“They Are Making Us into Slaves, Not Educating Us”

How Indefinite Conscription Restricts Young People’s Rights: Access to Education in Eritrea

Human Rights Watch Report here: HRW Report on Sawa and National Service


Recommendations to Eritrea’s Partners, including the African Development Bank, EU, UN, and Finnish Government

  • Urge the government to prohibit military training of children under 18 years of age;
  • Encourage the government to disassociate military service from secondary education, notably by ensuring that secondary school students do not have to undertake mandatory military training, allowing Grade 12 students the option of finishing secondary education at other public secondary schools and be taught by trained, regular teachers who voluntarily choose to teach;
  • Call on the government to begin the rapid demobilization of national service conscripts who have served more than the statutory 18 months. This could start by immediately demobilizing those who have served more than five years and by taking speedy and concrete measures to ensure that the 18-month statutory service limit is respected for all recruits;
  • Call on the criminal justice authorities to investigate and prosecute all government officials, including military officers, suspected of committing torture or cruel and degrading treatment of students, national service conscripts, and detainees at Sawa;
  • Stipulate that donor-funded projects in the education sector, including vocational training, should not contribute to the forced conscription of children, be implemented by or target forced conscripts who have been held beyond the 18-month limit;
  • Ensure that human rights safeguards are in place to ensure that funding and activities do not contribute to forced and indefinite conscription of national service teachers. These safeguards should include monitoring provisions, including regular unannounced visits by independent monitors to secondary schools where funding has directly or indirectly been delivered, with clear assurances that reprisals against monitors and interviewees will not be tolerated; projects that fail to meet these conditions should be suspended;
  • Insist publicly and privately that a condition of financing of government projects is that independent human rights defenders, journalists, and other monitors be able to work without impediments or fear of reprisals;
  • Urge Eritrea to cooperate with and admit the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and all other United Nations and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights special mechanisms investigating human rights violations, including by granting them access to detention facilities




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