Human Rights Watch Thursday released the report, "Eritrea: Crackdown on Draft Evaders’ Families," documenting how security forces in the Horn of Africa nation set up nationwide check points to net recruits and went door to door to identify people who have attempted to avoid conscription.
Witnesses that were interviewed by the US-based rights watchdog said those who could not account for their draft-eligible relatives were expelled from their homes and detained.
“Since September 2022, when Ethiopian and Eritrean forces carried out joint offensives in the Tigray region, the Eritrean government has inflicted further repression, punishing family members of those seeking to avoid conscription or recall, to enforce widespread forced mobilization, including of older men,” read a statement released on the HRW’s website.
“Such punishment has included arbitrary detentions and home expulsions,” added the statement.
Several rights groups have accused Eritrea’s government of forcing citizens to spend years in national service and punishing any act of desertion or perceived disobedience with jail and torture.
“Eritrea’s regional partners, including Horn of Africa and Gulf states, should press Eritrea to ensure meaningful changes to the abusive national service system,” said HRW.
Laetitia Bader, HRW’s Horn of Africa director tweeted, “The govt has long used repression to impose indefinite draft, but the evictions are unprecedented.”
The HRW director also quoted a resident of Asmara who was interviewed by the US-based rights watchdog, for a separate report titled “Service for Life, State Repression and Indefinite Conscription in Eritrea.”
“Everyone has always lived with the dreadful feeling of the risk of being conscripted, but this is at a whole different level,” said the Asmara resident.
Some information in this report came from Human Rights Watch and Agence France-Presse.