Eritrean police have arrested 32 Christians in the capital, Asmara, this month, including a newlywed couple and ten of their guests.
Twenty were arrested on Sunday, 25 March, all of whom remain in detention.
The newly married man and two of his guests are being held in a prison north of the city. The newlyweds and ten guests were arrested at the couple’s home on 5 March, a local source told World Watch Monitor.
Ten friends were visiting the couple for a traditional coffee ceremony to welcome the bride when the local security officers forced their way into the house and arrested all 12 people there. They were taken to Asmara’s No. 5 Police Station.
The authorities released eight of the group two days later, after they presented valid travel IDs (documents of permission to move around Eritrea). The four remaining Christians, including the newlyweds, were moved to Adi Abeito Prison, north of Asmara. According to the World Watch Monitor source, the newlywed couple was split up after the arrest and the bride was released yesterday (27 March).
Eritrea’s human rights record was recently condemned at the UN Human Rights Council. Kate Gilmore, the UN’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in her opening remarks that over 100 people were arrested in Eritrea in 2017 for practising religions not officially recognised by the state.
A monitoring group for the UN, United Nations Watch, said “thousands” of Christians are also facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea”. The group also asked why the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, “failed to closely assess this situation”.
The UN Human Rights Council heard that the Eritrean government’s claims of improvement in the human rights situation were unfounded.
Eritrea is sixth on Open Doors International’s 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian. In 2002, the government introduced a law prohibiting Christian practice outside the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran denominations, as well as Sunni Islam.