- For defenders
- How can I help?
Eritrea is a one party state where no political parties other than the President's People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) are allowed. Although Eritrea is party to the main international human rights instruments, human rights are severely restricted. Human rights defenders face indefinite incommunicado detention without charge or trial. Ill-treatment or torture are common. The right to freedom of association, assembly, expression, and information virtually absent.
The international press freedom index ranked Eritrea last (178th) for the fourth time in a row. This highly restrictive environment has forced many journalists to flee or attempt to flee, risking their lives and arrest. There are no independent media. Since 2001, when the private press was closed down, the government maintained a monopoly on access to information. More than 30 journalists are currently detained and many are held incommunicado without charges. News about their health conditions are scarce. An emblematic case is that of jailed Eritrean-born journalist, Dawit Isaak, who won the 2011 Golden Pen of Freedom Award. He was one of the founders of Eritrea's first independent newspapers, Setit. He was arrested after his paper published letters demanding democratic reforms in 2001, and has been in detention since then. He is reportedly in poor mental and physical conditions.
Many political activists and people perceived of being critical of the government, including a few former high-ranking state officials, also remain in detention since the 2001 crackdown. Like with the journalists, a large number of them were held incommunicado for long periods and no official information is available on their location and health conditions. There are reports that more than half of them have died in detention.
The harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and association have effectively suppressed independent civil society. All trade unions are government-run, public gatherings are not allowed and NGOs do not exist in the country. The activities of international organisations are also severely restricted. Proclamation no. 145/2005, established “to determine the administration of non-governmental organisations”, provides that international NGOs are limited to relief and rehabilitation activities and are not permitted to work with local communities independently of the government. The law further states that all NGOs (national and international) are required to submit quarterly reports and audited financial reports, pay taxes on all imported goods including food aid, and deposit substantial funds into an Eritrean bank. International organisations based outside the country are regularly denied entry. Prison visits by international human rights organisations are not allowed.