A UN independent rights expert called on the government of Eritrea to respect citizens’ right to religious freedom and to “release those who have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs.”
A series of arrests and illegal detention of Christians, forced closure of churches, and suspension of religious activities prompted Daniela Kravetz, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, to bring the spotlight on the crackdown against Christians happening in the African country.
I urge Eritrea to live up to its international commitments as a member of the Human Rights Council and allow religious institutions to operate freely and all Eritreans to exercise their right to freedom of religion within the country. —Daniela Kravetz, Special Rapporteur
Reports say Eritrean officials shutdown on June 12, 2019 all hospitals and health centers managed by the Catholic Church. Soldiers ordered patients to go home and threatened hospital staff. The following day, security forces arrested five Orthodox priests for criticizing the government.
Kravetz reminded Eritrean politicians about the importance of the health facilities, especially to people living in remote areas. She said, “By curtailing the activities of the Catholic Church, the Eritrean authorities are restricting the right of their citizens to enjoy quality health care.”
In an interview with Mission Network News, spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, Todd Nettleton, disclosed that about 30 Christians were arrested on June 3, 2019. “This comes after a couple weeks before [when] 141 Christians in the capital city of Asmara were arrested.”
Nettleton said no charges were filed against the imprisoned Christians and some of them have been jailed for 15 years. In 2002, the president of Eritrea declared all independent Protestant Churches as “enemies of the state.”
“The government sees Christianity as a way that foreign influence comes into the country. They see it as a threat to the government, to their authority,” Nettleton said.
Following the crackdown on Christians in Eritrea, Kravetz said the government is obligated under international human rights law to allow individuals to practice their faith freely. “I urge Eritrea to live up to its international commitments as a member of the Human Rights Council and allow religious institutions to operate freely and all Eritreans to exercise their right to freedom of religion within the country.”