MA (Draft evaders; illegal departures; risk) Eritrea CG  UKAIT 00059
Date of hearing: 2 March 2007
Date Determination notified: 26 June 2007
|Secretary of State for the Home Department||RESPONDENT|
1. A person who is reasonably likely to have left Eritrea illegally will in general be at real risk on return if he or she is of draft age, even if the evidence shows that he or she has completed Active National Service, (consisting of 6 months in a training centre and 12 months military service). By leaving illegally while still subject to National Service, (which liability in general continues until the person ceases to be of draft age), that person is reasonably likely to be regarded by the authorities of Eritrea as a deserter and subjected to punishment which is persecutory and amounts to serious harm and ill-treatment.
2. Illegal exit continues to be a key factor in assessing risk on return. A person who fails to show that he or she left Eritrea illegally will not in general be at real risk, even if of draft age and whether or not the authorities are aware that he or she has unsuccessfully claimed asylum in the United Kingdom.
3. This Country Guidance supplements and amends to the above extent the Country Guidance in IN (Draft evaders evidence of risk) Eritrea CG  UKIAT 00106, KA (draft-related risk categories updated) Eritrea CG  UKAIT 00165, AH (Failed asylum seekers involuntary returns) Eritrea CG  UKAIT 00078 and WA (Draft-related risks updated Muslim Women) Eritrea CG  UKAIT 00079.
"1. The Appellant has been granted review of the determination of Immigration Judge Reid, who dismissed his appeal against the Secretary of State's decision to refuse to grant him asylum and to set removal directions to Eritrea, his country of origin. Reconsideration was granted because Senior Immigration Judge Jarvis considered it arguable that the Immigration Judge fell into material errors of law including failure to make findings or clear findings as to relevant facts, alternatively that she reached findings which were not based on the evidence. Further, it was arguable that the Immigration Judge's finding of lack of real risk of persecution or other serious harm as a deserter from military service was predicated on a fundamental misreading of and misapplication of the background evidence and the guidance in IN (Draft Evaders Evidence of Risk) Eritrea CG  UKAIT 00106. Additionally, there was no consideration of or findings in relation to the risk on return to the Appellant as a failed asylum seeker per se.
2. At the error of law hearing, Ms V Quinn of Counsel (instructed by White Ryland Solicitors) appeared for the Appellant. Mr J Gulvin represented the Secretary of State. An allegation in the grounds for review upon which leave was given in relation to alleged interpreter difficulties is not pursued.
3. The Appellant is still a relatively young man and although he has performed his primary [National] service, remains eligible. The Immigration Judge found that he had probably been demobilised, but the objective evidence on demobilisation does not support that finding.
4. The Immigration Judge's determination is based exclusively on the CIPU Country Report evidence but does not examine the other materials in the Appellant's bundle. After examination of the background evidence (particularly pages 80, 20, 117, 137, 165 and 201) of the Appellant's bundle, together with the record of proceedings in which the Immigration Judge was plainly referred to a number of areas of background evidence (including some of those pages) which are not referred to in her determination, Mr Gulvin conceded, and the Tribunal agreed, that there were significant omissions in the fact-finding in relation to the military service evasion element of the Appellant's account. This appeal therefore proceeds to second stage reconsideration by consent.
5. The appeal was therefore set down for full reconsideration by any Immigration Judge other than Mrs Reid."
"In November 1991 the new EPLF Government issued regulations to make national service compulsory for all citizens. The first intake of national service was in 1994 and it continued in staged phases since then. Under the revised National Service Regulations of 23 October 1995, national service is compulsory for all citizens aged between eighteen and forty years, male and female. It consists of six months of military training (performed at Sawa Military Training Centre near Tessenei in Western Eritrea) and twelve months of 'active military service and development tasks in military forces' under Ministry of Defence authority. It extends to military reserve duties up to the age of 50. It may be continued under 'mobilisation or emergency situation directives given by the government' (Eritrea Country Report 5.59)."
The Secretary of State taking this information into consideration, believed that the Appellant had completed his compulsory military service considering that he was called up in October 1997.
"The issue is a narrow one. It deals only with National Service (NS) aspects of the appeal. It is the Appellant's evidence that he was re-called up for NS in 1998 and that he remained in NS until his departure that he left Eritrea illegally and that applying the Country Guidance decision in KA (Draft Related Risk Categories Updated) CG  UKAIT 00165, he is at risk as a deserter or as someone of National Service age who has left Eritrea illegally.
It is clear from the objective evidence that Military Service (MS) and National Service (NS) are interchangeable but in light of Dr Kibreab's evidence (his expert report of 30 October 2006 refers), we say the proper term is probably National Service (NS)".
Mr Parkinson indicated that he understood the overall issue in this appeal to be limited to whether demobilisation was taking place in Eritrea.
"30. I have no reason to doubt the family history given by the Appellant. I have no reason to doubt that he did spend time in the military, as is usual in Eritrea, whether in a voluntary capacity or as a conscript. I accept that he was in the naval branch of the military. I have no reason to doubt that he was trained by the military as an electrician. I formed the view the Appellant worked for some time as an electrician in a so-called 'development task' after his military service. I note that an individual is liable to be called up for military service duties until the age of fifty and that after military service many people of conscription age are sent to development tasks. The Appellant had spent many years in the military or in Revolution School and it may well be that the Appellant was one of those identified for demobilisation and referred to in the BBC News Report on 2 March 2004 mentioned in the CIPU at 5.52.
31. However, I reject the remainder of the Appellant's story. I do not believe he came to the adverse attention of the authorities. I do not believe that he was detained or ill-treated as he claimed. I do not believe he escaped from detention in hospital. I do not believe that he was or is active for the EDP. I formed the view that the Appellant left Eritrea for reasons other than being in need of international protection.
32. It is a possibility that the Appellant would come to the attention of the authorities on return to Eritrea but given his service record and the history of his family I do not believe the Appellant would be seen as a draft evader or as a deserter on return to Eritrea. I have already given my reasons for not accepting the Appellant has any political affiliations and in particular to the EDP.
33. If detained the Appellant is likely to be kept in unpleasant conditions but I do not believe that he is likely to be detained for any lengthy period. He has no health problems at present. I do not believe there is a real possibility or real risk that this Appellant's Article 3 rights would be breached on return or that he would face persecutory treatment".
The Appellant's Oral Evidence
"Where I was posted it was to work in a ship and there were people who were clearly experienced so there weren't many new people coming in. I would only know of the place I worked. There were coastguard and infantry of the military who were conscripted in greater numbers when I was working on the ship".
The Evidence of Dr Pool
"Since preparing my Report I have been looking into statistics. Frankly I have come across a major problem in that if you speak to Eritreans, they all say there has been no demobilisation.
However, if you look at the Eritrean Press which I read on-line and the government website which I have referred to in bold on page 2 of my report [the official Government website www.shaebiya.org and www.awate.com ] it is that there has been no reporting of demobilisation which again surprised me as you would think that if demobilisation was effectively underway it would be something the government would be quite proud of.
As regards the 104,000 in the UNDP Project Fact Sheet I have also discovered a similar figure in the document [copy World Bank Status of Projects in Execution for financial years 2006 and 2005].
This makes me even more curious with the figures for demobilisation. 2005 says 104,400 soldiers demobilised. After finding that, I looked at 2006 for the same project status which stretches from 2002 to 2005. A year later you would think the figure would have been increased or might be the same but the figure is 65,000 that had been demobilised for the entire project.
It is not an additional figure but a figure for the entire project and goes on to state that the World Bank has financed it because the target figure of 5,000 for payment has largely achieved its target on demobilisation. This is a World Bank Report. It is therefore difficult to reconcile these two reports when you also compare that with the Eritreans I speak to, who say, like this Appellant, there has been no demobilisation. I am therefore increasingly mystified when you speak to Eritreans who all say no demobilisation has taken place."
"For example, yesterday, I spoke with a woman who has just come back to England from Eritrea she joined the EPLF as a fighter as a teenager worked in various areas trained as a nurse she is currently a local administrator in the Northern Province of Eritrea so she has long experience. I asked her as a local authority government official, what her view was of the demobilisation process and she told me there has been no demobilisation. I showed her the World Bank figures and she just could not understand them".
"Reading his affidavit he mentions 5,000 demobilised as a pilot project of the World Bank but then he goes on to say there was no proper demobilisation indeed he mentions 65,000 supposed to be demobilised but in reality those demobilised only came from the reserve militia in the exercise 1993-1996 after the border wars so he has got the same number as mentioned in the 2006 World Bank Report."
"When one speaks of the 'demobilised' prior to the war, we are talking about 48,000 to 54,000 people between 1992 and 1994 who were demobilised, given grants for setting up businesses generally to return to civilian society (those who you can say, are demobilised classically defined part of the project for demobilisation).
In 1998, these were the first called up as they were the old EPLF fighters some I know went to the front line some were recalled as officers some as trainers for the new recruits.
So these people were demobilised in all senses of the term but were not demobilised when the war started they were called back so that suggested distinction seems a bit blurred to me.
Dr Gebremhedin who was also a consultant to the World Bank subsequent to going to the United States argues, as it seems likely to me, that if we are talking about anybody being demobilised after the Ethiopian/Eritrean war they are the batch of people who were demobilised but in the early 1990s. That makes some sense.
Hard evidence is difficult, but quite a few spent it in bars-frivolously-rather than applied it for the purpose given. I conclude that these figures are difficult to discuss.
There is no attempt in the 2006 Report, to explain why the figure comes down from the report of 2005. The obvious source of the figures are the World Bank, whose major desire in these Reports is not demobilisation per se but to reduce the size of the army to promote economic growth. The other curious thing about the 2005/2006 Reports apart from the number of soldiers claimed to be demobilised, is that the reports do not show much difference in the amount of money actually dispensed.
My understanding from the World Bank Report of 2005 is that US$42 million were dispensed for the 104,400 demobilised. In 2006 when 65,000 were shown to be demobilised, the figure is bigger."
"I am mystified by these statistics. I have looked a long time to find some statistics on demobilisation and this is the only evidence that I have come up with".
" the 65,000 in rather devious terms, i.e. that the Eritrean Government had been devious in taking two tranches of money from the World Bank for demobilisation".
"It cannot be said that these groups have been demobilised. I take it that they may
have been given a civil registration card, but they are not demobilised.
I therefore conclude that little reliance can be placed upon the UNDP Report.
I say the same proportion of the 48,000 post-border war demobilised soldiers, were brought back I would not know how many. It would make sense, as the regular army was comprised of new recruits after 1991 and the core of the officers and soldiers of the EPLF were then taken into the regular army.
My guess is that a high proportion of EPLF fighters pre-war were recalled into the army.
It seems to me to be the case that the demobilisation project simply has not got underway".
"I think there has been some demobilisation definitely the first phase 5,000 pilot project I really just do not know what has been going on and any figures about demobilisation should be treated with a terrific pinch of salt".
"The World Bank, principal funder, recognised the need for a special programme for combatants under the age of twenty five. The UN Security Council called for Ethiopia and Eritrea to facilitate the sustainable reintegration of demobilised soldiers".
"The Eritrean Government does not 'ask' there is no sense in which they 'inquire' so here a group of people, who were issued with demobilisation cards, have not been demobilised that is the clear indication from the War Resisters International Global Report 2004."
'The government has been slow to demobilise its military after the most recent conflict (although it recently formulated an ambitious demobilisation plan with the participation of the World Bank). A Pilot Demobilisation Programme involving five thousand soldiers began in November 2001 and was to be followed immediately thereafter by a first phase in which some sixty five thousand soldiers were to be demobilised. This was delayed repeatedly. In 2003 the government began to demobilise some of those slated for the first phase. The demobilisation programme has not yet been approved by the World Bank and funding from other donors is uncertain'.
" In reality many of them were recalled in 1998. Many were queuing up to join they had been fighting Ethiopia for many years so when the war started again, there was the chance to re-engage with the old enemy. Many would therefore have volunteered."
".. All demobilised soldiers and members of the National Service to get ready for reporting to Sawa Those called for 'National Service' include athletes and other youngsters active in various sports who are being given permits to pursue their sporting activities. Demobilised soldiers and National Service Corps who had been discharged for medical reasons ('Medical Board Cases') were also ordered to reregister".
" to be one of the most reliable because it is rare to see a website that corrects itself if subsequently proven to be wrong on factual errors and it is a website upon which the Home Office often relies, indeed it is exemplified by the fact that it is quoted in this COI".
"The target figure is 200,000. In terms of who has been demobilised there are no other statistics available to my knowledge. I went through UN UNDP, World Bank etc".
" because the World Bank hands out money but the government hands out any ID demobilisation card necessary to get that money".
"Paragraph 7 of Dr Amanuel's analysis is revelatory of the tactics of the government of Eritrea and its academic background and administration record is supportive of the accuracy of his analysis. The World Bank's MTR also provides support of his analysis with its comment in paragraph 8ii on 'limited transparency surrounding the size of the army'. Given the problems with transparency and the confused and murky nature of demobilisation statistics, it would seem nigh on impossible to assert that the Appellant was demobilised in 2004, as the Immigration Judge did in paragraph 30 of the determination"
"It is pretty damning for them to comment on the 'limited transparency surrounding the size of the army' ".
"it is difficult to grasp I mean to believe. If we take the 65,000 have they been given some kind of card and in 2007 will they be demobilised? It does not appear from the phrasing of the World Bank Reports that there has already been the demobilisation of 65,000 if you take the account of the World Bank Reports and particularly of the 2006 US Report, in addition to what Eritreans have said to me there has been no demobilisation. These are Eritreans with no axe to grind and will not grasp the general significance of why these figures are important".
I do not know what their desire is but there are quite strong factors in not demobilising because maintaining soldiers in government jobs on a soldier's pocket money is a massive subsidy for the government so a teacher who stays in the army is seconded to the teaching profession and still only gets the conscripts pay ".
"When you think the State is the major employer, you can see the way in which the pay is in terms of thousands of people still under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence.
The major employer is the state. I do not think that was the reason to start mobilisation that was the war. But the devastation of the war, economically has produced an economic motive to maintain mobilised soldiers".
" happening across the board with government jobs on a conscript's pay".
" the Eritrean Government wanted to mould Eritreans like the EPLF fighters namely; value of valour, self-sacrifice, courage that was needed to rebuild the economy. There were other nationalist organisations that the EPLF defeated based in the Sudan this had a particular ideology and they were quite strong in passing their ideology onto the younger generation.
So when the young people go to National Service they are given (less the Marxist aspect) the history of the EPLF and their victories. There is a kind of social control involved in the ethical direction that is being used in a military sense in Eritrea".
"That is the government's major explanation of the continued mobilisation and makes the best sense. Many Eritreans still think Ethiopia wants to get its coastline that was ceded in the peace negotiations between 1991 and 1993 and the Ethiopians are critical of their government for ceding the port to Eritrea. There is always the sense this war could start again. Just over the last two months we have seen Ethiopians and Eritreans backing two competing sides in Somalia".
" Round-ups started as students were in class which gave them no chance to say goodbye to their families or prepare themselves. They were taken straight from their desks to the waiting buses. The sudden and harsh manner in which the round-up was conducted has stunned and angered the entire population of Keren. One source says URC who was contacted by Awate said similar sentiments were reported in other towns".
"Demobilised soldiers and National Service Corps who had been discharged for medical reasons ('Medical Board Cases'), were also ordered to re-register. It is expected that this sweeping round-up of young students, which has already started in the Northern Red Sea and Anceba regions, will be continued in all regions of the country. One alarming aspect of this new wage of round-ups, is that it has affected young students under eighteen years of age".
"We have been looking today as to whether demobilisation is happening and if so to what extent if circumstances where they re-register includes people to be medically unfit.
Awate is generally reliable people given exemptions from the military, (for example to work for the US Embassy or the UN), are demobilised and you see reports they have been ordered to go for several weeks' military training. These kind of things can often be very obscure political messages to us but less obscure to Eritreans".
"Exit visas are very difficult to acquire and any Eritrean leaving Eritrea illegally (that is without an exit visa) would be suspected of draft evasion, deserting their military unit or of suspicious political behaviour".
"The Eritrean business women who work in textiles. People involved in business who are quite well in with the government circles.
Asmara is a very small society and the top business people know the government and know the way to get visas, senior military officers, government spokespeople. Someone of 50 plus would be more likely than not to get an exit visa depending on his or her profile". For ordinary people it is very difficult.
"Men under the age of fifty, regardless of whether they had completed National Service; women aged eighteen to twenty seven; members of Jehovah's Witnesses; and others who are out of favour with or seen as critical of the government, were routinely denied exit visas. In addition the government often refused to issue exit visas to adolescents and children as young as five years of age, either on the grounds that they were approaching the age of eligibility for National Service or because their diasporal parent had not paid the two per cent income tax required of all citizens residing abroad. Some citizens were given exit visas only after posting bonds of approximately $7,300 (100,000 Nakfa)".
"Although the war ended with Eritrea's defeat and peace in 2000, the disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains unresolved and only limited demobilisation has taken place. .. practices consistent with Articles 21 of the NSP Special Obligations which refer to military obligations under 'Mobilisation and Emergent Situation Directives given by the government' such directives have been in force since the 1998 war with Ethiopia. It should be noted that such obligations extend the upper age limit of the draft from forty to fifty and also include categories exempt from National Service, like former fighters of the EPLF and those who were members of the Peasant Militias (the reserve military force of the EPLF) during the liberation struggle".
"If you take their Medium-Term Report their comment of limited transparency the size of the army it is hard to distinguish between a military or a civilian programme therefore the World Bank people are a bit confused as to what on earth is going on.
As far as I know they come in on missions I do not think there is a permanent World Bank team in Eritrea but I could be corrected on this. By 'missions' I mean meetings with those involved in a demobilisation project. As far as I can tell, the main people on the ground are US Embassy personnel and personnel from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Asmara."
"It also raises the question of what does demobilisation mean when the World Bank says 'we do not know the distinction between the civil and the military", i.e, what on earth is going on here?"
"To what extent are there also people who have not really been demobilised but have been given money and continue working for the government and maybe this is just topping up?
I find it hard to state in any definitive fashion that we would understand, of handing back a uniform and operating solely in civil society".
"There are at least two categories of release from the military component of active National Service:
i. those transferred from Active National Service to civilian duties but who remain on active National Service in the sense they do not return to civilian life; and
ii. those demobilised".
"The problem for the World Bank is differentiating between what is 'military' and what is 'civilian' in Eritrea.
If you do not know the difference between the two, it must be very hard to say someone had stopped being a 'military' person and become a 'civilian' person
Added to which because so many are sent back to work for the state on military salary how many of these are there they cannot be described as demobilised because their employment is subject to Military Defence Rules and Regulations and the government, so I can understand the World Bank confusion as to how you define a distinction.
It is a very odd situation in Eritrea as compared to what we in the western world will understand as 'demobilised'."
"The World Bank Mid-Term Review Mission (MTR) Report makes clear that there has been little progress on demobilisation and that the Eritrean Government is largely responsible. There has been disagreement between donors and the Eritrean Government on statistical detail. In MTR 8ii and footnote the 'Development Partners are of the opinion that EDRP does not reduce the number of soldiers in the country but rather facilitates change of personnel. According to the GoE and NCDRP these perceptions are wrong'. According to the footnote to this sentence, the Eritrean Government requested the removal of this statement reflecting the opinion of the Development Departments. The latter are the EU, UNDP, USAID and the Netherlands represented by their embassy in Asmara".
"The question is how you define 'soldiers', not carrying a gun in trenches across from Ethiopian troops but transferred to civilian/military jobs. The World Bank objective is of reducing the size of the army and it is different from the authorities' objective in reality. How do you count the number of soldiers, when people are doing ostensibly civilian jobs, but in the employ of the Ministry of Defence and on military pay."
" .. in the medium to long term remains strongly committed to further demobilising its armed forces, but that in the short term, the pace and scope of immediate demobilisation cannot be defined".
"It is a fair summary but I have no way of telling whether demobilisation is underway or not, particularly, because of the grey area in drawing a distinction between those who are obviously undertaking military roles in the armed forces and those who are undertaking civilian roles who are still in the employ of the military reinforced by the impressive comment from Eritreans that there has been no demobilisation. All that I am relatively sure about is that the first phase pilot project involving 5,000 was successfully undertaken otherwise I have the same difficulty as expressed by the World Bank on this matter.
My concerns are reinforced by my conversation with Eritreans who say there is no demobilisation what does that mean?
I cannot say there is demobilisation or that there is not". (Our emphasis)
"To start off with, we do not know the size of the population. There has never been a population survey figures we have found, are based on the 1993 referendum and included in that were tens of thousands in Ethiopia, in Sudan, in South Africa, even Eritreans who were in London and voted in the referendum. As it is problematic as to the size of the population, how does one calculate the percentage who are conscripted?"
"If one accepts the figure of 65,000, the further question remained as to what categories were demobilised. On the previous practice of the Eritrean Government, it is very unlikely that there was randomness in the character of those demobilised. It would seem the categories were three:
- 'severely' and 'less severely disabled' (MTR p14 gives a figure of fifteen thousand to the less severely);
- veteran fighters from the pre-1991 Liberation Struggle who had been demobilised in the 1990s and recalled in 1998, an undefined proportion of the forty eight thousand demobilised between 1993 and 1995;
- soldiers in the higher age grade listed in the NSP (thirty six forty five and forty six fifty).'
All three of those interviewed in a pilot project demobilisation queue by a reporter from the UN Office of the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and published by the UN news agency IRIN in April 2002 fall into these latter two categories."
"This paragraph is, I admit, a bit speculative but it is based upon what Dr Gebremedhin said about the pilot batch and the Eritrean Government in the first round in the early nineties where it was systematic in the categories it demobilised from the EPLF after independence. I therefore made an assumption that to the extent that there was demobilisation, it was on something of a speculative basis, i.e. disabled would be in the first category.
I am in a quandary in that we had Eritreans telling me there is no demobilisation and the other reports albeit contradictory that there is demobilisation whether 64,000 or 104,000 and I spent a lot of time trying to find an answer". (Our emphasis).
" like contemporary China, after 1991 the government separated assets built up during the Liberation struggle military assets went to the armed forces and civilian assets went to the party, the PFDJ. The civilian assets (insurance, building construction, etc.) are the crucial part of the economy. There is a relatively limited private sector".
"Q. I ask you this, 65,000 of an army of say 300,000 is a very significant percentage?
A. It is about the army, but the Eritrean Government's concern as to the economic burden on the state is a worry for all these people to go back to civilian jobs on civilian pay.
Q. Bearing in mind that Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world, would it not actually benefit those having to feed all the households of these soldiers?
A. The government is seen by people in the army as a benefit and not just for economic reasons so that what happens to restless youth if it goes back to the villages? Are they going to reintegrate in the countryside, a big problem in the 1990s. Economic consequences of the war with Ethiopia have had a negative effect. Can the civilian section absorb all these people who are demobilised? These are factors other than rationality. Look at Zimbabwe"
"I guess I think they would have to show some official document or documents. They would have to show a current passport and an exit visa. I would think so. Security is tight at the airport".
The Evidence of Dr Kibreab
"In March 2004, former combatants already incorporated in the government armed forces were issued with demobilisation cards and asked to continue National Service until January 2005 ".
"If you wish for example to have an economist and you have a small enterprise of your own or a truck for which a driver is needed most people are in National Service and the civilian labour market suffers from a shortage of such skills.
So if you look for a skilled person, a business person makes a written application to the Ministry of Defence stating the types of skills sought, and if the MD accepts your application then they send someone who is in the NS. I have seen several letters in which a woman who owned a truck applied for a truck driver by letter dated 18 May 2000.
The MD has a salary scale of all types of qualifications ranging from PhD holders to unskilled labourers and in that letter I saw the MD telling the woman to pay the salary of the truck driver into the bank account of the Ministry of Defence. That is one example of many".
"The interesting thing here is that after completion of six months military training all participants participate in different forms of development activities some are assigned to work with the ministries within their departments, regional governments and those who are uneducated are usually assigned to the army but participate in unskilled activities, for example labourers in road improvements. Some are also sent to the private sector. The letter says it is not a normal job but a temporary one to overcome a labour shortage and the person concerned remains subject to military discipline as a draftee".
"For those vehicle owners who need drivers because their drivers were taken to National Service and now need to employ drivers in National Service, they should know the following rate of salaries and that they are allowed to select and employ any person from the Ministry of Defence Logistics Department, ensuring periodic check-ups of the payment system.
1. This assignment of the National Service Member is not a permanent position: its nature is temporary and will be considered only to cover the shortfall caused by the lack of experienced workers.
Therefore the person assigned, owing to their nature, is always a member of the National Service even though they are under the immediate instruction of their employer".
"I got it from one of my informants in England. I did not ask how he obtained it. When these people are assigned to civil activities, the Eritrean Government does not consider, even though they are under military discipline, that they are subject to NS, although they are under the Ministry of Defence. For example they have to go to their units every month. They continue to serve their National Service so they have not been demobilised".
"Concerns remain that DS (demobilised soldiers) are subject to National Service as well as potentially being returned to the military".
" internally speaking to people in this regard, for example I was in field work in the summer in Italy with Eritrean asylum seekers".
"Looked at objectively, they were supposed to be in MS eighteen months but in May 2002 there was introduced the Warsi-Yakaaol Campaign (WYC Programme) for all the fighters that was contrary to the terms of the NS (MS) Proclamation that limited service to eighteen months." (Our emphasis).
135. In this regard he referred us to his report (B21) that stated:
"On 12 December 2000, the Eritrean and Ethiopian Governments signed a peace agreement in Algiers under the auspices of the African Union and to some extent the United Nations, the Government of the United States and the European Union. In the immediate post-Algiers Peace Agreement, the Eritrean Government established a National Commission for the Demobilisation and Re-integration Programme (NCDRP) and a phased demobilisation programme of some 200,000 combatants was formulated. The first phase, some seventy thousand soldiers comprising of old combatants (Yakaaol) and draftees of the National Service and the Warsi-Yakaaol Campaign referred to by the government as WARSAI, were expected to be demobilised by the end of January 2003. These were going to be mostly women, people with scarce skills, family needs and sicknesses. In the second phase sixty thousand combatants were expected to be demobilised by the end of July 2003. Due to uncertainties concerning the funding, the government did not specify the exact time when the remaining seventy thousand combatants would be demobilised. The main funder of the planned disarmament demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) was the World Bank.
However, none of these phased demobilisation programmes were implemented. The only exception was the pilot scheme under which about five thousand soldiers, a large majority of whom were disabled during the border war and few members of the YIKAALO (individuals who fought in the war of independence ) who were old and individuals with long-term illnesses diabetics, asthmatics etc.
It was under desperate circumstances that the government re-enlisted these individuals and when the peace agreement was signed, consequently some funds were made available, the government wanted on the one hand, to appear to be doing something about demobilisation, on the other, to get rid of the individuals who were, de facto redundant due to injuries, old age and poor health. Although theoretically the pilot scheme was implemented to provide lessons of good practice for the large-scale programme of demobilisation, hitherto not only has no such demobilisation taken place, but the government while appearing to be demobilising, seized the opportunity to gain access to a limited amount of external funds.
Not only did the Eritrean Government fail to demobilise the two hundred thousand soldiers agreed with the international donors, but as seen before, it also extended the obligation to perform national service indefinitely under the new label known as YDC in May 2002. This was contrary to the terms of the National Service Proclamation of 11/1991 and its Amendment Proclamation 82/1995 which limits the requirements of the service to eighteen months. However, the Proclamation on National Service was overridden by the events that unfolded by the border war and by the President's decision to introduce the WYC (Warsi-Yakaaol Campaign) in May 2002 .
As noted earlier, the WYC compels those who complete the eighteen months requirement to remain enlisted indefinitely and to work for the state and the firms of the ruling party, PFDJ, and other development works without remuneration, save a pittance of pocket money". (Our emphasis).
"Even though I have no written documents, a relative of mine serving in the Eritrean Army for the last ten years was caught crossing the Sudanese border and we do not know his whereabouts. That happened seven months ago".
"i. During the mobilisation of war period anyone in Active National Service is under the obligation of remaining even beyond the prescribed period unless the concerned authority allows them to leave officially. (Our emphasis).
ii. The citizen registered to perform Active National Service upon changing his address upon entering into service, has the duty to inform the Regional Administration in his area about his address presenting his Registration Card".
" promulgated before war broke out and even then the government had the prerogative to extend the length of NS. This was overridden by the border war and the WYC Campaign, - but anyway, it reinforced the government authority to extend beyond the NS."
"Information Minister Ali Abdu said that no-one was exempted from the National Service, pointing out that it is a continuous programme for the service of the nation.
'Every Eritrean' means that those Eritreans who work for example in embassies, in international organisations, in the UN, are not immune from National Service. Ali said 'You never finish your national service, meaning you cannot say there is a full-stop to serving your country'."
"Many people wrongly assume that the first six months draftees spent in Sawa receiving military training represents a military service. The remaining twelve months draftees spend taking part in development activities is also wrongly seen as constituting a separate national obligation. This confusion does not emanate from the particular experience of Eritrea but rather from the experiences of other countries that had a policy of military service.
What people do not realise is that in Eritrea, there is no military service. There is only Hagerawi Agelglot (National Service) which is much more ambitious and broader than common Military Service. The Eritrean authorities never refer to the National Service as 'Wotehaderawi Agelglot' (Military Service). This concept is totally absent in the government's discourse on a National Service, including in the terminologies of the two pieces of legislation on the National Service. Wotehaderawi Teealim (Military Training) in the Eritrean context is completely different from Wotehaderawi Agelglot (Military Service).
National Service consists of six months military training (it is important not to confuse this with Military Service) and twelve months development work. The two aspects of the National Service namely, the military training and the simultaneously ideological indoctrination at Sawa Military Camp and the twelve months development work represent a continuum rather than a dichotomy. They are indivisible. They are two sides of the same coin the coin being National Service". (Our emphasis).
"... to inculcate the EPLF values on the younger generation.
The President said this at the Youth Festival held at Sawa in July 2006 (B16) that 'nationalism and patriotism did not develop naturally. They had to be fostered and nurtured' and he said that the NS and its concomitants, the WYC, were indispensable mechanisms in the process of promoting and nurturing discipline, patriotism and commitment to the project of national unity.
During the six months military training, the kind of training and indoctrination received by the participants is identical. They are subject to the same regime largely in training, political education and history of the EPLF etc.
At the end of six months, they are allocated in different development activities dependent upon their qualifications but whilst so allocated they still remained under military discipline and the Ministry of defence organises where they go.
Once they are allocated at different ministries or even the private sector they do not get paid the Ministry of Defence get the payment, i.e. NS service pay is given to them".
"The law requires a citizen to stay in National Service for eighteen months and at the end of that some of them get reintegration assistance, not all of them, most of them return to their families. That was the position between May 1994 and 6 May 1998, the law on NS was followed but, when the border war broke out on 6 May 1998, they were re-enlisted, i.e. those who were discharged and completed their obligation were re-enlisted and that also included those who were former field fighters demobilised between 1992 to 1994.
There is therefore no distinction between those who have completed their NS pre-border war or post-border war. All are subject to further NS.
Some, who have suffered injuries or who are unwell were probably discharged as part of the pilot scheme. Otherwise those up to the age of fifty have not effectively been demobilised, including those not present in the army. They remain in NS and therefore under military discipline.
Eritrea, in spite of the government's ambition, is a very weak state and the enforcement ability of the government is limited so people escape their villages, flee to Ethiopia so it cannot be said they are otherwise actually servicing. Whether or not they choose to hide or escape they have not been demobilised. On return they will be regarded as deserters even if they fled the country before being called up they will be regarded as draft evaders.
When you arrive at Asmara Airport there is a rigorous security check. If my mother returned she would face it. If someone is within the age range of NS, eighteen fifty, they would be subjected to questioning and depending on the questions, such a person could either be sent to Ad-Abeto a detention centre, or asked to go home and report in three or four days and in the meantime they would check up on you. Most government departments are now computerised. I cannot say the extent of any database, if any, at the airport. The check is the age of men and women. The authorities tend to be more lenient to women over thirty but they still run a check but it is less rigorous. I know through my informants and what I have seen myself."
"They require secondary school students and relocate them to Sawa and ensure they complete their education in a military camp since 2003 the reason they do that is that most students would otherwise disappear".
"A further index of the definition of draft evaders is the transfer of punishment and penalties for draft evasion to the parents of those who do not fulfil the provisions of the NSP. Over the last the two years the penalties listed under Article 37 of the NSP have been imposed on parents in some parts of Eritrea. There have been reports by Eritrean Human and Democratic Rights United Kingdom (EHDR-UK) of arrests of parents in October 2005 in the Southern Province of Eritrea (Decamhare and its surrounding areas have been mentioned specifically) of those whose children left the country without exit visas. EHDR-UK has given the figure of over two hundred detained on October 24 2005. EHDR-UK is a London-based human rights monitoring group and has a tendency to be cautious rather than inflammatory in reporting human rights abuses in Eritrea.
Gedab News (an independent opposition website) I have found to be usually accurate with a record of correcting previous errors or mis-reporting (reported on July 21 2005 a large scale round-up in Debub (southern region/province) of parents of:
- any person summoned since the 1995 NSP but did not report
- any student who had completed eleventh grade between 2002 and 2005 but had failed to report to Sawa for twelfth grade
- any person who had left their National Service Unit and whose whereabouts was not known
- any person who had left the country without an exit visa
Gedab News reported "bail" of ten thousand Naqfa if the absent person was found in Eritrea and fifty thousand if found outside. Personal information from the Anceba region in Northern Eritrea is consistent with the Gedab figures for bails/fines of parents and with a similar scale of parental imprisonment in the villages around Keren, the provincial capital of Anceba. Although the figure attributed as bail and fines is higher than in Article 37, the imprisonment of parents is consistent with the punishment laid out for draft evasion.
Article 37 would list penalties for those violating provisions of the NSP does not discriminate between National Service and reserve army with regard to penalties, particularly since the post-1998 circumstances have resulted in so many remaining on what is defined as active National Service. Exit visas are very difficult to acquire and any Eritrean leaving Eritrea illegally (that is, without an exit visa) would be suspected of draft evasion, deserting their military unit or of suspicious political behaviour".
"Year one to six is primary school, then there is junior then there is secondary school. It is not a requirement of law to attend school but those who are in cities attend school. National Service interrupted the education system as many ran away to avoid being conscripted.
"It followed from May 1998 people conscripted remained on National Service unless they had run away."
"This is what the Eritrean Government refers to as 'demobilised' and I think these are the figures given to the World Bank."
"Any student who absconds before or after being transferred to Mai Nefhi Institute is regarded as a draft evader. This is not only because the Mai Nefhi Institute is regarded as part of the realm of the army but also because the students are in waiting to be drafted into the National Service immediately after they complete their studies. Students at the Institute are also required to participate in development work during the summer holidays. In fact although I cannot say this with an acceptable degree of certainty, I have been told by some people in government that the students who attend the Mai Nefhi Institute are considered as being members of the National Service. This may explain the rigorous control imposed on their freedom of movement and residence. They also receive military training. The Mai Nefhi Institute join the National Service and whoever runs away or absconds during the six months military training or after, is considered as a deserter.
Any student who hides inside the country or departs from the country when approaching draft age is regarded as a draft evader. Although the so-called approaching draft age is arbitrarily used, it can go down to ten years. (Our emphasis). The government does not issue exit visas to children who are ten and over ten years old."
"Citizens and foreign nationals were required to obtain an exit visa to depart the country. There were numerous cases where foreign nationals were delayed in leaving for up to two months or initially denied permission to leave when they applied for an exit visa. Men under the age of fifty regardless of whether they had completed National Service; women aged eighteen to twenty seven; members of Jehovah's Witness and others who are out of favour with or seen as critical of the Government were routinely denied exit visas. In addition, the Government often refused to issue exit visas to adolescents and children as young as five years of age either on the grounds that they were approaching the age of eligibility for National Service or because their diasporal parents had not paid the two per cent income tax required of all citizens residing abroad. Some citizens were given exit visas only after posting bonds of approximately $7,300 (100,000 Nakfa)".
"49. One further item of relevance to the situation as regards exit visas, military service-related matters, including the position of women of draft age, is a US State Department Report of February 2005 (covering 2004) Section 2d on Freedom of Movement states: [there is then repeated a similar passage from the 2005 US Report as above stated from the 2006 Report)."
"Thus, with the exception of the veteran former combatants, i.e. those who joined the struggle before 1998 and the mentally and physically infirm who are not required to participate in the National Service and in the WYC the large majority of all citizens between eighteen and fifty years are in the National Service". (Our emphasis).
"They are doing everything we do here. Teachers, policemen, drivers, night watchmen, agriculture labourers engineers they are everything, but unlike others where people wished to earn a living these people are under National Service and are working for the Government even where it is in the private sector, i.e. their salaries go to the Ministry of defence. This is as indicated in the letters. (Dr Kibreab was referring to the letters and translations of 18 May 2000 and 17 February (year unknown))."
"In 2003, the government began to demobilise some of those slated for the first phase".
"The programme has not yet been approved by the World Bank and funding for it from other donors is uncertain".
"I write about those things. I have my own way of checking the reliability of this information and therefore I have no doubt about the veracity of this information. It is corroborated by many other documents including the World Bank MTR July 05. Even though the World Bank is a non-political organisation and very sensitive and therefore very reluctant to be critical about other governments' positions in this respect you can very easily see how much they are despairing."
"Has the EDRP process, [Emergency Demobilisation and Reintegration Project], led to an actual reduction in the armed forces? There are perceptions among Development Partners that the continued mobilisation into the armed forces in Eritrea, including through the National Service (NS), is to such an extent that the combined armed forces are as large now as at the start of EDRP. This view unfortunately is fed by limited transparency surrounding the size of the army and the number of NS that are currently mobilised into the army. Based on this, the Development Partners are of the opinion that EDRP does not actually help reduce the number of soldiers in the country, but rather facilitates change of personnel." (Our emphasis).
"The IDA mission requested but has so far not received, more current information with regard to the size of the army and the number of NS that are currently mobilised into the armed forces. As such, the IDA mission is not able to verify whether the EDRP process has indeed led to an actual reduction of the armed forces". (Our emphasis).
"It is quite clear that for the World Bank to speak in such scathing terms is unheard of."
"Concerns remain that DS, [demobilised servicemen], are subject to National Service as well as potentially being returned to the military". (Our emphasis).
"A surprising comment for a World Bank to voice such concerns against a member state. It shows their frustration that nothing (i.e. actual demobilisation) is happening".
"I presume these are the people who are presented to the World Bank as being demobilised and that includes the five thousand who were also effectively demobilised in the pilot project as mentioned by Dr Pool.
Remember this is a Third World Country where figures can be deflated or inflated."
"The evidence is in different places and one needs to piece them together to make sense of it .The World Bank does not even believe in this. It is clear from the MTR report that there has not been credible demobilisation no meaningful demobilisation"
"No I cannot. The reason is, the Government of Eritrea is reluctant to release evidence to the World Bank which funds the whole project. No one else would be in a position to obtain such information from the government."
"Following the project restructuring the IDA credit has ceased to finance the demobilisation and reinsertion components, since the project has largely achieved its targets on demobilisation and reinsertion, by demobilising sixty five thousand soldiers and paying each demobilised solder a reinsertion benefit equivalent to US$330. The focus of the project's implementation has since been entirely on the reintegration component and over the last twelve months, the project has also achieved good progress towards achieving the targets here. The improved implementation performance should shortly start to yield the expected impact assuming the border situation does not further deteriorate". (Our emphasis).
"For the World Bank that is demobilisation but effectively these people have been held in a state of limbo".
"If by objective you mean any other written material I do not have such evidence this is common knowledge. I have collected data from different sources including individuals issued with demob card while still not demobilised but transferred to civilian work whilst still in NS".
"You could say so even though he has not been in Eritrea for a while".
"Regarding the National Service it started in 1994 and so far it has undergone a nineteenth round recently. The new entrants for a round comprises on average twelve-fifteen thousand recruits. The main aim was to bridge the generation gap of skilled labour in Eritrea. Six months military training and twelve months work with different line ministries. As a programme it is good but now it is slavery. How can you keep more than twelve years as an individual without proper remuneration? The irony is that in the army there is regular army (elite army) who gets full salary and are remobilised ex-combatant and National Service who get one hundred and fifty four hundred Nakfa (one dollar is fourteen Nakfa). Eritrea had more than three hundred and fifty thousand armed soldiers and the regular army is estimated to be forty thousand fifty five thousand. A total working force is estimated to be around seven hundred thousand and it is very hard to believe fifty per cent of the working force to be contained in the army.
The Government of Eritrea demobilised only the ones who are not medically fit and pregnant women. The ones who were working in the line ministries were told officially they are demobilised in March 2004, but they were told that for two years they have to work for the institutions they are working for. They will get their certificate after two years. Members of National Service are absconding in hundreds and are going to neighbouring countries (mainly Sudan and Ethiopia) and then to different countries. The Libyan Government has deported Eritreans and most of them were members of the National Service.
As a veteran combatant, I can understand the limited National Service can be replaced by new entrants and if there is a need you can remobilise them. My understanding is they are kept hostage in the army (because there is a difference of payment and the ones who are highly paid have a stake in keeping the ones who are not properly paid, in this case members of National Service). In Eritrea it is slavery not National Service and it is misnomer to quote National Service. For me it is a violation of the basic human rights principle."
"He was therefore not involved in demobilisation matters after 1994. He was involved in the demobilisation of ex-combatants in the War of Independence in 1993/1994. Demobilisation we are talking about started in 2001."
"No he was not. He was working as a consultant. He personally told me I even visited him in his office in Asmara in 2001 and he told me that and that he had lots of problems with the government and was no longer working for them."
"I am not saying that. I want to leave some room for doubt. Maybe he was working for the government . as he says or a consultant".
"I feel very uncomfortable about this.
When I went to Asmara in the summer of 2001 to carry out my research, I met him in the city by chance and he asked me to come to his office and then we talked about the situation. He told me he was unhappy about the way he was being treated. I did not get the impression he was working for the government. It was an office in a shabby building.
I based my impression on what he told me and I met him briefly twice in town and in his office.
I have only had one subsequent contact with him in 2005 when he was in the US. He was a Director of Demobilisation in the early 1990s. In 1994 some disabled people were killed and as part of my study I wanted to interview him. I wrote to him with my request and he never responded to me and I have had no further contact.
He was Director of the Demobilisation Office for the ex-combatants in 1993/94 and in that sense I regard him as an expert for that period."
"What am I supposed to say? I am an academic. I feel very uncomfortable about passing judgment on someone's expertise. I have seen nothing published by him on the most recent demobilisation".
"Eritrea says it is in a state of war and anybody even demobilised falls into the category of those on reserve. So if a war broke out undoubtedly they would be called back.
Forty eight thousand were demobilised over the period 93/94 when the war broke out those physically capable of carrying guns were remobilised and it is possible some of these were demobilised in the category of five thousand and they were likely to be older than the rest."
- Former combatants, namely those who fought in the thirty year war before 1991 and excluding those remobilised in 1998 or assigned to various positions in the Ministry of Defence) and those who had assigned employment outside of the Ministry of Defence. Even those when the border war broke out were temporarily called back until the Peace Agreement was signed.
- Five thousand demobilised in the pilot project in 2001.
- Women over thirty five forty with children, although Dr Kibreab explained the latter was an assumption for which he had no particular basis to support it.
- All those aged forty or over when National Service was launched in May 1994 would be immune unless the country was in a state of war.
- People who were certified by the Military Tribunal as medically unfit. This category was the one referred to within Dr Pool's report that he subsequently informed us in the course of his oral evidence was 'speculative'.
"By special order of President Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean military was given permission to 'shoot-on-sight' any Eritrean caught attempting to flee or helping anyone who is fleeing.
There are three escape routes from Eritrea: via Senafe, to Ethiopia; via Tessenei to Sudan and via official visits in the Middle East to Europe.
There has been no change in the volume of the flow towards Ethiopia (about two hundred and fifty per month); and until about a week ago, with about forty five people daily escaping to the Sudan. However, there has been a qualitative change with the escapees now not just limited to the youth but a broad spectrum of Eritreans including four doctors who escaped in early October. The regime has responded to this not only with a "shoot-on-sight" order but by frequent round-ups. On Saturday November 25 at dawn, the regime raided Segeneitti and Dekemhare and rounded up all youth, including students with ID cards". (Our emphasis).
203. Dr Kibreab referred us to a further passage from the same report as follows:
"The regime has tried to limit the air-bound flights by severely restricting the approval of exit visas to those considered trustworthy
Of the three routes, the one that seems to occupy the minds of the PFDJ is the Tessenei route to Sudan, primarily due to its proximity to the military camp of Sawa. According to a report provided by the Eritrean National Salvation Front, in August of this year, the Eritrean regime shot to death eight Eritrean youths on the claim that they were trying to escape to Sudan and left their bodies for display and warning in the streets of Tessenei. The report identified three individuals: Mr Amanuel Sulus Ogbagabiel from Agbela; Mr Adem Ajssen from Haikota; and Mr Abdella Mahmoud from Gonge.
In late October, a substantial number of Sawa conscripts escaped to Sudan leading the Eritrean regime to conclude this was highly organised with the knowledge and co-operation of middle-rank officers. Consequently it concluded that one more demonstration was needed as a warning. This time ten "troublemakers" were rounded up from Sawa, taken to Tessenei, lined against a wall and shot in the back by an execution squad. People were told these too had tried to escape in the Sudan.
The tactic of shooting prisoners in the back, to make it look they were shot while escaping from the law, was developed by scared commanders who worried that some day they might be held responsible for the lives of people they are shooting. Military Commanders worry that they might be incriminated in the future when human remains might be exhumed for forensic tests as had happened in Bosnia and other places.
With the opening of the Sudanese border, the Eritrea regime expects more escape attempts and has taken some measures to reduce this. The first order has been to demand a bail bond on all civil servants in the amount of one hundred thousand Nakfa (i.e. ten years worth of salary for a typical public servant). The civil servants now have an obligation to report not just one who has escaped, but who is even thinking of escaping. Another move that the regime has already instituted is to decentralise Sawa military camp by creating 'mini Sawas' throughout the country, primarily in the more remote Sahei area. This move (modelled after its approach of dismantling the University of Asmara and creating several colleges throughout Eritrea) is also meant to eliminate concentration of a large group of youths in the country. The third approach is to continuously rotate and free senior officials." (Our emphasis).
- Party activists
- Eritrean expatriates, namely those who could be British citizens working in Eritrea but of Eritrean origin.
- Elderly people over fifty who were forty or over in 1994 who wanted to go on Haj or visit relatives abroad
- Government officials
- Scholarship students (the government now restricted their movements as many did not return)
- Government employees who attended conferences (although Dr Kibreab maintained this had recently stopped.
- Relatives of those in power might arguably obtain exit visas as a result.
"Resorting to collective punishment, the Eritrean Government has arrested over five hundred relatives, mostly parents of young men and women who have either deserted the army or avoided conscription. Amnesty International strongly condemns these arbitrary detentions. The organisation calls upon the Eritrean authorities to either immediately release the individuals or charge them with recognisable criminal offences and try them within a reasonable time in full accordance with international standards of a fair trial.
The arrests have taken place in the region of Asmara, the capital city in a sweep that started on 6 December. None of those arrested have been charged with a criminal offence or taken to court within the forty eight hours stipulated by the Constitution and the laws of Eritrea. The authorities have stated that detainees must either produce the missing conscripts or pay a fine of fifty thousand Nakfa (approximate US$3125). Relatives who fail to do so will be forced to serve six months in the army in place of their missing family members.
The principle of individual penal responsibilities, that no one may be penalised for an act for which they are not personally liable, is a fundamental principle of law which is reflected throughout international human rights law. These arrests violate this principle and specifically the right to liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, to which Eritrea is a party.
The arrests reflect an upsurge in the Eritrean Government's use of arbitrary and punitive sanctions against civil society, religious groups and human rights defenders". (Our emphasis)
208. Later under the sub-heading "Background" the following is stated:
"Thousands of young men and women have fled Eritrea and sought asylum in the Sudan and other countries since Eritrea's war with Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000, in an effort to avoid conscription or after deserting the army. National Service, compulsory for all men and women aged between eighteen and forty has been extended indefinitely from the original eighteen month term instituted in 1994. It consists of military service and labour on army-related construction projects. The right to conscientious objection to military service is not recognised by the Eritrean authorities. There are frequent round-ups to catch evaders and deserters. Indefinite arbitrary detention and torture or other ill-treatment are regularly used as punishments for evasion, desertion and other military offences.
International humanitarian non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have faced increasing difficulties in carrying out their activities as a result of measures taken by the authorities. In 2006 alone eleven organisations have been expelled from Eritrea and forced to seek their work there." (Our emphasis).
"The political outcome is that he is likely to disappear, it may be death but one does not know. People detained in 2001 have disappeared".
"This would apply to all aged 18 to 50 who left Eritrea illegally and are returned. There would be the following consequences:
- If over forty at the time of their departure, they would not be regarded as evaders provided that their departure was before 1994 but they would be accused of having left the country illegally which is a criminal offence.
- If they had sought asylum in another country that is also considered a serious offence because they had been disloyal and have exposed the weakness of the country to strangers. It is a criminal offence called "disloyalty". Washing "dirty linen in public" in Eritrea is recognised as a very serious matter.
- Those not demobilised can be regarded in such cases as deserters in the full military sense. No charges are proffered in Eritrea outside of normal civil affairs. They would be detained in an unknown place indefinitely and disappear".
" No one in their right mind would apply for an exit visa because they are supposed to serve their country and not leave it."
"People work on all other forms of projects including in the private sector in return for payment by the employers to the Ministry of Defence. It has a military training component but it is much broader than military service. There is a six month military component which is military training. The goal is completely different the goal is to turn citizens to commitment to the national cause to unify the country".
The Legal Framework
i. whether on return there is a well-founded fear of being persecuted under the Geneva Convention;
ii. whether on return there are substantial grounds for believing the person would face a real risk of suffering serious harm within the meaning of paragraph 339C of the amended Immigration Rules; and
iii. whether on return there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would face a real risk of being exposed to a real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 of the ECHR.
Court of Appeal Case Law and Country Guidance
(Draft related risk updated Muslim Women (Eritrea) CG  UKAIT 00079
"29. There is a general consensus in the evidence those identified as deserters or draft evaders are at risk of severe ill-treatment in Eritrea. This is referred to in the US State Department Report 2004 at A121-2 which records that the government continued to authorise the use of deadly force against anyone resisting or attempting to flee during military searches for deserters and draft evaders and that there were substantial but unconfirmed reports that hundreds of draft evaders and National Service escapees were being held in makeshift prisons around the country. It confirms the continued detention of some of the Maltese deportees being held at secret locations without contact with their families without formal charges and refers to reports that some who tried to escape were killed by security forces. The UNHCR report of January 2004 refers to the punishments used against deserters, conscripts, evaders and army offenders reportedly including methods such as tying of the hands and feet for extended periods of time and prolonged sun exposure at high temperature. The CIPU Report April 2004 at paragraphs 5.6-5.72 draws on these sources, confirming the risk of severe ill-treatment for army deserters and draft evaders.
44. Bringing all these factors together, and applying the lower standard of proof, the Tribunal is satisfied that at present there is a real risk of those who have sought to avoid military service or are perceived to have done so, are at risk of treatment amounting to persecution and falling within Article 3. we summarise our conclusions as follows:
i. On the basis of the evidence presently available, there is a real risk of persecution and treatment contrary to Article 3 for those who have sought or are regarded as having sought to avoid military service in Eritrea.
ii. There is no material distinction to be drawn between deserters and draft evaders. The issue is simply whether the Eritrean authorities will regard a returnee as someone who has sought to evade military service or as a deserter. The fact that a returnee is of draft age is not determinative. The issue is whether on the facts a returnee of draft age would be perceived as having sought to evade the draft by his or her departure from Eritrea. If someone falls within an exemption from the draft there would be no perception of draft evasion. If a person is yet to reach the age for military service, he would not be regarded as a draft evader: see paragraph 14 of AT. If someone has been eligible for call-up over a significant period but has not been called up, then again there will normally be no basis for a finding that he or she will be regarded as a draft evader. Those at risk on the present evidence are those suspected of having left to avoid the draft. Those who receive call up papers or are approaching or have recently passed draft age at the time they left Eritrea may, depending on their own particular circumstances, on the present evidence be regarded by the authorities as draft evaders.
iii. NM is not to be treated as authority for the proposition that all returnees of draft age are at risk on return. In that case the Tribunal found on the facts that the appellant would be regarded as a draft evader and also took into account the fact that there was an additional element in the appellant's background, the fact that her father had been a member of the ELF, which might put her at risk on return.
iv. There is no justification on the latest evidence before the Tribunal for a distinction between male and female draft evaders or deserters. The risk applies equally to both.
v. The issue of military service has become politicised and actual or perceived evasion of military service is regarded by the Eritrean authorities as an expression of political opinion. The evidence also supports the contention that the Eritrean Government uses National Service as a repressive measure against those perceived as opponents of the government.
vi. The position for those who have avoided or are regarded as trying to avoid military service has worsened since the Tribunal heard NA.
vii. The evidence does not support a proposition that there is a general risk for all returnees. The determinations in SE and GY are confirmed in this respect. Insofar as they dealt with a risk arising from the evasion of military service, they had been superseded by further evidence and on this issue should be read in the light of this determination."
"This case, which updates the analysis of risk categories undertaken in IN (Draft evaders evidence or risk) Eritrea CG  UKIAT 00106, gives guidance on several issues. It confirms the previous Tribunal views that returnees are not generally at risk. It reaffirms the view that those who would be perceived as draft evaders or deserters would be at risk. As regard persons of eligible draft age, this decision explains why it is thought the Eritrean authorities, despite regarding such persons with suspicion, would only treat adversely those who are unable to explain their absence abroad by reference to their past history. Reasons are given for slight modifications in certain parts of the guidance given in IN. The summary of conclusions is given at paragraph 113. The decision is also reported for what it said at paragraphs 7-15 about the country guidance treatment of issues which go wider than the particular factual matrix of an appellant's appeal."
229. The Tribunal in KA indeed summarised their conclusions at paragraph 113 as follows:
"a. So far as previous Country Guideline cases on Eritrea are concerned, IN is now to be read together with the modifications and updating contained in this determination. Our guidance supersedes reported cases dealing with draft-related risk categories which have pre and post-dated IN.
b. The Tribunal confirms the view taken in IN that persons who would be perceived as draft evaders or deserters face a real risk of persecution as well as treatment contrary to Article 3.
c. The Tribunal continues to take the view that returnees generally are not at real risk of persecution or treatment contrary to Article 3. We do not consider it has been substantiated that failed asylum seekers would be regarded by the Eritrean authorities as traitors and ill-treated as a consequence.
d. The Tribunal continues also to reject the contention that persons of eligible draft age are by that reason alone at real risk of persecution or treatment contrary to Article 3.
e. So far as men are concerned, the eligible draft age in the context of return now appears to have extended to be 18-50 rather than 18-40. So far as women are concerned, we consider, despite some reservations that we should continue to treat the eligible draft age category in the context of return as 18-40. We do not see evidence that for women it is extended beyond 40. We also think that the category of females within the 18-40 age range who while potentially at risk of serious harm does not extend to Muslim women or to women who are married or who are mothers or carers. In addition women will still not fall into an actual risk category of their circumstance bring them within any of the three sub-categories set out in (f).
f. Subject to the above, persons of eligible draft age (defined in the context of return as being between 18-50 for men and 18-40 for women) are currently at real risk of persecution as well as treatment contrary to Article 3 unless:
i. They can be considered to have left Eritrea legally regarding this sub-category, it must be borne in mind that an appellant's assertion that he left illegally will raise an issue that will need to be established to the required standard. Also a person who generally lacks credibility will not be assumed to have left illegally. We think those falling into the 'left legally' sub-category will often include persons who are considered to have already done national service, persons who have got an exception and persons who have been eligible for call-up over a significant period but have not been called up. Conversely those falling outside this set of category and so at risk will often include persons who left Eritrea when they were approaching draft age (18) or had recently passed that age; [Our emphasis] or
ii. they have not been in Eritrea since the start of the war with Ethiopia in 1998 (that being the year when the authorities increased dramatically the numbers required for call up and took the national service system in a much more authoritarian direction) and are able to show that there was no draft-evasion motive behind their absence. This sub-category reflects our view that the authorities would know that persons who left Eritrea before the start of the war would not have had draft evasion as a possible motive; or
iii. they have never been to Eritrea and are able to show there was no draft-evasion motive behind their absence. If they have not yet obtained formal nationality documents, there is no reason to think they will be perceived as draft evaders.
g. Nevertheless, even those of draft military age who would not be considered at real risk of serious harm (because they come within i or ii or iii) would still be at such a risk if they hold conscientious objections to military service given that the issue here is a factual one of whether a person would refuse to serve even knowing that the likely consequence of refusal is ill-treatment, we think the reasons of conscience would have to be unusually strong.
h. Otherwise, however, the Tribunal does not consider that mere performance of military service gives rise to a real risk of persecution or treatment contrary to Article 3.
i. We reiterate the point made in IN that the guidance given here is not intended to be applied abstractly: it remains that each case must be considered and assessed in the light of the appellant's particular circumstances. It may be, for example, that a person who is of eligible draft age, at least if he or she is still relatively young, will not need to establish very much more. However, we think that in all cases something more must be shown. It will be quite wrong, for example, for someone who in fact has obtained an exemption from military service, to succeed simply on the basis that he has shown that he was of eligible draft age. A person who failed to give a credible account of material particulars relating to their history and circumstances cannot easily show that they will be at risk solely because they are of eligible draft age." (Our emphasis).
"On the basis of evidence now available, Muslim women should not be excluded from being within the draft related at risk category. The evidence indicates that Muslim women per se are not exempt from military service. In some areas, however local protests prevent their call up and in others the draft is not so strictly implemented. This addition (amending paragraph 113 of the determination) to the draft related risk categories in KA (Draft related risk categories updated) Eritrea CG  00165 are reaffirmed. In particular it remains the case that in general someone who has lived in Eritrea for a significant period without being called up would not fall within the category of a draft evader. The evidence indicates that the administration of National Service is devolved to six regional commands and the degree to which recruitment is carried out varies from region to region. Considering risk on return a decision maker should pay regard to any credible evidence relating to the particular region from whence an appellant comes and the degree to which recruitment is enforced in that particular area. NB: this decision should be read with AH (Failed asylum seekers involuntary returns) Eritrea CG  UKAIT 00078."
"Persons who fail to give a credible account of material particulars relating to their history and circumstances cannot easily show that they would be at risk solely because they are of eligible draft age."
The Expert Reports
a) when a question of issue falls outside his or her expertise; and
b) when the expert is not able to reach a definite opinion, for example because of insufficient information.
The Evidence of Dr Amanuel Gebremedhin
"In history, it is a rare opportunity to make right what you have wronged".
"But this endeavour proved to be wrong for it did not take on board the social aspect the former combatants had passed through. As a result of participating in the long armed struggle their social way of life had changed and without addressing this issue, reintegrating former combatants back into society is futile to say the least".
"This gave me an opportunity to reflect and redress the wrongs of the first phase exercise of demobilisation and reintegration programme conducted from 1993-1997 at least conceptually."
".. with confidence and experience, that there was no political will to demobilise former combatants in Eritrea. For example when I submitted a proposal for how to go about addressing the demobilisation and reintegration problem, it was rejected automatically without even discussing it in detail. The demobilisation proposal I submitted targets combatants who were slated to be demobilised in phases and the aim was to start training them in different skills to help them reintegrate back into the society. The response I got from higher authorities was 'we are not going to demobilise before our border is demarcated'. My argument was yes, we can, for if the worst come, it is easy to remobilise and that is what had been done when the border war started and ex-combatants left their work on a volunteer base to defend their country." (Our emphasis).
"This can give a picture of the beneficiaries and can help in designing a reintegration programme geared towards the beneficiaries. This was also rejected and only three thousand women and some disabled combatants were demobilised in the pilot phase. This category cannot represent the beneficiary group and it is hard to design intervention programmes based on this finding."
"In reality they had demobilised only from the reserve militia and added names of the ones who were demobilised in the first exercise, 1993-1996, to reach their target. This is public knowledge that the ones who got their benefit in the first demobilisation were paid again". (Our emphasis).
".. the President Office allocated $120 million for reinsertion out of the $200 million for reinsertion. I wrote a letter saying this would not help ex-combatants Differing programmes must be designed that can help them develop skills so that it can help them reintegrate into the society when they are officially demobilised. What we have learned from the 1993-1997 demobilisation exercise, was that giving money to former combatants only ended up in bars (pubs) and after finishing their money they were coming back to the offices of demobilisation and reintegration stationed in differing provinces".
253. A fourth issue that Dr Gebremedhin says led to his resignation was what he described as:
".. the issue of psychosocial problems among former combatants. I designed a survey to see the profile of former combatants. Three thousand former combatants were selected from all units randomly and a study was conducted from July to October 2001. The findings were alarming. Thirteen per cent of the sample responded that they were suffering from psychosocial-related problems. .. I proposed to the higher authorities that we need to get prepared, by training peer and community counsellors and professional psychiatric nurses. The response I got was this is claimed but not verified. I tried to show the authorities what is looming but they gave me a deaf ear and after that it was too much to take it and stay in an institution in which I cannot make any difference. I wrote a resignation letter and submitted it to the President Office and to my surprise my resignation paper was accepted and I left the office on 15 November 2001."
"The main reason give for the public consumption was that it was progressing slowly, but the real reason behind (it) was that the ones who were demobilised were pregnant women, severely disabled combatants. In order to increase the number, former combatants who were demobilised in 1993/1997 were recalled and given new certificates and issued demobilisation money. So in a real sense, there was no demobilisation only (an) insignificant number from the core army was demobilised."
"The new entrant for a round comprises on average twelve-fifteen thousand recruits. The main aim was to bridge the generation gap of skilled labour in Eritrea. Six months military training and twelve months work with different line ministries. As a programme it is good but now it is slavery. How can you keep more than twelve years an individual without proper remuneration? The irony is, that in the army there is Regular Army (Elite Army) who gets full salary and a remobilise(d) ex-combatant and National Service who get only one hundred fifty-four hundred Nafka (one dollar is fourteen Nafka). Eritrea had more than three hundred and fifty thousand armed soldiers and the regular army is estimated to be forty thousand-fifty five thousand. The total working force is estimated to be around seven hundred thousand and it is very hard to believe fifty per cent of the working force to be contained in the army."
"The ones who are working in the line ministries were told officially they were demobilised in March 2004 but they were told that for two years they have to work for the institutions they are working for. They will get their certificate after two years. Members of National Service are absconding in hundreds and are going to neighbouring countries (mainly Sudan and Ethiopia) and then to different countries. The Libyan Government had deported Eritreans and most of them were members of National Service. As a veteran combatant I can understand the limited National Service and can be replaced by new entrant and if there is a need you can remobilise them. My understanding is they are kept hostage in the army (because there is difference of payment and the ones who are highly paid have a stake in keeping the ones who are not properly, in this case the members of the National Service). In Eritrea it is slavery not National Service and it is misnomer to call it National Service. For me it is a violation of the basic human rights principle." (Our emphasis)
1. Neither the parties nor the Tribunal had the opportunity of testing the veracity and reliability of Dr Gebremedhin's evidence by way of oral evidence.
2. It cannot be said that Dr Gebremedhin's expressed opinion can be regarded as objective and unbiased. He is someone who resigned from the Eritrean Government and was surprised his recognition was accepted.
3. Dr Gebremedhin's evidence clearly played a significant role in the evidence upon which the Appellant relied in terms of demobilisation in Eritrea. Not only was his affidavit within the Appellant's bundle, but it is apparent when one looks at Ms Quinn's detailed initial skeleton argument, that significant reliance was placed upon his evidence as reflected at paragraphs 50 to 56 of Counsel's skeleton argument. Notwithstanding that initial reliance, it was notable that within Ms Quinn's closing written submissions she cast significant doubt upon the value of his evidence. She pointed out that Dr Gebremedhin's title "Executive Secretary" did not convey any information regarding his seniority or importance. Further, he had never been involved in the call-up for National Service in that his role appeared to have been limited to demobilisation. He did not state the basis for his assertion that only 12,000 to 15,000 people were called-up for National Service each year. It was not clear how he would obtain this figure. His assertion was not corroborated by any expert or background evidence.
4. Our observations in this regard were reinforced, when in Counsel's closing submissions before us, Ms Quinn took issue with the extent to which the Respondent in his written submissions had relied extensively on Dr Gebremhedin's evidence that 12,000 to 15,000 people were called up for National Service each year. Ms Quinn emphasised that Dr Gebremedhin left Eritrea in November 2001 and that in 1998 there were 47,000 soldiers and that it was apparent from the World Bank Report that in the summer of 2001 there were three hundred thousand soldiers. It followed, she submitted, that between 1998 and 2001 the number of soldiers increased by 253,000 over a three year period, this created an annual average of just over 84,000. Therefore, submitted Ms Quinn, Dr Gebremedhin simply could not be correct in stating call up was 12,000 to 15,000 per year. Indeed she continued:
"His evidence must be inaccurate when viewed against statistical information upon which the Respondent relies. Dr Amanuel (Gebremedhin) has been out of the country for a very long period of time".
"We no longer rely on Dr Amanuel (Gebremedhin's) report in respect of that figure as it is clearly inconsistent with the other evidence. As regards the rest of it I would ask you to recognise that its reliability must be tempered owing to the time that he has been out of the country."
This contention does not however, sit well with the fact that it was apparent to us that whereas Ms Quinn in her written submissions had appeared to rely upon that aspect of Dr Gebremedhin's evidence that approximately 400,000 people were either in the army or national service out of a total work force of 700,000, (thus indicating that a very large percentage of the work force was either in the army or National Service), the Respondent in his submissions took issue with Dr Gebremedhin's estimate, maintaining that it was not consistent with the population statistics previously cited, that being a population between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five.
The Evidence of Dr Gaim Kibreab
The Evidence of Dr David Pool
"I find it hard to state in any definitive finding about what we would call demobilisation in terms of men in jobs but not on civilian salaries.
It is a very odd situation in Eritrea as compared to what we in the western world will understand as 'demobilised'."
Legislative Basis of National Service
"The Objectives of National Service will include:
- the establishment of a strong Defence Force based on the people to ensure a free and sovereign Eritrea.
- To preserve and entrust future generations the courage, resoluteness heroic episode shown by our people in the past thirty years;
- create a new generation characterised by love of work, discipline, ready to participate and serve in the reconstruction of the nation.
- To develop and enforce the economy of the nation by investing in development work our people as a potential wealth.
- To develop professional capacity and physical fitness by giving regular military training and continuous practice to participants in Training Centers.
- To foster national unity among our people by eliminating sub-national feelings".
"The Eritrean Government wanted to mould Eritreans like the EPLF fighters namely the value of valour, self-sacrifice, courage that was needed to rebuild the economy. There are other nationalist organisations that the EPLF defeated based in the Sudan this had a particular ideology and they were quite strong in passing their ideology on to the younger generation.
So when the young go to National Service they are given the history of the EPLF and their victories. There is a kind of social control involved in the ethical direction that is being used in a military sense in Eritrea".
"The aim of national service is not only to have a strong national army with a large pool of reserves but also to create a new breed of patriotic citizens who reject ethnic, religious and region-based allegiances and identities in favour of national Eritrean secular identity. Given the disparate religious and ethnic backgrounds of the Eritrean people and the obsession of the ruling party the People's Front for Democracy and Justice the government with the project of creating a homogenous and secular society, believe those who receive military training and political education at Sawa and later participate in the process of nation-building and reconstruction of the country's war-torn economic social and physical infrastructures would on the one hand, undergo fundamental change and transformation and on the other, develop a powerful sense of patriotism and commitment to national unity".
"Article 12 - Citizens exempted from Active National Service
The citizens mentioned below are exempt from Active National Service:
(1) the citizens who have performed National Service before the promulgation of this proclamation;
(2) all Fighters and Armed peasants who have proved to have spent all their time in the liberation struggle;
Article 13 - Compulsion of National Service for citizens unable to undergo Military Training
(1) Those citizens who have been declared unfit for military training by the Board composed of the Ministry of Regional Administration of other Government Organs under the directives given by the Ministry of Defence will undertake 18 months of National Service in any public and Government organ according to their capacity of profession.
(2) After completing 18 months of service they will have the compulsory duty of serving according to their capacity until the expiry of 50 years of age under mobilisation or emergency situation directives given by the Government.
(3) Under sub-Art.(1) of the article mentioned, the Ministry of Regional Administration by virtue of the delegation given to it by the Ministry of Defence may assign [such] persons to various independent organs or plans connected with the Ministry of Defence. All programmes of service may (be) executed by the Ministry of Administration".
The Nature of National Service
"Compulsory Active National Service
Article 8 Compulsory Active National Service
Under this Proclamation all Eritrean citizens between the ages of eighteen to forty years have the compulsory duty of performing Active National Service.
Active National Service consists of six months of training in the National Service training Centre and twelve months active military service and development tasks in military sources for a total of 18 months. Those who are unable to undertake military training are included in those who are given eighteen months of national service".
" does not emanate from the particular experience of Eritrea but from the experiences of other countries that have a policy of military service."
" NS is more ambitious and broader than (MS) There is only hagerawi agelgolat (national service) which is more ambitious and broader than common military service. The Eritrean authorities never refer to (NS), as (MS). This concept is totally absent from the government's discourse on national service, including the terminologies of the two pieces of legislation on national service.
The national service (NS), comprises of six months military training (it is important not to confuse this with military service) and twelve months development. The two aspects of national service namely the military training and the simultaneous ideological indoctrination at Sawa Military Camp and twelve months development work represent a continuum rather than a dichotomy. They are indivisible. They are two sides of the same coin the coin being the national service.
After the six months military training recruits are assigned to different areas of national reconstruction. Recruits are regimented into different units and participate in productive activities as groups and/or individuals such as urban housing development, construction of dams, roads, bridges, clinics, health centres, hospitals, schools etc. They also work in state and PFDJ owned banks, hired out draftees to private firms in which the latter pay the salaries of the draftees to the Ministry of Defence. Recruits whether they are assigned to the defence forces, ministries, departments, PFDJ, firms, state farms or private firms are paid uniform pocket money. Each draftee or participant of the NS collects his/her pocket money every month from their ahadus (units) or from those who hire them. When recruits are hired out to the private sector and the voluntary sector, the latter are required to pay draftees' salaries to the bank account of the Ministry of Defence in accordance with the government's salary scale based on the academic and professional qualifications of the recruits concerned. Regardless of whether draftees are assigned to serve in the army or in the civil sector, they remain members of the National Service)". (Our emphasis).
"In addition some national service members were assigned to return to their civilian jobs while normally kept in the military, because their skills were deemed critical to the functioning of the government or the economy. These individuals continue to receive only their national service salary. The government require them to forfeit to the government any money they earn above and beyond that salary. Government employees generally were unable to leave their jobs or take new employment." (Our emphasis).
"There are quite strong factors (on the part of the Eritrean Government) in not demobilising .. nearly all demobilised soldiers are in government jobs or on a soldier's pocket money and their pay is a massive subsidy for the government.
When you think the State is the major employer, you can see the way in which the pay is in terms of thousands of people still under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence.
The economic consequences would have been dreadful for Eritrea and has produced
an economic motive for maintaining mobilised soldiers.
(this is) happening across the board with government jobs on a conscript's pay." (Our emphasis).
(1) During a mobilisation or war period anyone in active National Service is under the obligation of remaining even beyond the prescribed period unless the concerned Authority allows him to leave officially.
(2) The citizen registered to perform Active National Service upon changing his address before entering into his service has the duty to inform the Regional Administration in his area about his address presenting his registration card."
".. the government's major explanation of the continued mobilisation and makes the best sense. Many Eritreans still think Ethiopia wants to get the coastline that was ceded in the peace negotiations between 1991 and 1993 and the Ethiopians are critical of their government for ceding the port to Eritrea. There is always the sense that this war could start again."
"This is what the Eritrean Government refers to as 'demobilized' "
"Since the so-called 'further notice' has not been yet announced the national service has effectively become an open-ended national obligation."
"You never finish your national service, meaning you cannot say there is a full stop to serving your country".
"'Every Eritrean' means those Eritreans who work for example in Embassies, in international organisations, in the UN are not immune from national service."
"Whereas national service for eighteen months is compulsory for men and women aged eighteen to forty years and since the war with Ethiopia in 1990-2000, national service has become full military service and it has been extended indefinitely"
'Following cessation of the border war in the summer of 2000, it was widely expected that the government would rapidly demobilise its armed forces to pre-war levels. However, despite the availability of international assistance for this task, no demobilisation of troops has occurred to date. Instead the government extended the length of service for an additional two years and it has been repeatedly prolonged". (Our emphasis).
World Bank Mid-Term Review (July 2005) and Financial Year End Reports
"There are perceptions among Development Departments that continued mobilisation into the armed forces in Eritrea, including through the National Service (NS), is to such an extent that the combined armed forces are as large now as at the start of EDRP. This view, unfortunately, is fed by limited transparency surrounding the size of the army and the number of NS that are currently mobilised into the army. Based on this, the Development Departments are of the opinion that EDRP does not actually help the number of soldiers in the country but rather facilitates change of personnel". (Our underlining).
"People are drafted into the NS in "rounds" and rounds 1 to 14 participated in the border conflict and are in principle eligible for EDRP benefits whereas, rounds 15 18 are not eligible. The IDA Mission requested, but has so far not received, more current information with regard to the size of the army and a number of NS are currently mobilised into the armed forces. As such, the IDA Mission is not able to verify whether the EDRP process has indeed led to an actual reduction in the armed forces."(Our emphasis).
"In the short term, the pace and scope of immediate demobilisation cannot be defined". (Our emphasis).
"Under the 1997 Constitution, the Government continues to implement National Service whereby able-bodied persons undertake military training as well as participate in civilian public work. Concerns remain that DS [demobilised servicemen] are subject to National Service as well as potentially being returned to the military". (Our emphasis).
"These people were demobilised in all senses of the term but were not demobilised when the war started they were called back so that suggested distinction seems a bit blurred to me".
" major desire in these Reports is not demobilisation per se but to reduce the size of the army to promote economic growth. The other curious thing about the 2005/2006 Reports apart from the number of soldiers claimed to be demobilised, is that the reports do not show much difference in the amount of money actually dispensed".
" . Because the World Bank hands out money but the government takes out any ID demobilisation card in order to get that money".
"pretty damning for them to comment on the 'limited transparency surrounding the size of the army'.
"If we take the 65,000 had they been given some kind of card and in 2007 will they be demobilised? - It does not appear from the phrasing of the World Bank Reports that there has already been the demobilisation of 65,000. If you take the account of the World Bank Reports and particularly of the 2006 US Report, in addition to what Eritreans said to me there has been no demobilisation." (Our emphasis)
"All demobilised soldiers and members of the National Service (were ordered) to get ready for reporting to Sawa Those called for "National Service" include athletes and other youngsters active in various sports who were being given permits to pursue their sporting activities. Demobilised soldiers and National Service Corps who have been discharged for medical reasons ('Medical Board Cases') were also ordered to re-register".
" to be one of the most reliable because it is rare to see a website that corrects itself if subsequently proven to be wrong on factual errors and it is a website on which the Home Office often relies, indeed it is exemplified by the fact that it is quoted in this COI".
Risk on Return
i. whether those who leave Eritrea illegally will be at risk: and
ii. whether a claimant for international protection must be regarded as having left Eritrea illegally.
"Citizens and foreign nationals were required to obtain an exit visa to depart the country. There were numerous cases where foreign nationals were delayed in leaving for up to two months or initially denied permission to leave when they applied for an exit visa. Men under the age of fifty, regardless of whether they had completed National Service; women aged eighteen to twenty seven; members of Jehovah's Witnesses (see Section 2c); and others who were out of favour with or seen as critical of the government were routinely denied exit visas. In addition, the government often refused to issue exit visas to adolescents and children as young as five years of age, either on the grounds that they were approaching the age of eligibility for National Service or because their diasporal parents had not paid the 2 percent income tax required of all citizens residing abroad. Some citizens were given exit visas only after posting bonds of approximately $7,300 (100,000 nakfa)." (Our emphasis).
"The Eritrean border workers in textiles. People involved in business who were quite well in with the government circles.
Asmara is a very small society and the top business people know the government and know the way to get visas, senior military officers, government spokespeople. Someone of 50 plus would be more likely than not to get an exit visa depending on his or her profile."
"By order of President Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean military was given permission to 'shoot on sight' any Eritrean 'caught attempting to flee or helping anyone who is fleeing'.
There are three escape routes from Eritrea: via Senafe, to Ethiopia; via Tessenei to Sudan; and via official visits in the Middle East to Europe.
There has been no change in the volume of the flow towards Ethiopia (about two hundred and fifty per month); until a week ago about forty five people daily escaped into the Sudan. However, there has been a qualitative change with the escapees now not just limited to the youth but a broad spectrum of Eritreans including four doctors who escaped in early October. The regime has responded to this not only with a 'shoot-on-sight' order but by frequent round-ups. On Saturday November 25 at dawn, the regime raided Segeneitti and Dekemhare and rounded up all youth including students with ID cards.
The regime has tried to limit the air-bound flights by severely restricting the approval of exit visas for those considered trustworthy. However, the recent flight of a 'trusted' employee, ERI-TV's Mr Temesqhen Debessai, one of Isiais Afwerki's few favourite journalists, followed by the escape of a few others, as reported by Asmarino Independent, seems to have sent shockwaves in the system. Consequently the regime has begun interviewing all employees trying to gauge who knew and who is a likely candidate to escape.
Of these three routes, the one that seems to occupy the minds of the PFDJ is the Tessenei route to Sudan primarily due to its proximity to the military camp of Sawa. According to a report provided by the Eritrean National Salvation Front [their emphasis] in August of this year, the Eritrean regime shot to death eight Eritrean youths on the claim they were trying to escape to Sudan and left their bodies for display and warning in the streets of Tessenei. The report identified three individuals: Mr Amanuel Soules Ogbagabrel from Habela; Mr Adem Haffen from Haikota; and Mr Abdulla Mahmoud, from Gonge".
In late October a substantial number of Sawa conscripts escaped to Sudan leading the Eritrean regime to conclude that this was highly organised and done with the knowledge and co-operation of middle-rank officers. Consequently it concluded that one more demonstration was needed as a warning. This time ten 'trouble makers' were rounded up from Sawa, taken to Tessenei, lined against a wall, and shot in the back by an execution squad. People were told that these too had tried to escape to Sudan.
The tactic of shooting prisoners in the back to make it look like they were shot while escaping the law, was developed by scared commanders who worried that someday they might be held responsible for the lives of people they were shooting. Military commanders warned that they worry that they might be incriminated in the future when human remains might be exhumed for forensic tests as had happened in Bosnia and other places." (Our emphasis).
- The Eritrean Government has placed an obligation on civil servants not only to report those who have escaped but those who they believe are thinking of escaping.
- The President has given the military permission to shoot on sight any Eritrean caught attempting to flee or helping anyone else to flee by special order.
- Execution of that order is no better and tragically exemplified, than by the reports of Eritrean youths having been shot dead trying to escape in August and October 2006.
- In relation to the ten Eritrean youths shot in the back by an execution squad in October 2006 as a warning to those considering fleeing to Sudan it is suggested in the report that the tactic of shooting prisoners in the back is so as to make it look that they were shot while escaping from the law and in order to provide a potential defence to military commanders, involved in such shooting, were human remains in the future to be exhumed for forensic tests.
"A wide range of paid applications were made to the British Embassy for entry clearance to the United Kingdom. A significant number of these are people who are between the ages of ten and fifty. In my submission it is simply not credible that these people would waste their money if they had not already obtained exit visas from the authorities. Furthermore, the UK is only one of a number of possible destinations Eritreans might seek to travel to; it is clear from a Canadian Embassy document (attached) that they have a facility for processing entry clearance applications from Eritrea. If this evidence is taken in the round, it would clearly suggest there are a significant number of Eritreans who are able to and can make applications to Eritrea. The position of Dr Kibreab, in particular, and others is not supported by the evidence of the British Embassy and the wider presumptions can be draw from it relating to the opportunities to seek entry clearance form another country. It would be wholly unlikely that the only country that was approached for, and was granted, visas to enter was the UK.
In short, there appear to be opportunities to gain exit visas without falling within the very restrictive categories outlined by Dr Kibreab in his evidence. In fact Dr Kibreab stated at the hearing the Eritrean Government had granted visas for students but had ceased because they did not come back. That is fundamentally at odds with the evidence of the British Embassy which shows a number of student applications. The suggestion that no migration is allowed is furthermore inconsistent with the concept of Eritrea being a country that relies heavily for its economic survival on remittances from abroad (a point acknowledged by Dr Kibreab in cross-examination)."
".. sought asylum in another country that is also considered a serious offence because they had been disloyal and have exposed the weakness of the country to strangers. It is a criminal offence called "disloyalty'. Washing 'dirty linen in public' in Eritrea is recognised as a very serious matter".
"Anyone suspected of disloyalty to the government even the act of applying for asylum abroad would be regarded as evidence of disloyalty and reason to detain and torture a person returned to Eritrea after rejection of asylum."
" persons of eligible draft age (defined in the context of return as being between eighteen to fifty for men and eighteen forty for women) are currently at real risk of persecution as well as treatment contrary to Article 3 unless:
"(i) they can be considered to have left Eritrea legally
(ii) they have not been in Eritrea since the start of the war with Ethiopia in 1998
(iii) they have never been to Eritrea and are able to show that there was no draft-evasion motive behind their absence."
"They can be considered to have left Eritrea illegally. Regarding this sub-category, it must be borne in mind that if an Appellant's assertion that he left illegally will raise an issue that will need to be established to the required standard. A person who genuinely lacks credibility will not be assumed to have left illegally. We think that those falling into the 'left legally' sub-category will often include persons who are considered to have already done National Service or to have got an exemption and persons who have been eligible for call-up over a significant period would not have been called up. Conversely, those falling outside this sub-category will often include persons who left Eritrea when they were approaching draft age or recently passed that age."
" .. not very material to this appeal. There is only one minor reference to the degree of National Service conscription that is of any materiality and that appears at paragraph 67".
The "Giffa" (Round-up)
"They conscript secondary school students and relocate them to Sawa and ensure they complete their military education in a military camp since 2003 the reason they do that is that most students would otherwise disappear." (Our emphasis).
(i) Tight (although not absolutist) controls imposed on exit visas;
(ii) A policy of collective punishment and; penalties for draft evasion for the parents of those who do not fulfil the provisions of the NSP;
(iii) The imposition of bail bonds to some citizens given exit visas that equate in
many cases to a civilian salary of some ten years.
(iv) An obligation imposed on civil servants not only to report on those who had
escaped but those who are even thinking of escaping;
(v) The "shoot-on-sight" policy by special order of the Eritrean President, in relation to any Eritrean caught attempting to flee or helping anyone who is fleeing.
" The government has initiated targeted campaigns to apprehend female students who had completed the eleventh grade [their underlining] but opted to stay at home instead of reporting to Sawa. Last week [10 July onwards] the town of Dekemhare was the target. Similar campaigns are expected in Asmara and other major towns."
"Awate.com ran reports on 24 February 2006 that a new round of giffa had been launched in the Anseaba region which included the sweeping up of seventeen year olds from three high schools in Keren [their underlining] transporting them to Wia (near the eastern coast) Other high schools [their underlining] in the Northern Red Sea region were similarly cleared a few days previously."
" Round-ups started when students were in class which gave them no chance to say goodbye to their families or prepare themselves. They were taken straight from their desks to the waiting buses. The sudden and harsh manner in which the rounding-up was conducted has stunned and angered the entire population of Keren. One source says URC who was contacted by Awate.com showed that similar sentiments were reported in other towns."
"Demobilised soldiers and National Service Corps who had been discharged for medical reasons ('Medical Board Cases') were also ordered to re-register. It is expected that this sweeping round-up of young students, which has already started in the north and Red Sea and Anceba regions, will be continued in all regions of the country. One alarming aspect of this new wave of round-ups, is that it has affected young students under eighteen years of age." (Our emphasis).
"The 'giffa' (round-ups) are organised in villages and town quarters and targeted those who appeared to be of eligible age. They are not particularly targeted to distinct categories as mentioned in my instructions (i.e. those required to register, those who fail to attend final year schooling at Sawa or those who fail to enlist). The Amnesty International Report on the giffa accurately describes the process 'police search houses, workplaces and streets and detain suspected draft evaders to check their identity documents and at military roadblocks on main roads". It is quite usual for buses and other forms of transport to be stopped and the identity cards of all passengers to be checked for age and other documents checked for military status. According to the Human Rights Office of the United Nations Mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) in its quarterly report for 20034 describes the giffas: thus: 'Eritrean military and security officials conduct aggressive searches to enforce compliance with National Service obligations. Military and security officials conduct house searches, often during the night, in order to pick up all persons suspected of draft evasion'."
"Sometimes we also surrounded entire quarters and controlled every house. At first the quarter was surrounded. Then we went from house to house got all out on the street, everybody. Everyone was checked, if someone was student he/she had the student card and was allowed to leave If he/she had nothing to show, he/she would be brought to a military unit. Some stayed with their children. We had to take them out of their family and take them from their children Some were ill. We took them too and brought them to their division. There they were put in prison. Some of the sick persons died."
"Security forces detained, generally for less than three days, many persons during searches, for evaders of National Service even if they had valid papers showing that they had completed or [were] exempt from National Service."
A "Closed Society"
"The government controlled all media, including three newspapers, two magazines, one radio station and one television station. There was no private media in the country, the law does not allow private ownership of broadcast media or foreign influence or ownership of media and the government also banned the import of foreign publications. The government had to approve publications distributed by religious international organisations before their release, and the government continued to restrict the right of religious media to comment on politics or government policies. The press law forbids reprinting of articles from banned publications."
"Many NGOs were unable to register under the new law and were required to leave the country. As of years end there were sixteen registered NGOs.
During the year the government ordered a foreign government's aid agency to stop operating in the country."
"Eritrea was the only country in sub-Saharan Africa without a single private media outlet. More than four years after a vicious crackdown shattered a fledgling independent press, the government's repressive policies have left the tiny Horn of Africa nation largely hidden from international scrutiny and with almost no local access to independent information. A privileged few have access to the Internet. The handful of foreign correspondents in the capital, Asmara, are subject to intensive monitoring by authorities."
"Africa's youngest country is still the continent's largest prison for journalists. Thirteen of the newspaper editors from before 2001, are being secretly held, somewhere in the country, without ever going before a court, see a lawyer or speak to their families. The government which controls the country with an iron fist, claims they are traitors to the country. Ethiopian spies or deserters. It is not known if they are still alive.
In November, the disturbing episode of the two-day release of the founder of the Weekly Setit, Dawit Isaac, served as a reminder of the extent to which President Issaias Afewurki is pitiless towards those he considers his opponents. The journalist was released on 19 November and was able to phone his wife and friends who are in exile in Sweden to tell then he will be joining them. But the Eritrean Government, for unknown reasons, decided to throw him back in prison two days later, to general bewilderment."
"The government dismisses the criticism from all sides of its appalling human rights record. it ignores the principle of the rule of law and flagrantly contravenes the human rights safeguards in Eritrea's Constitution and law. It has ratified several international human rights treaties although not the whole range but does not adhere to them in practice. It allows no criticism in the country - critics and human rights defenders have been detained or have fled the country. The government refused to engage in dialogue about human rights, either with its own citizens or with the international community."
"Eritrea is a de facto one-party state, where the only permitted party is the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) the re-named former Marxist/Leninist Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF) which won independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after a thirty year liberation war."
"Economic policy is firmly in the hands of the government, which is now openly hostile to the private sector and shown a classical Marxist appetite for state control. No new import licences have been issued to shopkeepers since the start of the year and the government is planning to open up bureaux where 12 key commodities will be on sale."
The Eritrean Economy and National Service
"Conscripts are often used for public work projects, such as road building. There have been persistent reports they are also used as labourers on Party, military and officers' personal farms."
"The results of the works undertaken by those doing National Service are obvious and striking. New dams have been built, the causeways in the Sawa Massawa are being widened, many towns boast brand new hospitals, roads have been improved. However, key national resource Eritreans best and brightest is going tragically to waste as graduates and skilled technicians do manual work for free." (Our emphasis).
"Erratic rainfall and the delayed demobilisation of agriculturalists from the Ministry kept cereal production well below normal, holding down growth in 2002-05."
"The development tasks mainly consist of labour or construction projects, such as road, dams, farms, clinics, schools and government or military buildings anywhere in the country. " (Our emphasis).
"Recruits are regimented in different units and participate in productive activities as groups and/or individuals, such as urban housing development, construction of dams, roads, bridges, clinics, health centres, hospitals, schools etc. They also work in State and PFDJ-owned banks, commercial farms and construction sites. The Ministry of Defence also hirers out draftees to private firms in which the latter paid the salaries of the draftees to the Ministry of Defence. Recruits, whether they are assigned to the defence force, ministries, departments, PFDJ firms, state farms or private firms are paid uniform pocket money." (Our emphasis).
"An individual does not need to be educated and literate in order to be able to develop a sense of patriotism and commitment to national unity. The Eritrean Head of State has consistently stated that nationalism and patriotism do not develop naturally but have to be fostered and nurtured. Clearly they can be fostered and nurtured among the educated/literate and the non-educated/illiterate."
The Nature of Eritrean "Demobilisation" and the risk on return
The Appeal of the Appellant
"Q. Did you have contact with the Eritrean authorities?
A. No had I been stopped I would not have been able to leave.
Q. Did you ever apply for an exit visa?
A. No it would not have been granted to me.
Q. Can you tell us why an exit visa would not have been granted to you?
A. According to the Government Protocol, exit visas are not allowed for a soldier."
The original Tribunal made a material error of law. The following decision is substituted.
The appeal is allowed on asylum grounds.
The appeal is allowed on human rights grounds (Article 3).
By reason of paragraph 339C(ii) of the Immigration Rules, the Appellant is not entitled to the grant of humanitarian protection.
Senior Immigration Judge Goldstein
Report prepared by Dr Giam Kibreab, 30 August 2006.
Report prepared by Dr David Pool, 30 August 2006.
Affidavit of Dr Amanuel Gebremedhin, undated (circa 2006)
Reports submitted by Appellant relating to country situation Eritrea.
Amnesty International "Eritrea: 'You have no right to ask' Government resists scrutiny on human rights" 19 May 2004.
BBC News "Quick Exit: BBC expelled from Eritrea" 10 September 2004.
Eritrea CIPU report, October 2004.
European Parliament: Motion for a Resolution.
"On Human rights violation in Eritrea"
Royal African Society lecture: "Refugees and African Development: the case of Eritreans in the UK" 14 July 2005.
Voice of America News: Eritrea Reportedly Detains Relatives of Military Service Evaders, 29 July 2005.
Human Rights Watch letter, 8 August 2005.
BBC News "Eritrea to expel UN peacekeepers" 7 December 2005.
Amnesty International, "Eritrea Religious Persecution" 7 December 2005.
EUN threatens to pull out of Eritrea Ethiopia border dispute, 5 January 2006.
Home Office letter re removals to Eritrea, 10 January 2006.
Human Rights Watch Country Report, 19 January 2006.
Home Office letter re removals to Eritrea, 10 February 2006.
Reuters, "Eritrea detains 13 UN staff, 33 or more in hiding: UN" 14, February 2006.
Reuters, "Eritrea re-registering demobilised soldiers" 23 February 2006.
Middle East Times "Eritrea frees nearly all detained local UN staff" 23 February 2006.
US State Department Country Report, 8 March 2006.
Voice of America News, "Eritrea Orders Aid Groups to Stop Activities" 23 March 2006.
International Press Institute, "2005 World Press Freedom Review" 30 March 2006.
US State Department, "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy" 5 April 2006.
International Organisation for Migration letter reads Voluntary Assisted Return Reintegration Programme (VARRP) to Eritrea, 5 April 2006
BBC News "Horn stalemate 'shocks' envoy" 7 April 2006.
Reuters "UN eyes scaling back its Ethiopia/Eritrea mission" 13 April 2006.
Swiss Refugee Council letter re Return of failed Eritrean asylum seekers to Eritrea, 20 April 2006.
Amnesty International letter, 21 April 2006.
COI Report, "Treatment of Returned Failed Asylum Seekers" 26 April 2006.
COI Report extract (para 6.84) 28 April 2006.
Reporters Sans Frontieres, "Eritrea Annual report 2006" 3 May 2006.
Inter Press Service News Agency, 1 May 2006.
Committee to Protect Journalists "10 Most Censored Countries (Eritrea Excerpt) 2 May 2006.
Annual Report of US Commission on International Freedom, 3 May 2006.
Human Rights Watch letter, 5 May 2006.
Eritrea Daily.net "Eritrea: A Myth of Self-Reliance" (Article from The Economist) 9 May 2006.
News 24.com "Eritrea arrests UN staff" 11 May 2006.
Reuters: "Ethiopia says Eritrea has 10,000 armed men at border" 25 October 2006.
International Herald Tribune: "UN Chief warns that Ethiopia Eritrea tensions could explode without attention" 30 October 2006.
Amnesty International report Public Statement "Eritrea Over 500 parents of conscripts arrested" 21 December 2006.
Documents submitted by Respondent relating to country situation, Eritrea
Eritrean Proclamation of National Service, 23 October 1995
The World Bank "Eritrea Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme Project Appraisal" 22 June 2001.
The World Bank "Eritrea Emergency Demobilisation and Reintegration Project, Volume 1" 22 April 2002.
The World Bank Technical Annex for a Proposed Credit of US$60 Million to the State of Eritrea Emergency Demobilisation and Reintegration Project, 22 April 2002.
UNHCR Position on Return of Rejected Asylum Seekers to Eritrea, January 2004.
The World Bank Aide-Memoire Part II: Proposed Restructuring.
Eritrea: Emergency Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme Mid-Term Review Mission, July 14 - 15 2005.
USAID/Eritrea Annual Report, 15 June 2005.
Operations Policy and Country Services Status of Projects in Execution FY05 and FY06 Eritrea, 19 September 2005.
Letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1 February 2006
Awate.com - News Report "Eritrea calls up demobilised troops" 23 February 2006.
US Department of State Report 2006 dated 8 March 2006.
UNDP Project Fact Sheet, April 2006.
USAID Report, 17 April 2006.
US Census Bureau Demographic Data for Eritrea, 24 August 2006.
Hutchinson Country Facts Eritrea undated.
COIS Report, Eritrea, 21 September 2006.
US Department of State Background Note, October 2006.
Operational Guidance Note Eritrea, 27 October 2006.
Table of Visa Applications at the British Embassy Asmara, 2006.
Canadian Embassy Visa Application Procedure, 5 December 2006.
Verification of email from Angel Square Presenting Officers' Unit, 11 January 2007.