(London, April 7, 2016) According to various credible sources, on Sunday 3 April 2016, Eritrean soldiers escorting 10-15 convoys of conscripts from a military training camp near to Akordet, to work as labourers in Assab, shot dead at least eleven people, including a woman and child, as well as severely wounding many others when some conscripts attempted to escape. The child was walking towards a shop, while the woman was going about her business.
Has this resulted in an apology from the Eritrean government for their brutality? Far from it. Instead, the Eritrean Defense Force is conducting house-to-house searches looking for those who tried to escape. Many civilians, as well as conscripts who attempted to escape, have been imprisoned. Those who are caught will be severely tortured, as is routine for the Eritrean government. The conscripts never wanted to be in the army, certainly not when they know the service is indefinite. Many have fathers and brothers and sisters that have been in the army for decades, and not through choice. Many will be used as forced labour either in the government owned companies, various ministries, or in the Bisha and other mining projects, being treated no better than slaves, getting paid nothing and receiving very little to eat,. They wanted to escape this horrible prospect, even at the risk of their lives. They should not be forced to fill the coffers of the greedy fat cats who sit back and watch their people suffer and die while telling the world that it is a patriotic duty.
In order to receive development money from the EU and other democratic countries, the Eritrean government for almost a year had promised the European diplomatic community in Eritrea and the international communities that it would shorten conscription by observing the 18 months that conscription is supposed to last on paper. This never happened; then on 25th February 2016, the Eritrean Information Minister informed Edmund Blair of Reuters that Eritrea would not implement the 18 months limit – typical of a government that has never implemented the ratified constitution of May 1997.
We condemn in the strongest terms this shooting of innocent people, along with the indefinite national service and servitude and the total lack of fundamental freedoms of any kind. The crime against humanity that is being carried on with impunity in Eritrea must stop.