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Eritrea: National Service

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN 9741, tabled on 29 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, published on 8 June 2016, what assessment he has made of the effect on human rights of indefinite national service in that country.

Answered on

7 February 2020

The UK continues to call for reform of Eritrea’s use of a system of universal and compulsory national service. Roles are both military and civilian. Whilst the Government of Eritrea has justified this service on grounds of the security threat posed by Ethiopia we have yet to see a concrete proposal for reform following the July 2018 peace agreement. In July 2019, the Eritrean Government said that it would undertake a review of national service, but they gave no deadline for the review’s completion.

At the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in July 2019, the UK renewed calls for Eritrea to reform the national service system, recognising that sustainable reform of national service needs to happen in tandem with an improved economic situation and job creation. We also raise human rights in Eritrea, both directly with the Government, as the former Minister for Africa did with the Eritrean President's senior adviser when she saw him in July 2019, and when our Ambassador in Asmara saw the same advisor in August 2019.