Eritrea: HRW raises concern as forced conscription continues


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised concern that Eritrea’s controversial policy of forced conscription continues, despite a peace deal signed with neighbouring Ethiopia last year.

Last year’s peace deal brought an end to the “state of war” between the two countries, prompting hope that Eritrea would bring an end to its forced conscription programme, which has been labelled as “enslavement” by various rights groups. However, HRW says no meaningful changes have been made to the policy since the peace deal was signed last year.

Forced conscription continues in Eritrea

“Human Rights Watch hoped that the people of Eritrea would benefit from the announcement last July that Eritrea and Ethiopia had agreed to end the “state of war” between the two countries,” HRW said in a statement.

However, the rights group says “the government has made no meaningful changes to its mandatory ‘national service’ that conscripts young Eritreans for unlimited times – often more than a decade — despite the decree that officially limits conscription to 18 months.”

Eritrea has always pointed to the border conflict with Ethiopia as the reason for its conscription programme and peace between the neighbouring countries raised hope that the government would revise its military policies.

So far, little has changed for people in Eritrea since the peace deal was signed and Human Rights Watch is calling upon the country to worth with the United Nations’ recently-elected Special Rapporteur for Eritrea to work on reforms.

“The Special Rapporteur for Eritrea, appointed last October, was requested by a unanimous resolution of this [United Nations Security] Council to develop benchmarks for progress on human rights,” HRW said.

“There is an opportunity here for Eritrea to finally move onto a different track, to engage on a path of fundamental rights reform.”

Featured image: By Temesgen Woldezion (Merhawie at en.wikipedia) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.