Page last updated at 05:27 GMT, Sunday, 11 January 2009

Eritrea group seeks human rights

By Martin Plaut
BBC News


A two-day conference in London is to launch a new Eritrean movement aimed at bringing about a dialogue between the government and the opposition.

The movement is to be called Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea.

Organisers say peaceful means should be used to end the political stalemate that has left Eritrea one of the poorest and most repressive states.

Exiled political parties will attend the sessions as well as some of the country's best known intellectuals.

These include Professor Bereket Habteselassie, who wrote Eritrea's constitution, which the government has yet to implement.

Border confrontation

Conference organisers say they have received backing from Eritreans around Europe and from the US for these discussions.

Ethiopian troops near the Eritrean border [file photo]
Eritrea is locked into a border confrontation with Ethiopia

They say government supporters were invited but refused to attend, threatening instead to disrupt a public meeting scheduled for Sunday.

At the same time, they say that some Eritreans living abroad, and known to be close to the government, are backing the new initiative.

The country is desperately poor and locked into a border confrontation with Ethiopia.

Human rights groups regard Eritrea as one of the world's most repressive states. Only the ruling party is legal and there is no free press.

Previous attempts by opposition parties to bring about change have failed, which is why the organisers now stress that this is a movement of ordinary citizens.

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