Eritrea Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as ERI by Abbreviationfinder, Eritrea is an authoritarian one-party state where no elections have been held since the country’s independence in 1993. All power lies in the hands of President Isaias Afwerki and his party PFDJ. The situation for human rights is among the worst in the world. Political opposition and free media are not tolerated.

Since the 1990s, Eritrea has developed into one of the world’s worst repressive states. The country has sometimes been called Africa’s North Korea and has been likened to a concentration camp. The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is the only permitted party and dominates all social functions. Promises of multi-party rule and general elections have never been fulfilled. Demands for democracy, freedom of speech or religious freedom are interpreted by the government as threats to national security. Open political opposition exists only among Eritreans abroad.

  • Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Eritrea, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.

All Eritreans have to perform a combined military and community service that can be extended for several years. Many are forced to work long periods without pay, sometimes for companies owned by high-ranking military or party elite representatives. Those who try to flee the country are at risk of being killed or imprisoned. Persons between the ages of 14 and 50 are not normally allowed to leave the country. In 2012, a requirement was introduced that everyone between the ages of 18 and 55 must carry weapons. Anyone who does not retrieve their weapon is denied food coupons.

Eritrea is also plagued by widespread corruption. In 2019, Transparency International placed the country as 160 out of 180 countries in its index of corruption in the world (see the full list here). This is about the same low level as 2017 and 2018.

Freedom of expression and media

For nine years, until 2015, Eritrea was the last of all countries in the world to be in the Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders each year. In 2019 and 2020, the country came third from the end, with Turkmenistan and North Korea behind (see the full list here). Independent media does not exist in Eritrea and the number of imprisoned journalists is believed to be among the highest in the world, despite the country being small.

In September 2001, the privately owned press that had begun to emerge after independence was crushed. At that time, all eight newspapers were forced to close in private ownership, even those considered to be loyal to the government. The newspapers were said to threaten the security of the nation. Among the many journalists arrested were the Swedish Eritrean Dawit Isaak. None of the journalists has been released, or received any trial. They are kept in secret, completely cut off from the outside world. According to credible sources, they have been subjected to torture and several of them are believed to have died in captivity.

The regime has continued to arrest many journalists since 2001. It is often unknown what happened to them afterwards. Those working for the state media have to reproduce the official propaganda, or prepare to be arrested or flee the country. Foreign journalists are not welcome.

Few Eritreans have internet access. Web sites from abroad are often blocked by the regime.

Judicial system and legal security

Formally, the judicial system should be independent, but in reality it is completely controlled by the regime. In addition to the usual judicial system, there are military courts and special courts. In all cases, it is common for judges to be ex-military, without legal training.

The special courts have raised particular criticism, since they do not even have on the paper rules that meet the requirements of legal certainty. Most criminal cases are tried in the specialized courts. Prisoners are kept isolated from the outside world for long periods of time, trials are conducted completely without transparency, and prosecutors are not often judges.

In 2016, the UN established that serious and systematic human rights violations are committed by the regime and that it may have been guilty of crimes against humanity. The peace treaty with Ethiopia 2018 has not led to any improvements in the regime’s respect for human rights. Eritreans are subject to constant surveillance and privacy violations. The UN takes a particularly serious view of the military service, which should be on the paper for 18 months, but which leads to many people spending their entire working lives in almost slave-like conditions.

There are probably thousands of political prisoners in Eritrea. They are often kept under very difficult conditions. Among them are regime critics, religious dissidents, journalists, conscientious objectors and people who tried to flee the country. Torture and prolonged insulation underground or in shipping containers – often in extreme heat – are common. Many who are arrested “disappear” and many are reported to have died in captivity.



Eritrea jumps off Igad

Eritrea leaves the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IgAD) for its support for Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia’s fighting.