03/23/2021 Eritrea (International Christian Concern) – The European Union announced a number of sanctions Monday, including on Eritrea’s National Security Office. This is a positive move on the EU’s part, but it should hardly be a surprise to the Eritrean government—it has faced sanctions for its human rights and religious freedom violations in the past, earning the moniker “Africa’s North Korea” for its systematic flaunting of international standards and its insular foreign policy.
The recent sanctions target Eritrea’s National Security Office for its “serious human rights violations in Eritrea, in particular arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of persons and torture committed by its agents.” Eritrea has a well-documented history of treating its prisoners inhumanely and of targeting religious minorities for particularly harsh treatment.
Me’eter Prison, located near the Red Sea between Larora and Massawa on Eritrea’s east coast, is the customary holding place for Eritrean prisoners of conscience and is notorious for its regular use of torture, including to induce religious recantations. Prisoners at Me’eter Prison are kept in metal shipping contains placed on the open desert floor.
The EU’s sanctions on Eritrea were announced alongside sanctions on a number of other persons in China, North Korea, Libya, Russia, and South Sudan, often for violating the rights of religious minorities in those countries. In China, the sanctions announcement highlighted the abhorrent treatment of Uyghurs, an ethnic and religious minority, in the Xingjian region.
The EU also recently sanctioned eleven persons for their involvement in the recent coup in Myanmar, targeting the highest ranks of the Burmese military for overthrowing the previous administration and for its violent response to protesters. The Burmese military has a long history of violence against religious minorities, including Rohingya Muslims and various Christian-majority ethnic groups.
The United States joined the EU in its sanctions on China, but did not join in its sanctions on Eritrea in keeping with its years-long policy of conciliation rather than confrontation.
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