing tensions over economic and currency issues and disputed pockets of the un-demarcated border. According to a Claims Commission established by treaty at the end of the war, the immediate cause of the intense two-year conflict was a May 12, 1998 attack by two brigades of Eritrean regular troops, supported by tanks and artillery, on the small border town of Badme and nearby areas under Ethiopian administration.[34] Eritrea claimed that its attack was prompted by an earlier attack by Ethiopian Tigrayan militia on an Eritrean border patrol. The Claims Commission held these “minor incidents,” if they occurred as Eritrea claimed, did not justify Eritrea’s full-scale attack.[35]

During the war, Ethiopia expelled most Eritrean residents who had voted in the 1993 referendum and confiscated their property. In turn Eritrea detained thousands of Ethiopians still living in the country in harsh conditions before expelling them.[36]

Fighting was deadly but inconclusive until June 2000 when the two governments agreed to a ceasefire after international—particularly US—pressure on Meles Zenawi.[37] On December 12, 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia signed an Organisation of African Unity-sponsored peace agreement in Algiers.[38]Among its provisions was the creation of a neutral five-person international boundary commission “to limit and demarcate” the border in accordance with colonial-era maps and treaties.[39]Both governments agreed in advance that the Commission’s conclusions would be final and binding, but when the Commission concluded in April 2002 that Badme would fall on the Eritrean side of the border,[40] Ethiopia reneged and refused to permit demarcation in that sector without prior direct talks between the two governments. Eritrea insisted on implementation of the judgment, including demarcation in the Badme sector, and refused to engage in any further discussion with Ethiopia.[41]

After a four-year impasse, the Commission announced that the boundary would automatically be deemed demarcated by map coordinates as of November 26, 2007.[42] After persistent interference and obstruction from Eritrea,[43] including arrests and harassment of UN staff, a United Nations peacekeeping force (UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, UNMEE), deployed to patrol a buffer zone along the disputed border in 2000, was terminated by the UN Security Council in July 2008.[44]

Today, tens of thousands of heavily armed Ethiopian and Eritrean troops are still deployed within meters of each other.[45]Even as each government publicly claims it has no intention to reignite the war, fighting could easily resume through accident or design. Neither side shows any sign of compromise on the positions they have taken: Ethiopia insists on further dialogue before demarcation of the border; Eritrea demands that the Commission’s judgment be implemented through demarcation before it will agree to talks with Ethiopia.[46]

Crackdown on internal dissent since 2001

Even as President Isayas insists on scrupulous adherence to law with regard to the border dispute, he has systematically quashed opposition and independent civil society and denied the rule of law within the country. No elections have been held since independence, the interim National Assembly has not been convened since January 2002, and the judicial system has atrophied. As one observer puts it, the formal structures of government and the single ruling party “are window-dressing for a system of carefully circumscribed one-man rule.” [47]

The result has been increasingly oppressive rule unfettered by law or other restraints. In May 2001, 15 members of the 75-member PFDJ central council, including one former minister and one former vice-president, issued an open letter criticizing several of Isayas’s actions as “illegal and unconstitutional.” The “Group of 15” (G-15) letter demanded that the president convene the PFDJ’s governing bodies. He refused.[48]

The government began large-scale arrests of critics in July 2001 with the arrest of University of Asmara student union president Semere Kesete for protesting management of the university’s mandatory summer work program. When other students protested Semere’s arrest, the government rounded up about 400 students, beat them, and trucked them to a work camp in Wi’a, west of Massawa. Another 1,700 university students soon joined them there. Wi’a’s summer daytime temperatures exceed 104°F (40°C) and the camp is a favored place of punishment. Two of the arrested students are reported to have died of heat stroke.[49]

On September 18 and 19, 2001, as the world was preoccupied with the September 11 attacks in the United States, the government arrested 11 of the G-15.[50]On September 19, the second day of the G-15 arrests, the government withdrew the licenses of all of the country’s eight independent newspapers and arrested 10 journalists (others had been warned of the crackdown and managed to escape the country).[51] The government claimed that the newspapers had violated the 1996 press proclamation and had undermined national unity.[52]Although the government announced that it would soon resume licensing of private newspapers, it has never accepted applications and it currently controls all domestic media.

The G-15 members, journalists, and dozens of others arrested in September 2001 remain incarcerated, incommunicado and without charge or trial as of March 2009. There have been detailed but unconfirmed reports that the original group of 31 people was held in isolation cells in a remote jail called Eiraeiro, located northwest of the town of Ghatielay, and built expressly to hold them.[53] At least one of the 31 detainees is believed to have died in captivity as a result of harsh conditions, deliberate ill-treatment, and denial of medical treatment.[54]One of the journalists detained—Dawit Isaak—was reported to have been moved to a hospital in February 2009 due to serious illness.[55]

The arrests of the G-15 members and journalists triggered a wave of mass arrests of suspected critics that has continued until the time of writing. Eritreans from all walks of life have been affected, including government officials, leaders of government-sponsored labor unions, businessmen, and government journalists. Few have been freed—and usually only when extremely ill and likely to die: otherwise they are incarcerated indefinitely with little prospect of release. Estimates of the number of Eritreans who currently languish in jail without charge or trial are difficult to confirm but range from 5,000 to 10,000, excluding national service deserters, who may number in the tens of thousands.[56]

Among those especially vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and detention are Eritreans attempting to practice their religion. In 2002 the government ordered all religious bodies other than those affiliated with the official Eritrean religions—Islam, Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran Christian churches—to close. Evangelical Christians are regularly rounded up and imprisoned and tortured. And in 2006 the then-septuagenarian Orthodox patriarch had his lifetime appointment rescinded for protesting the arrest of priests belonging to a reformist wing of the Church. He has been detained ever since and his whereabouts are unknown; the priests remain imprisoned.

Eritrea’s Regional Role

The Eritrean government claims that the unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia justifies maintaining the country on a war footing. But in its short history as a state, Eritrea has had tense relations with most of its regional neighbors.[57]The continuing border dispute and resulting state of no-war-no-peace with Ethiopia dominate Eritrea’s domestic and foreign policy.[58] Eritrea does have identifiable security concerns, particularly given that Ethiopia supports Eritrean opposition groups—albeit weak and fractured ones—against the government, but at home President Isayas uses the unresolved border dispute to keep Eritrea on a war footing and justify indefinite mass mobilization and repression.

Eritrea also supports a variety of longstanding Ethiopian armed opposition groups, such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), against the Ethiopian government, and generally seeks to undermine Ethiopian influence wherever it can in the region. In Somalia, Eritrea has trained, armed, and financed militias opposed to the Ethiopian-allied Transitional Federal Government. The reports of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia’s arms embargo consistently list Eritrea (as well as Ethiopia and many other states) among the significant violators of the arms embargo on Somalia.[59]This style of tit-for-tat foreign policy is not new. For years Eritrea’s relations with Sudan were also strained by mutual support for each other’s opposition groups, but relations normalized in 2006.

Ethiopian reliance on the port of Djibouti is one reason why Eritrea and Djibouti engaged in a war of words over their common border in 1996. Friction increased again in 2008 when Eritrea began digging trenches on Ras Doumeira mountain on Djibouti’s side of the border.[60]On June 10, 2008, Eritrean forces clashed with Djiboutian troops while apparently in pursuit of military deserters.[61] The United Nations Security Council issued a presidential statement on June 12, 2008, calling on both sides to commit to a ceasefire and to withdraw troops to the status quo ante. Eritrean troops nonetheless continue to occupy the invaded Djiboutian territory.

In January 2009 the UN Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution demanding that Eritrea withdraw within five weeks and that it attempt to resolve the border issue by diplomatic means.[62]Eritrea immediately rejected the demand, claiming the invaded territory is Eritrean soil and that it therefore cannot accept a resolution demanding “withdrawal of its forces from its own territory.”[63]

The Humanitarian Situation

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea suffered an enormous economic, political, and human toll from their border war and are paying a significant price for the continued deployment of tens of thousands of troops along the border. Along with the rest of the Horn of Africa, famine and drought pose major challenges for Eritrea. Anecdotal evidence suggests that hunger and malnutrition are on the rise.[64] However, little reliable data is available and Eritrea refuses to permit surveys needed to independently assess needs. There are restrictions on the movement of foreigners, making independent monitoring of conditions in the country very difficult.[65]

In a recent visit to the country, members of the European Parliament noted that there is no precise data about the levels of food insecurity in Eritrea.[66]The World Food Program (WFP) suspended food distribution programs after a policy clash: the government monetized all food aid and seized WFP stocks in 2006, stating that it was implementing a cash-for-work program in lieu of food aid distribution.[67]

The Eritrean government has also placed extensive restrictions on the operations of international nongovernmental aid organizations (NGOs). In 2005 it adopted new registration requirements that required international organizations to have US$2 million in capital in Eritrea, imposed taxes on all imports including food, among other provisions,[68] and in 2006 expelled a number of international nongovernmental organizations working in the country.[69] Currently there is only one national nongovernmental organization registered under the 2005 NGO proclamation and the work of the nine remaining international NGOs is extremely circumscribed.[70] The EU report concluded that:

While there are no independent verifications for reports about ‘silent famine’ and extreme malnutrition, several indicators suggest the risk of a humanitarian crisis as in other Horn of Africa countries. Food subsistence has been down from about 70-75 percent in 2007 to 30-35 percent this year due to the drought. Given the high food and fuel prices (Eritrea being 100 percent dependent on oil imports) and the weakness of the economy, it is unclear how additional food imports can be financed. After 60 days of overdue payment of debt obligations, the World Bank had to suspend the payment of new credits end of October 2008 for the first time.[71]

In its Humanitarian Aid Decision of February 2008, the European Commission warned of “a deteriorating humanitarian situation” and “worrying humanitarian indicators” in Eritrea, namely, a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate for under five children of over 15 percent in some areas of Eritrea, a rate “far above any emergency threshold,” and malnutrition among pregnant women of 35 to 54 percent.[72] In particular, the Commission warned, “with very little food aid being imported, due to the current Government monetization policy, the already fragile food security situation could deteriorate dramatically.”[73]


[1]Other languages include Afar, Kunama, and Tigre. CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/er.html. See also David Pool, From Guerillas to Government: The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (Oxford: James Currey; and Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2001), pp. 7-11.

[2]Res. 390(v), UN Gen. Assembly, 5th Session at (1950), p. 20. For further details on the history of US policy, and particularly its resistance to Eritrean independence see Dan Connell, Against All Odds: A Chronicle of the Eritrean Revolution (Red Sea Press, 1997).

[3]Africa Watch (now Human Rights Watch/Africa), Evil Days: 30 Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991), pp. 39-40.

[4]Michela Wrong, I Didn’t Do It For You: How the world betrayed a small African nation, (4th Estate, 2005) p. 181.

[5]Wrong, I Didn’t Do It For You, p. 183, pp. 192-193.

[6]Africa Watch, Evil Days, pp. 42-46.

[7]David Pool, From Guerillas to Government, p. 157. See also Dan Connell, Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners (Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 2005) p. 156. The estimate of 700,000 refugees, which is on the high end, comes from Kidane Mengisteab and Okbazghi Yohannes, Anatomy of an African Tragedy: Political, Economic and Foreign Policy Crisis in Post-Independence Eritrea (Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 2005), p. 71. Pool estimates that 50,000 to 60,000 Ethiopian troops were killed and wounded in Eritrea but notes the numbers have not been verified, Pool, p. 146.

[8]Dan Connell, Against All Odds.

[9]Africa Watch, Evil Days, pp. 38–53.

[10]Africa Watch, Evil Days, pp. 47-48. See also Pool, From Guerrillas to Government, pp. 70-71.

[11]Pool, From Guerrillas to Government, pp. 47-56.

[12]See Connell, Against All Odds, and Conversations, p. 141.

[13] Pool, From Guerrillas to Government, pp. 76-79; Kidane & Okbazghi, Anatomy of an African Tragedy, pp. 45-50. Manqa is the Tigrinya word for bat and was given to the group by the EPLF leadership because of the group’s nighttime efforts to recruit followers.

[14] Pool, From Guerrillas to Government, p. 77.

[15]Connell, Conversations, p. 150.

17 Connell, Conversations, p. 140.

[17]See Connell, Against All Odds, and Conversations, p. 155.

[18]Africa Watch, Evil Days, pp. 113-115.

[19]Africa Watch, Evil Days, pp. 113-118.

[20]“Those wishing to travel needed to produce an ID card, an-up-to-date rent book, tax clearance, proof of future return, and (in the case of skilled people) a signed statement by a guarantor who provided a [substantial monetary] bond . . ..” Africa Watch, Evil Days, p. 119.

[21]Human Rights Watch wrote in 1991, “[The] last three years of the war in Eritrea saw no respite from mass abuses of human rights by the Ethiopian army.” Africa Watch, Evil Days, p. 237. For further details, see pp. 237-249.

[22]A 1992 Eritrean Nationality Proclamation, no. 21/1992, defined as Eritrean “any person born to a parent of Eritrean origin in Eritrea or abroad.” The proclamation defined as a person “of Eritrean origin” anyone who was a resident of Eritrea in 1933.

[23]Although the EPLF did not reconcile with the rival ELF and other factions, the new government offered an amnesty to individuals belonging to those groups, which were not allowed to form inside Eritrea.

[24]Eritreans often have three names but are usually known by their first name, the name they are given at birth. The second name is generally the name of the father and the third name is their grandfather’s. In this report Human Rights Watch uses “Isayas” to identify President Isayas Afewerki.

[25]See, Amnesty International, 1997 Annual Report for Eritrea, available at http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=E9D2FF21FC6AB47C80256A0F005BEB98&c=ERI (accessed December 19, 2008); United States Department of State Eritrea Human Rights Practices, 1995, available at http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/democracy/1995_hrp_report/95hrp_report_africa/Eritrea.html (accessed December 19, 2008). Among those arrested before 2001 were at least three journalists,detained for their reporting (Ruth Simon, Zemenfes Haile, and Gebrehiwot Keleta). Zemenfes and Gebrehiwot have never been released.

[26]Ibid. There is circumstantial evidence of executions of men considered collaborators with alleged Islamic jihadist groups on June 18, 1997, “The ‘Executed’: No Smoking Gun, but Plenty of Circumstantial Evidence,” Gedab News, March 13, 2003, http://www.awate.com/artman/publish/printer_1090.shtml (accessed January 15, 2009).

[27]Eritrean Ministry of Internal Affairs, March 4, 1995, available at http://www.awate.com/portal/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1345&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=11 (accessed December 19, 2008).

[28]Jehovah’s Witnesses Office of Public Information, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eritrea (Oct. 2008) 5, available at http://www.jw-media.org/region/africa_middle_east/eritrea/english/human_rights/eri_e081021_list.htm (accessed December 19, 2008).

[29]Ibid, p. 6 and p. 9.

[30]Proclamation 85/96 (Apr. 1996); see also Amnesty International, Arbitrary Detention of Government Critics and Journalists, September 18, 2002, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR64/008/2002 (accessed February 26, 2009). See alsoLyda Favali & Roy Pateman, Blood, Land, and Sex: Legal and Political Pluralism in Eritrea (Indiana U. Press, 2003), pp. 65-66.

[31]Constitution, art. 2, §§ 1-2, http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/cafrad/unpan004654.pdf (accessed December 11, 2008).

[32]In an interview with Le Monde in May 2008, Isayas blamed the “interruption of the [Eritrean] political process” on the “abnormal situation” Eritrea has been in for the past 10 years, as well as the interference of the United States. He also accused the international media of “suffocating freedom of expression” in Africa. “President Isayas Afewerki’s Interview with Reuters and Le Monde,” May 13, 2008, http://www.eastafro.com/Post/2008/05/15/eritrea-president-isaias-afwerkis-interview-with-reuters-may-13-2008/ (accessed February 26, 2009).

[33] Ibid.

[34] Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, Partial Award, Jus Ad Bellum, Ethiopian Claims 1-8 (2005), http://www.pca-cpa.org/upload/files/FINAL%20ET%20JAB.pdf (accessed December 19, 2008), pp. 3-4, 9-12.

[35] Ibid.

[36]Human Rights Watch, The Horn of Africa War: Mass Expulsions and the Nationality Issue June 1998 – April 2002 (2003), pp. 18-30.

[37]There were tens of thousands of casualties during the conflict, mostly troops on both sides. Human Rights Watch, The Horn of Africa War.

[38]Algiers Agreement, available at http://www.pca-cpa.org/upload/files/Algiers%20Agreement(1).pdf (accessed December 19, 2008).

[39]Algiers Agreement, art. 4,15.

[40]Available at http://www.un.org/NewLinks/eebcarbitration/EEBC-Decision.pdf (accessed December 19, 2008).

[41]Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, Statement by the Commission (11/27/06), p. 4-7, 9-12, available at http://www.pca-cpa.org/upload/files/Statement%20271106.pdf (accessed December 19, 2008).

[42]Ibid, pp. 9-10.

[43] “United Nations Staff Union Demands Halt to Continued Harassment of UNMEE Staff by Eritrea,” United Nations press release, September 8, 2006, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/org1473.doc.htm (accessed March 3, 2009).

[44] UN Security Council Resolution 1827 (2008), July 30, 2008.

[45]Some sources estimate that Eritrea and Ethiopia respectively maintain 124,000 and 100,000 troops along the border. Report of the fact-finding mission of a Delegation of the Development Committee of the European Parliament to the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia) (25 October-2 November 2008), p. 2.</Titre>

[46]Ibid., p. 2.

[47]Connell,Conversations, p. 2.

[48]The correspondence and chronology of events are set out in Connell, Conversations, pp. 20-22, 171-198.

[49]“Students die in Eritrea detention camp,” BBC news online, August 20, 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1501092.stm (accessed February 26, 2009).

[50]The incarcerated 11 are Petros Solomon, Ogbe Abraha, Haile Woldetensae, Mahmud Ahmed Sheriffo, Berhane Ghebre Eghzabiher, Astier Feshatsion, Saleh Kekya, Hamid Himid, Estifanos Seyoum, Germano Nati, and Beraki Ghebre Selassie. Three avoided arrest by being abroad and one retracted his signature.

[51]Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2008 (Eritrea), http://cpj.org/imprisoned/2008.php#erit (accessed December 23, 2008). Those arrested in September and the names of their respective publications are: Amanuel Asrat, Zemen; Medhanie Haile, Keste Debena; Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Tsigenay; Mattewos Habteab, Meqaleh; Temesken Ghebreyesus, Keste Debena; Said Abdelkader, Admas; Dawit Isaak, Setit; Seyoum Fsehaye, freelance; Dawit Habtemichael, Meqaleh; Fesshaye “Joshua” Yohannes, Setit. By 2002, 25 journalists were reportedly jailed or missing. See Kidane & Okbazghi, Anatamy of an African Tragedy, p. 94.

[52]The proclamation empowered the government to punish any publication that “insults, abuses, defames, or slanders the government” or any governmental authority. Proclamation no. 90/1996 (June 10, 1996), http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher,NATLEGBOD,,ERI,48512e992,0.html (accessed December 19, 2008).

[53]“New revelations about Eiraeiro prison camp,” Reporters sans frontières press release, January 30, 2008, http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25251 (accessed December 23, 2008).

[54]“In Eritrea a Prominent Journalist Dies in a Government Prison,” Committee to Protect Journalists press release, February 7, 2007, http://cpj.org/2007/02/in-eritrea-a-prominent-journalist-dies-in-a-secret.php (accessed March 3, 2009). See also US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (Eritrea) – 2007 (March 2008) http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100480.htm (accessed December 19, 2008), p. 1.

[55] “Journalist Dawit Isaak held without trial for almost eight years, believed to be seriously ill,” International Federation of Journalists press release, Brussels, February 2009, http://www.protectionline.org/Journalist-Dawit-Isaak-held,7868.html (accessed March 2, 2009).

[56]The US State Department’s annual survey of religious freedom cites NGO reports claiming that 3,225 Christians from unregistered religions are currently detained. US State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “International Religious Freedom Report – 2008: Eritrea,” September 19, 2008, http://2001-2009.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108367.htm (accessed February 27, 2009). An independent academic who is an authority on Ethiopia and Eritrea estimated that 5,000-10,000 people are detained for political and religious reasons, excluding national service deserters. Human Rights Watch interview, London, January 11, 2009. See also Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Briefing: Eritrea, June 2007, on file with Human Rights Watch, which claims that up to 40,000 people are in detention, including religious prisoners, journalists, politicians, and national service deserters.

[57]The 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia is not the Eritrean government’s only attempt to resolve border disputes by force. In 1996, Eritrea attacked Yemeni troops on Greater Hanish Island, part of the Hanish archipelago in the Red Sea that both countries claimed. After deaths on both sides, the two countries referred the dispute to the Permanent Court of Arbitration. In 1998 the court awarded Yemen ownership of the larger islands including Greater Hanish and recognized Eritrea’s sovereignty over islets to the south of the main Hanish group. Permanent Court of Arbitration, Eritrea-Yemen Arbitration Award chap. IX, (October 1998), http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/pca/ER-YEchap11.htm (accessed December 19, 2008).

[58]See International Crisis Group, “Beyond the Fragile Peace Between Ethiopia and Eritrea: Averting New War,” Africa Report No. 141, June 17, 2008.

[59]Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1811 (2008), p. 24. The Monitoring Group estimated that the Eritrean government was providing around half a million US dollars a month to militias in Somalia during 2008, and that this was not simply rogue elements within the military but an established policy of the government:

“The Monitoring Group believes that Eritrean arms embargo violations take place with the knowledge and authorization of senior officials within the Eritrean Government and the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). Operational responsibility, however, lies with the Eritrean intelligence services. According to multiple opposition and Government sources, the senior figure is Colonel Te’ame Goitom. The Monitoring Group is continuing to investigate the alleged involvement of at least five other Eritrean Government officials.”

[60]There is speculation that the Eritrean government chose this location because it is strategically important. It the highest point overlooking the Bab el Mandeb strait, the narrowest point between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and a key shipping passage. Human Rights Watch interview with western diplomats, Djibouti, September 2008.

[61]Omar Hassan, “Two dead in Djibouti, Eritrea border clash,” Reuters, June 11, 2008.Fighting resulted in 35 deaths and dozens of wounded according to a UN fact-finding mission. The mission, banned by President Isayas from access to Eritrea, concluded that Eritrea had been the aggressor. Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Djibouti Eritrea Crisis, Jul 28 – Aug6 2008 (S/2008/602), http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/Erit%20Djibou%20S%202008%20294.pdf (accessed December 23, 2008). See also: Institute for Security Studies, Situation Report, 15 September 2008, http://www.issafrica.org/index.php?link_id=3&slink_id=122&link_type=12&slink_type=12&tmpl_id=3 (accessed January 26, 2009).

[62]UN Security Council, S/Res/1862 (2009).

[63]Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, press statement, January 15, 2009, http://www.shabait.com/staging/publish/article_009305.html (accessed Jan. 15, 2009).

[64]Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with diplomats and former UNICEF official, December and January 2009.

[65]US State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007: Eritrea,” March 11, 2008, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100480.htm (accessed January 5, 2009).

[66] Report of the fact-finding mission of a Delegation of the Development Committee of the European Parliament to the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia) (25 October-2 November 2008).

[67] The Eritrea country page of the World Food Program website states that “[…] the Government announced in September 2005 a policy shift away from free food distributions in favor of food-for-work. Pending its proposed shift to food-for-work as opposed to free food hand-outs, the Government suspended general feeding operations in September 2005 except for recently resettled IDPs and IDPs in camps. In April 2006 after WFP attempted to amend its work plan to accommodate the change in policy, the government announced a new policy involving exclusively cash-for-work (participants would be paid a salary in cash for their work to be financed through food-aid monetization).” World Food Program, Eritrea country page, http://www.wfp.org/countries/eritrea (accessed March 3, 2009).

[68]Proclamation No. 145/2005, A Proclamation to Determine the Administration of Non-governmental Organizations [Eritrea]. No. 145/2005. May 11, 2005, available online in UNHCR Refworld at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/493507c92.html (accessed March 3, 2009).

[69] Ed Harris, “Eritrea expels six Italian NGOs, aid workers say,” Reuters, February 17, 2006. Eritrea expelled further NGOs, including the International Rescue Committee, in November 2006. See “Expelled NGO Seeks Reconsideration,” IRIN news, November 7, 2006, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=61499 (accessed March 3, 2009).

[70] Report of the fact-finding mission of a Delegation of the Development Committee of the European Parliament to the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia) (25 October-2 November 2008), p. 6.

[71]Ibid., p. 6.

[72]European Commission, Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid – ECHO, Humanitarian Aid Decision 23 02 01, ECHO/ERI/BUD/2008/0100, February 26, 2008.

[73]Ibid., p. 9.