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Eritrea: Religious Freedom

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 20th July 2011.

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Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the extent of religious freedom in Eritrea; and what representations his Department has made to the Eritrean government on freedom of religion.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

We are deeply concerned by the restrictions placed on religious freedoms in Eritrea, and the many reports of the detention and inhumane treatment of those belonging to a religion not officially sanctioned by the Eritrean Government. We are also worried by recent reports of an order for all members of the clergy aged under 30 to report for national service.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office raises human rights concerns, including religious freedoms, with the Eritrean Government at every appropriate opportunity, both with the Eritrean embassy in London and with the Government in Asmara. In June this year, Her Majesty's ambassador to Eritrea raised human rights concerns with President Isaias Afwerki. Earlier this month, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Mr Bellingham raised human rights, including religious freedom, with senior Eritrea Cabinet Minister Arefaine Berhe. Along with EU partners, the United Kingdom has highlighted to the Eritrean Government their human rights obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Eritrean Government state that the security threat stemming from Ethiopia's non-implementation of the ruling on the countries' shared border obliges Eritrea to suspend many freedoms. We recognise Eritrea's security concerns but firmly reject the notion that this justifies the current severe abuses of human rights.

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