The 1997 Constitution of Eritrea stipulates that no one "shall be deprived of life without due process of law".Art. 15, 1997 Constitution of Eritrea.It is further stated that the "dignity of all persons shall be inviolable" and that no one "shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".Art. 16(1) and (2), 1997 Constitution of Eritrea.
According to Article 19(5), "All persons shall have the right to assemble and to demonstrate peaceably together with others."
The Constitution also declares that the Eritrea security forces "shall owe allegiance to and obey the Constitution" (but also to the government), though it shall be "respectful of the people" while also being "subject to and accountable under the law".Art. 12(1), (2), and (3), 1997 Constitution of Eritrea.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Signatory|
1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
|1998 Protocol to the African Charter on the African Court||Not party|
|Article 34(6) declaration regarding individual petitions||N/A|
|Malabo Protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights||Not party|
Police Use of Force
The Eritrean Police Force (EPF) is the main law enforcement agency of Eritrea and predates the state's existence as it was earlier the regional police in Ethiopia. The use of force and firearms by the EPF is not regulated by domestic law as international law demands.
Under the 2015 Penal Code, it is an offence for a law enforcement or other public official to unlawfully arrest and detain another, or to use
physical or mental torture, or other improper methods, during the arrest, custody, supervision, escort or interrogation of a person.Art. 149, 2015 Penal Code.
The offence is punishable with a term of imprisonment of "not less than 6 months and not more than 12 months, or a fine".Art. 149, 2015 Penal Code.A law enforcement official who, in using unlawful force, causes serious bodily injury to another commits an aggravated offence.Art. 150, 2015 Penal Code.Where death results, life imprisonment and even the death penalty may be imposed.
There is no independent police oversight body in Eritrea, although in theory the Attorney-General could also "directly or indirectly hold the police accountable for their actions".
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2019 Concluding Observations on Eritrea in the absence of its initial report, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern "about the lack of legal standards and relevant procedures on appropriate use of force and firearms by law enforcement and security forces" in Eritrea. The Committee was
also concerned about allegations of disproportionate use of force against civilians, such as the reported killing of at least 11 individuals during an incident on 3 April 2016, in which young conscripts jumped out of a truck in Asmara, and the alleged use of live ammunition on 31 October 2017, during the dispersal of a protest against government involvement in a Muslim school, also in Asmara.
The Committee was further concerned about reports of security forces at the border killing or wounding persons attempting to leave Eritrea illegally. It called on Eritrea to
take measures to effectively prevent and eliminate all forms of excessive use of force by police and security officers, including by:
(a) Adopting appropriate legislation and policies controlling the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials, taking due account of the Committee’s general comment No. 36 on the right to life and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;
(b) Introducing procedures designed to ensure that law enforcement actions are adequately planned in a manner consistent with the need to minimize the risk they pose to human life, mandatory reporting, review and investigation of lethal incidents;
(c) Providing law enforcement personnel with training on the use of force;
(d) Ensuring that all instances of excessive use of force are investigated promptly, impartially and effectively and that those responsible are brought to justice.
In 2016, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea reported that crimes against humanity had been committed in a widespread and systematic manner in Eritrean detention facilities, military training camps and other locations across the country over the previous 25 years. Crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, persecution, rape, murder and other inhumane acts have been committed as part of a campaign to instil fear in, deter opposition from, and ultimately to control the Eritrean civilian population since Eritrean authorities took control of Eritrean territory in 1991.Detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea, UN doc. A/HRC/32/CRP.1, 8 June 2016.
In her 2015 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, called on Eritrea to:
Ensure that public order officials, including the military and the police, receive appropriate professional training for carrying out their public security duties, especially in relation to the use of force and firearms.Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, UN doc. para. 76(e).
She also recommended that the Government of Eritrea:
Review rules of engagement to ensure their compliance with international law enforcement standards, such as the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and FirearmsReport of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, UN doc. para. 76(e).
and that they:
Investigate and prosecute public order officials, including the military and the police, responsible for killings, violence, unlawful arrests and arbitrary destruction of personal property during evictions.Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, UN doc. para. 76(f).
Eritrea acceded to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1999 but only submitted its initial report (covering 1999-2016) to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2018. The Commission considered Eritrea's report in May 2018 at its 62nd Ordinary Session. In its Concluding Observations, the Commission regretted the lack of specific legislation criminalising extrajudicial killings and the "situation of deaths" in prisons and other places of detention.
In its national report to the African Commission, Eritrea claimed that:
Respecting human dignity ... remains a priority of policing. Police behavior and discipline is of utmost importance and rules and procedures that reflect the law are exercised and monitored. They have been instrumental in minimizing any abuse and inappropriate practice or behavior. The Eritrean Police Force (EPF) also takes appropriate measures on any abuse and violation of responsibility during active service, though the occurrence is minimal.Eritrea: Initial National Report (1999-2016), Prepared on the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Asmara, para. 57.