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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Eritrea slammed over human rights
By Jonah Fisher
BBC, Asmara

The human rights situation in Eritrea has continued to deteriorate, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

Torture, arbitrary detentions and political arrests are widespread, says the human rights organisation.

Religious persecution and ill treatment of those trying to avoid military service are increasing, Amnesty adds.

Next week Eritreans will come together to celebrate 13 years of independence from Ethiopia.

Map of Eritrea
In this report, Amnesty International paint a damning picture of what it says Eritrea, once seen as one of Africa's brightest hopes, has become.

Torture is systematically practiced by the army, the report says.

People avoiding conscription, political prisoners and members of minority churches are said to be particularly singled out.

Thousands of people are detained and held in secret for criticising the government, Amnesty reports.

Mothers of detainees trying to find out where their offspring were being held were apparently told they had no right to ask.

Only four religious groups are allowed to worship in Eritrea and the Amnesty report documents persecution of minority groups.

In the past year, members of evangelical and Pentecostal Christians have been arrested, beaten and tortured to make them abandon their faith, Amnesty says.

Eleven senior politicians have been held without trial since September 2001, and at least 10 independent journalists.

International pressure for them to be released or brought to trial has so far come to nothing.

Eritrea says they have committed treason and are detained for national security reasons.

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