Refugees International Japan Blog

The UN Special Rapporteur to Eritrea reported this week on grave human rights violations in the conflict-weary state along the Horn of Africa. Some 2000 Eritreans are now fleeing the country every month, according to UNHCR estimates, likely as a means of escaping government persecution, including a harsh military conscription policy that leaves many Eritreans subjected indefinitely to forced labor.

For nearly all of its history dating back to independence in 1991 Eritrea has maintained a compulsory national service, drawing from all citizens between the ages of 18 and 50. Although periods of service are theoretically limited to 18 months, many Eritrean youth are conscripted indefinitely and without pay, at the risk of brutal reprisals for failing to comply. Sheila B. Keetharuth, in her report as UN Special Rapporteur, remarked that torture, sexual violence, and extra-judicial killings « continue unabated, » mostly as punishments to conscripts or their families for opposing the national…

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