Eritrean security officers raided a gathering of members of the Faith Missions Church in Keren, Eritrea’s second largest city on 23 June and arrested a number of people, including pregnant women, mothers, children and at least one entire family. They also confiscated property they found at the venue.
The raid comes just over a week after a statement following the church seizures, published on 21 June, Daniela Kravetz, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea said: “These actions show that, despite the improved regional climate for peace and security, the human rights situation in Eritrea remains unchanged.”, within a 24 hour period from 12-13 June. In
Faith Missions Church has been in Eritrea since the early 1950s, and used to run orphanages and schools across the nation. It is also one of four religious communities still awaiting registration, despite having submitted the necessary intrusive documentation in 2002. Registration can only be finalised by the president's signature.
In May 2002, Eritrea introduced a registration policy that effectively outlawed all religious practices not affiliated with the Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran or Orthodox Christian denominations and Sunni Islam, and began a campaign of arrests targeting unsanctioned denominations that continues to date, and that also affects the officially sanctioned religious communities.
On 2 July, Eritrea’s human rights record will be reviewed at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) during an interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, whose one-year mandate is up for renewal. Since the establishment of the mandate, Eritrea has failed to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, or to address the extensive violations identified in successive reports.
In its, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE) found “reasonable grounds to believe” that crimes against humanity have been committed by state officials in a “widespread and systematic manner” since 1991, including the crime of persecution against religious groups.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW is deeply concerned by this latest development in a crackdown on people of faith in Eritrea that has been ongoing since 2002. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all members of Faith Missions Church, as well as all other prisoners of conscience in the country. It is essential that UN member states seize the opportunity presented during next week’s interactive dialogue at the HRC to raise these concerns. We also urge member states to support and facilitate the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate in order to ensure continued monitoring of the dire human rights situation in Eritrea.”