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PRESS RELEASE – Co-Chairs Ask Secretary Pompeo to Press for Human Rights in Eritrea

Co-Chairs Ask Secretary Pompeo to Press for Human Rights in Eritrea WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Randy Hultgren and James P. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to

Co-Chairs Ask Secretary Pompeo

to Press for Human Rights in Eritrea

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Randy Hultgren and James P. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to ensure that any reset in diplomatic relations between the United States and Eritrea be tied to verifiable human rights objectives. The Co-Chairs emphasized four key benchmarks for Eritrea, including the release of civil and military conscripts, an end to religious persecution, the release of prisoners of conscience, and freedom of movement for Eritrean citizens. The letter follows a hearing convened by the Commission earlier this year on human rights in Eritrea. The signed letter is available here, and the full text is reprinted below.

The bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was established by unanimous consent in the United States House of Representatives to promote, defend and advocate for international human rights. The Commission undertakes public education activities, provides expert human rights advice and encourages Members of Congress to actively engage in human rights issues.

Dear Secretary Pompeo,

As Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we write to urge you to ensure that any reset in relations between the United States and Eritrea, or any easing of sanctions imposed on Eritrea by the United Nations, be tied to concrete human rights objectives that are in the best interest of the Eritrean people as well as the international community.

We welcome the groundbreaking peace measures initiated by the leaders of both Ethiopia and Eritrea in recent months. Like the rest of the world, we were gratefully surprised to see the countries’ twenty-year conflict resolved with the signing of peace accords and the opening of diplomatic relations. Eritrea’s entry into the regional and global community is a welcome development with the potential to bring significant benefits to the Horn of Africa. These recent advances also present an important opportunity for the warming of the U.S.-Eritrean relationship, including strengthening security and economic partnerships that benefit both nations.

However, though President Isaias Afwerki and the Eritrean government have made great strides engaging with other countries in the region, we remain deeply concerned by the ongoing gross human rights violations that the government perpetrates against its own people. In a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Eritrea earlier this year, we heard testimony from individuals who described, or who had themselves experienced, torture as a systematic policy of the government, and the brutal suppression of their most basic rights. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are non-existent in Eritrea. Indefinite conscripted military and civil service is a fact of life for Eritreans and has created a mass exodus of people trying to leave the country. For these reasons, the small nation of Eritrea has disproportionately contributed to the global refugee crisis, particularly in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Since the signing of the peace agreement there has been no evidence of human rights reforms.

As Eritrea normalizes relations with the world, we ask that you continue to address these concerns in your ongoing diplomacy with the Eritrean government. In support of human rights and norms of international behavior, we ask that you specifically press for four concrete steps.

First, Eritrea should immediately release all military and civil conscripts who have served for more than 18 months and officially proclaim that new conscripts will not be required to serve for more than 18 months. The Eritrean people should no longer be subjected to indefinite national service that amounts to forced labor on behalf of the government.

Second, Eritrea must end religious persecution against all religious faiths in the country, particularly against those who do not belong to one of the four permitted religious groups. Jehovah’s Witnesses should again be granted full Eritrean citizenship along with the opportunity to fully participate in the country’s institutions and worship freely according to their conscience. In addition, at least 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses are reported to be incarcerated. Eritrea should provide explanations for the charges against these individuals and others in prison, release any who have not been criminally convicted, and ensure due process for all detained persons.

Third, President Afwerki should release the many hundreds of prisoners of conscience including Patriarch Abune Antonios and journalist Dawit Issak. At the very least, the United States should be allowed a visit with Patriarch Antonios as the U.S. Embassy has repeatedly requested. In addition, family members should be allowed to visit prisoners of conscience including those incarcerated for their religious beliefs, and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be given access to provide humanitarian aid and medicine to prisoners.

Lastly, Eritrean citizens should be granted the freedom to travel in and out of their own country. In the past, those seeking to leave the country were often shot at the border, or were captured, imprisoned, and tortured in underground prisons.

On September 17, 2018, only a day after President Afwerki signed the peace accord with the Ethiopian government, Berhane Abrehe, a former minister in the Eritrean government, was arrested in Asmara for writing a book critical of Afwerki. His family reports that he remains incommunicado. We find the Eritrean government’s discourse in support of peace and economic development inconsistent with its ongoing human rights violations which we believe will continue to destabilize the region. The government’s actions are not in-line with its stated intention to rejoin the international community.

We ask that you convey this message in your discussions with the Eritrean government and ensure that any lifting of sanctions is tied to these clear and measurable outcomes.


Randy Hultgren, M.C.                                    James P. McGovern, M.C.

Co-Chair, TLHRC                                          Co-Chair, TLHRC



CC:      The Honorable Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Review overview
  • rezen November 19, 2018

    Very nice words, par excellence.

    Issayas Afeweri Abraha has been on glaring power for twenty-seven years and never changed and will probably never change

    The United State, needless to say, was fully (and in minute details) aware of the situation in Eritrea for twenty-seven years, and never changed

    The highly educated Eritreans, with top notch degrees of Doctor of Philosophy in Law, international relation, political science, education, economics, agriculture, engineering …. are not able to get together for 27 years and attempt to save their dear country.

    The respectable UN organization, needless to say, is only capable of keeping the log book of the member States to which Issayas Afewrki Abraha is a respectable member.

    The ‘dynamic and enviable’ African Union is helpless to be an advocate for Liberty, Freedom and Democracy to liberate a single African country. By the way, Issayas Afewerki Abraha is respectable member of the fantastic organization.

    And so, Time goes on … and on … and on, from one generation to the next, for eternity.

    Post Script I am lucky to be in a free and democratic country to scribble the above innocent words. I also THANK VERY MUCH for giving me the space to pour my heart out.

  • k.tewolde November 19, 2018

    “lifting of sanctions is tied to these clear and measurable outcomes.” meaning to the 1st,2nd,3rd and last conditions,how old is this article?

    • Asmara Eritrea November 20, 2018

      The article is a Press Release from Monday, 19 November 2018.

      Sanction 1907 lifted last week was meaningless and ineffective – see my article from last week. What we must do now, as Eritreans in diaspora, is work hard at the UN and individual country levels for the following sanctions to be imposed on the regime:

      1. Economic Sanction – such sanctions to be imposed until the regime lifts its own economic sanction on the Eritrean people,

      2. Human Rights Sanction – to be imposed until such time the regime frees all political prisoners, ends the national service, the rule of law and commerce are put in place and adhered to.

      There is an appetite for these sanctions in Europe as well as in the US. All we need to do is work together and lobby at high levels in a concerted effort. We can do it!

      Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship.

  • Tesfaldet November 19, 2018

    ነገር ከምጽኡ ደልዮም እዮም መስለኒ

  • Tesfaldet November 19, 2018

    Who cares abaut this bullshit

    • HdriswuE halalmariet November 21, 2018


      Can you explain the reason why you characterized the human crimes issue in Eritrea as Bulshit?

      How do you think Badme fell into the hands of woyane in 1985?

      Why do you think isaias afewerk did not notify the UNSC of the alleged invasion of woyane before he ordered the so called counter offensive in 1998?

      Why do you think isaias afewerk refused to implement the 1997 ratified Constitution in the aftermath of Algiers peace treaty between Eritrea and Ethiopia?

      Why do you think he has not yet produced his alleged new constitution he said 2014 was being drafted?


      I have been opposed to both woyane and isaias afewerk. I am firmly convinced that despite their overt difference, they are covertly operating in a complementary manner against Eritrea and it’s people. This underlies the reason I had been insisting that Eritrean Oppositions leave Ethiopia because their mere association with woyane was denying them any credibility in the eyes of Eritreans , prolonging their agony under isaias afewerk. Now, in the era of the apparent demise of woyane, if they want play positive role against isaias afewerk,the oppositions not only must unambiguously demonstrate their dissociation from woyane but also must issue a Manifesto declaring their relactionship with woyane was wrong.

      The same goes with you, the Eritrean isaias afewerk supporters. Now that woyane is driven out of power and the current government of Ethiopia has of necessity accepted without ifs and buts the EEBC ruling, to avoid being portrayed as mere puppets, you must insist in unison with rest of Eritreans that isaias afewerk hand over the Eritrean Government to the people. Obviously, fearful of being held accountable for his Crime Against Humanity, he won’t give up power easily but he will finally relent once he realizes the ground is sinking from his under feet because deep down at their hearts all tyrants are cowards. Recall, Gadaffi, Sadam Hussien, even Mao who pleaded to step down to save his decomposing life.

  • Tesfaldet November 19, 2018

    They are not messing with somalia this is Eritrea

    • k.tewolde November 20, 2018

      Are you sure about that? Somalia never been the same after that black hawk dawn incident,don’t poke your finger at uncle Joe,you will end up speaking in southern twang.

      • Tesfaldet November 20, 2018

        Theykik their Ass at black hawk down they shot down the helecopter &draging the dead solders

    • Berhane Haile November 20, 2018

      ንስኻ ኢኻ ቡልሺት። ሓቅኻ ጽቡቕ ትነብር ስለ ዘለኻ ስቓይ ናይ ደቂ ሃገርካ ዝግድሰካ ኣይትመስልን ኢኻ። ምናልባሽውን ኤርትራዊ ኣይትኸውንን። ሓደ ቸኻን ባዕዳዊ ትኸውን።

    • Yik November 20, 2018

      Donkey man try to learn,dedeb. The dictator has to go.

  • Tesfaldet November 20, 2018

    The pakistan solders come to safe them

  • Hidat November 20, 2018

    እገዳ ይወረድ ኣይዉረድ ዘምጽኦ ለዉጢ የብሉን ትብሉ ተመሊስኩም ተእዉዬ

    • Danilo November 20, 2018

      ወይ ጉድ! ዓሳክር ተስ-ፊጭ ከይኣኽለና እንስሳታት ህግደፍ፡ትሩፍ!!! እዚ ፎሩም’ዚ ሃገራዊ ዛዕባ ጥራሕ ዘኤንግድ ናይ ደለይቲ ፍትሒ እዩ’ሞ እዞም እንስሣዊ ኣትሓሳስባ ዘለዎም ልሓስቲ ጫማ ናብ face book ዲኣ።

  • Tsega November 21, 2018

    “diplomatic relations between the United States and Eritrea be tied to verifiable human rights objectives” any deal with dictator is reall shameful. We Eritreans must say enough is enought.

    • ሽማንጉስ ላዕላይ November 22, 2018

      well the usa has relations with saudi arabia ….that does not allow women to drive cars ,if women are raped they have to have 4 eyewitnesses with 20/20 eyesight…the saudis legally behead more people than alqaeda & isis combined , so why not with Eritrea ?

      • k.tewolde November 22, 2018

        Wedi hatiney,so you are saying it is ok to continue to sleep and rape underage girls,torture and kill people with impunity,rule with fear and lawlessness….so that people like you slither into a helpless society and do whatever they want and get away with it? Shimanegus Tahtay is watching cousin.It is a matter of time.

        • ሽማንጉስ ላዕላይ November 23, 2018

          I am against double standard ,offcourse I am against all the things you mentioned but the US should not play oil favorites if it claims to stand for principle.

  • ሽማንጉስ ላዕላይ November 22, 2018

    እምብኣር ከምኡ ተባሂሉ ? ንተቓወምቲ ናይ ሕልሚ እንጀራ ይኾኖም ሓሻኩም