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JW.org - UN Commission to Report on Human Rights Violations in Eritrea


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<p style="display: block; float: left; min-width: 150px;">In late October, the UN General Assembly will hear a report on Eritrea’s human rights abuses, which include severe persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.</p>

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I took a look at the document that the jw.org article refers to produced by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights.
 
Following are some excerpts from the document. It describes among other things persecution and torture our brothers and sisters suffer.
 
Also, here is a document also produced by this commission that describes torture methods by drawings.
 
(WARNING: The following excerpts and the linked documents are not for the weak of heart.) However, should you decide to consider them, can you think of any of our brothers and sisters who need our heartfelt prayers more than these?
 
634. In the following years, a smear campaign was conducted by the Government admonishing Jehovah’s Witnesses for not having participated in the liberation struggle and not enlisting in the re-building of the country. The Government refused to acknowledge the faith’s precept of political neutrality, as illustrated by a 1995 statement by the Ministry of Interior broadcast on national radio: “There is no family that has not lost loved ones in the war. Those who are not affected are the Jehovah's Witnesses. They refused to take part in the struggle. As a result, the Eritrean people developed a strong hatred of them… In 1991, when the people of Eritrea were casting their votes during the referendum, those people refused to cast their votes, saying they did not recognize the so-called government of Eritrea, but only the heavenly bodies.”

635. As a result of the prejudicial image of Jehovah’s Witnesses as not supporting the country and its Government, they endured further attacks from the population. Testimony collected indicated that children were also bullied and beaten in school. A witness recalled the harassment of his family and the beating he endured in school: “When I was ten years old, two entire sections, around 100 students, came and beat me. The teachers were supporting the students, except one, the assistant director… They beat me severely. One student especially was beating my lower back, and stepped on my ear. I was bleeding and my eardrum was damaged. My mother was stoned by neighbours and got lot of problems physically. My father was working as a carpenter and had a lot of machines that were looted and thrown in the river. The neighbours were very angry. Everybody was against us. They thought we should have supported the independence. They thought we were against the independence, against them.” Another witness explained the community’s attitude toward Jehovah’s Witnesses: “A lot of people lost their children in the war and so they are emotional about the country. The Government sent such a wrong message about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, that they are supported by [a foreign country] and betraying [our] country. So a lot of Eritreans are against us. What I remember was that people were angry with the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they do not vote. They felt that we did this because we were against the Government. They threw stones against our houses. For many months my father locked us inside to protect us. If you go to school and the teachers and students know that you are a Jehovah’s Witness they beat you or set you apart. My brothers and I did not want to go to school.”

636. Jehovah’s Witness children reportedly quit school to avoid being conscripted. As a consequence, after leaving school, these children have to live in hiding. Children who have left school face considerable restrictions in their movement, even in their area of residence. A submission received by the Commission explains that children have to leave school after the 8th grade to avoid enlistment: “Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot receive a full secular education. When students register for high school in the 9th grade, they are also required to register for national military service. Upon completing the 11th grade, high school students are obliged to go to Sawa military camp to complete their 12th grade education while receiving the military training. Therefore, many Jehovah’s Witnesses do not register for high school so as not to compromise their conscientious stand to refrain from military training and military service. A victim spoke about the risks encountered by Jehovah’s Witnesses after quitting school: “When we leave the house, we do not know whether we can go back again or go to prison.”
637. In spite of efforts to hide, several members of the community were rounded-up and forced to join the military service. They were subsequently arrested when they refused to perform military activities at army camps.

638. Since Jehovah Witnesses are deprived of their civil rights as Eritreans, they have not been able to lawfully leave the country as their passports have been confiscated. “In 2007 my father was very ill and went to the hospital. He had an opportunity to receive treatment abroad but because he is a Jehovah’s Witness, he was not allowed to leave the country,” testified a witness. Nonetheless, many adherents felt that they had no choice but to flee.

A Jehovah’s Witness recounted a mass arrest that took place in 2002. Congregants were surrounded by the police at their place of worship, where they were kept for a couple of days without being fed nor given warm clothes for the cold nights. There were children among them. They were also interrogated and taken to different places of detention where they were kept for nine more days before being released.

A man from a Jehovah’s Witness’s family testified about the impact of his religion on his and his family’s life. “Because it was against my conscience and religious belief, I refused to participate in the military training. As a result I was dismissed from school.” Caught during a giffa, he was later imprisoned but managed to escape before reaching the training camp. In the following years, he was arrested and sent to military training six times. He always escaped. He recounted one of his detentions: “I was detained for three months. There, I was starved almost to death because I was only given sugar dissolved in water as food.” When he refused to do military training, he was tortured for a month, pressured physically and psychologically on a continual basis, to give up his beliefs. “I remember one day I was placed face down, my hands tied with my feet (commonly known as the helicopter position) for several hours and I was beaten by 12 soldiers one after the other until they got exhausted. Finally I gave up on my refusal.” He added: “My mother was arrested for four years leaving her little children behind. She was detained in a metal container. As her health was deteriorating very much, she was released from the prison. My brother was arrested while he was engaged in preaching. He is still in prison. Another brother was arrested while he was engaged in the streets witnessing the good news. He is still in the military prison due to his conscientious objection and religious beliefs.” 

A daughter told the Commission about the detention of her father: “My father has been in prison for seven years now. He was arrested because he is a Jehovah’s Witness – they came at work and arrested him. We know where he is because he managed to send us a letter once. He mentioned that the prison is not for human beings. He was talking about the high temperature, [he said] it was terribly hot. He was the key person of the family. He was in charge of everything. Because of his imprisonment we lost a lot and we were not able to meet our daily needs.”

A Jehovah’s Witness detained in Sawa, in a prison-container of the Sixth Brigade, recounted: “The first two months, there were no beatings but I was tied in the otto position. They would release me to eat and wash. Then, they took me to the interrogation room. They handcuffed my arms and legs and put a stick behind my knees, hung me and beat me. They were beating me every other day. When you start to recover, they come back. In 17 days I was beaten [eight to nine times] during 20 to 45 minutes. I was not able to walk straight, the soles of my feet and all my body was swollen due to the beatings. They had to carry me to the interrogation room. They were asking me to do the military training. After seventeen days, they beat me during one and a half hour and I fainted. They took me to the hospital. Then I joined Sawa training camp.”

Another witness explained the treatment he received in Sawa when he refused to take part in the military training: “They tied me up in the helicopter position, with eyes and mouth shut, and put me in a barrel cut in half for almost one hour. Then, twelve soldiers started beating me with sticks, branches, tubes, anything. They beat me for almost four hours until my eyes were blurred. They beat me during three days continuously and continued with less intensity during two weeks. A [health assistant] was coming every day to give me first aid and wash my wounds. He was very nice and tried to convince me to recant my faith. I was detained for three months. I almost starved to death because I was only given sugar dissolved in water as food.”

1208. However, Eritrea does not recognise the right of conscientious objection to military service, neither in law nor in practice. 1598 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been arrested and detained with a judicial process for their declared conscientious objection to military service. A submission to the Commission indicated: “The first conscientious objectors known to have declared themselves to the military authorities were twelve Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were incarcerated at Sawa in September 1994, in metal shipping containers that exacerbated the extreme range of the desert temperatures. Nine of the twelve relented under these conditions and agreed to perform military service; after twenty years, the other three remain imprisoned at Sawa without ever having been charged. The Jehovah's Witnesses, however, report that in recent years their unshakeable resolve has earned the respect of their guards, and their conditions of detention have improved.”

1209. Reportedly, at least 14 Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested for concientious objection remain in detention today.een detained without a judicial process.They remain in detention without judicial process. A Jehovah's Witness was arrested, detained and sent to Sawa for military training. ‘When I arrived in Sawa they had already started the training. It is when the persecution started. I told them I could not take the military training and they get very angry.’ He was severely tortured over a period of two weeks, detained and eventually managed to escape from hospital.
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