250 male Eritrean refugees have been detained in Negad detention centre for up to five years in appalling conditions. Most of them are in poor health; many of them have been suffering from tuberculosis without receiving vital medication to treat this serious and contagious illness. One of these refugees has died due to lack of medical care.
These Eritreans fled their country because of persecution, and the unbearable living conditions that they were subjected to.
Compulsory National Service is mandatory for men and women over the age of 18. An initial period of 18 months service includes six months military service and 12 months deployment in military or government service. This often involves forced labour in state projects. Conscripts are obliged to supply labour on government projects such as road construction, to work in the civil service or for companies owned and operated by the military or ruling party elites. Conscripts are paid minimal salaries that do not meet the basic needs of their families. National Service can be extended indefinitely and is also followed by reserve duties. Conscripts are treated as slaves and are practically owned by the President. Penalties for desertion and draft evasion are harsh, and include torture, detention without trial and execution.
There are currently tens of thousands detained without trial in more than 300 prison sites throughout the country. Detainees are held incommunicado, in solitary confinement, in shipping containers, and are routinely beaten and tortured. Prisoners are tied up in increasingly cruel ways. They are given electric shocks and genital torture; rape, sexual slavery and hard labour are commonplace. Deprivations of sleep, food, water, clothing, medicine, company and visitation are the norm. Many have died. Extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions also occur regularly.
The detainees fled the horrors of Eritrea to start a life elsewhere. Many of them were trying to evade the indefinite national service imposed on all able-bodied Eritreans. They knew they were risking their lives by doing so since it is illegal to attempt to leave Eritrea. There is a shoot-to-kill policy. Unfortunately, as a result of the 2-day border war between Djibouti and Eritrea in 2008, these Eritreans are being treated as a ‘security risk’. They are, however, of no danger to anyone. Nine are separated from their wives, who are living outside of the centre in refugee camps.
During their time in the detention centre they receive no education, no training, no entertainment, no reading matter, no access to media; in fact, they are held incommunicado with no visitation rights.
President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh
President of the Republic of Djibouti
We, the undersigned, call upon you, the Djiboutian president, and the government of Djibouti, to bring an end to this unnecessary torture. We remind you that your country recently sponsored two resolutions at the Human Rights Council to rectify the inhuman situation in Eritrea, for which we commend you. We also commend your government for the slow but steady progress to improve the lives of the TB sufferers. However, these people would not have contracted the disease had been treated humanely. Detaining refugees and asylum seekers in such conditions contravenes international and regional humanitarian norms and statutes governing the treatment of refugees. We therefore urge you to ensure that they set-free and are allowed to resettle in a third, safe country as soon as possible.