Eritrean refugees and representatives of the opposition living in Ethiopia staged a protest at the African Union headquarters in the capital, Addis Ababa, earlier this week to call for an end to Eritrea’s “reign of terror”.
The approximately 250 protestors handed a petition to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, calling for Eritrea to be forced to release all prisoners arrested and detained without charge.
“Today’s petition and demonstration is our fourth, but, sadly, all our previous appeals for help have been met with silence, indifference and inaction,” Eritrean refugee Dr. Bereket Berhane said, as reported by The Ethiopian Herald. “This has only emboldened the government of Eritrea to intensify its reign of terror.”
In July the European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution condemning in “the strongest terms” the “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” in Eritrea.
This followed the UN’s 2016 report, which concluded that the country’s “crimes against humanity” should be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
More than 200 Christians were rounded up in a series of raids between May and August this year. One of those detained, an Eritrean mother-of-three, died in August in a desert camp where she had been held. Her husband and son were among 38 Christians who were released in October. Only then did they learn of her death.
The oppression of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, in particular, has increased since a law was passed in May 2002, prohibiting Christian practice outside the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran denominations, and also Sunni Islam. Christians who have been imprisoned recount experiences of torture, hard labour, and being held in filthy conditions and given insufficient food.
A rare protest took place in Eritrea at the end of October, after the government announced plans to turn all schools public. This would mean forbidding students from wearing religious items such as Christian crosses or Muslim headscarves.