Minority faiths in Eritrea have few choices
Thousands imprisoned, some still not charged with any crime
ASMARA, Eritrea—International human rights organizations tally the members of religious minorities imprisoned in Eritrea at over 3,000. Among them are 58 Christian men, women and children who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. More than nine months ago, on June 28, 2009, police arrested 23 Witnesses, including women and children as young as two years old, who were meeting peacefully in a private home. The husbands and fathers were already in prison, having been collected up long before. The eldest of the women and some of the children were later released, but two of the children—now three and four years old—are still imprisoned along with their mothers.
At least two entire families are in prison. Most of those who were arrested from July 2008 to January 2009 were initially held at the 2nd and 5th police stations in Asmara and have since been transferred to the Meitir prison camp, about 200 kilometers, some 80 miles, north of the city. They were arrested either at home or at their places of work, but despite the time since their imprisonment, they have not been charged with a crime nor been given a trial, which is similar to the situation of three other Witnesses who have been in prison for more than 15 years without being charged or given a trial.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eritrea are law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes and support the efforts of the government under which they live. In 2002, the Eritrean government banned all minority religious groups. Members of these groups continue to suffer harassment, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the state. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been subjected to especially harsh treatment. In 1994, they were stripped of basic citizenship rights for refusing to bear arms or perform military service.
Contacts in USA:
J.R. Brown, Office of Public Information
Alan Gallina, Office of General Counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses
Contact in Europe:
Marcel Gillet, European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses
Telephone: + 32 2 782 0015
Source: JW Media