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Patriarch Antonios

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 15th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the government of Eritrea about the house arrest of Patriarch Antonios of the Eritrean Orthodox Church; and what responses they have received

Photo of Baroness Sugg Baroness Sugg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We remain concerned about the human rights situation in Eritrea, including the arrests of religious figures such as Patriarch Abune Antonios who has been detained for over 12 years. On 25 July 2019, we issued a tweet specifically calling attention to his apparent excommunication and his ongoing detention. We also raised his case in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's 2018 Annual Human Rights Report. There has been no response from the Government of Eritrea.

The UK Government, along with partners in the international community, have taken every opportunity to voice our concern about arbitrary arrests and detentions in Eritrea, and have called for their release. On 26 February, the UK's International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, delivered a statement during the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council expressing concern at continuing human rights abuses. Although welcoming Eritrean acceptance of Universal Periodic Review recommendations and offering UK assistance in support of their implementation, she said that the UK would continue to press for the release of arbitrarily detained individuals, and call for respect for freedom of religion or belief, especially for worshippers of unregistered religions.

Our Ambassador in Asmara raised arbitrary detentions of members of the Christian community with the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 20 May 2019 and with the President's senior adviser on 14 August 2019. During visits to Eritrea, the FCO's Head of East Africa Department, in November 2019, and the Home Office International Director, in February, both raised human rights issues with senior members of the Eritrean government. Eritrea remains a priority country for the FCO under our annual human rights reporting, and we will continue to monitor the situation there.

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