Main Menu
Human Trafficking
Street Children

Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                


UN investigators have described the routine and systematic use of physical and psychological torture in both civilian and military detention centers.

Deaths in custody or in military service due to torture and other harsh conditions have also been reported.

Security forces employ lethal violence arbitrarily and with impunity. Individuals attempting to escape military service or flee the country have been fired on by soldiers.

[Freedom House Country Report, 2018]

Description: Description: Description: Description: Eritrea

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Eritrea.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


A Torture Survivor Drew These Pictures To Describe The Hell Eritrea Has Become

Charlotte Alfred, The Huffington Post, 11 June 2015

[accessed 21 June 2015]

Updated 6 Dec 2017

[accessed 31 December 2018]

In one small East African country, the rule of law has been replaced by the rule of fear.

That was the conclusion of a yearlong investigation by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which released its report this week. The report lays out in horrifying detail the mass surveillance, torture, enslavement and disappearances under Eritrea’s totalitarian regime since that country gained independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s. The U.N. investigators said systemic human rights abuses in Eritrea are on a scale rarely seen anywhere else in the world and may constitute crimes against humanity.

Among the harrowing testimonies in the report, one survivor recalled, “They arrested me, handcuffed me and attached a rope in order to hang me like Jesus Christ but without my arms outspread.” His hands were paralyzed for months, and the pain still lingers, he told U.N. investigators. “There are no rules when torturing. They can beat you five minutes or an hour, as they wish,” he said.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Eritrea

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 18 July 2021]


Former prisoners described two specific forms of punishment by security forces known as “helicopter” and “8.” For “helicopter,” prisoners lie face down on the ground and their hands and legs are tied behind them. For “8,” they are tied to a tree. Prisoners were often forced to stay in either position for 24-48 hours, in some cases longer, and only released to eat or to relieve themselves. Use of psychological torture was common, according to inmates held in prior years. Some former prisoners reported authorities conducted interrogations and beatings within hearing distance of other prisoners to intimidate them.


Authorities are believed to have continued the practice of holding some detainees incommunicado in metal shipping containers and underground cells without toilets or beds. The government did not consistently provide adequate basic or emergency medical care in prisons or detention centers. Food, sanitation, ventilation, and lighting were inadequate, and potable water was sometimes available only for purchase.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 12 May 2020]


UN investigators have described the routine and systematic use of physical and psychological torture in both civilian and military detention centers. Deaths in custody or in military service due to torture and other harsh conditions have also been reported. Security forces employ lethal violence arbitrarily and with impunity. Individuals attempting to escape military service or flee the country have been fired on by soldiers.

From torture in Eritrea to being terrorised in Italy: one migrant’s tale

Tom Kington, The Times, Rome, 2 May 2015

[accessed 10 May 2015]

Judging by the names they give their favourite torture techniques, military prison guards in Eritrea like to spice their sadism with a cruel sense of humour.

One technique, called the “almas”, involves tying prisoners’ arms behind their backs, connecting the ropes to the ceiling and then hoisting them up high enough to ensure that they can touch the ground only on tiptoes, if they stretch.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


ARBITRARY ARREST, PROLONGED DETENTION, AND INHUMANE CONDITIONS - Arbitrary arrests are the norm. A prisoner may or may not be told the reason for the arrest; even prison authorities may not be informed. Detainees are held indefinitely; releases are as arbitrary as arrest, and few, if any, detainees are brought to trial. The most prominent political prisoners are 21 senior government officials and journalists arrested in September 2001 and held in solitary confinement ever since; defecting jailers claim that half have died in captivity. The then-15-year-old daughter of a government minister arrested immediately after her father defected in 2012 remains incarcerated.

Prisoners are held in vastly overcrowded underground cells or shipping containers, with no space to lie down, little or no light, oppressive heat or cold, and vermin. Food, water, and sanitation are inadequate, beatings and other physical abuse are common, deaths not unusual. Some of the leaders of an attempted 2013 takeover of the Ministry of Information died in prison in 2014, according to unconfirmed reports.

Human Rights in Eritrea

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 25 January 2013]

Eritrea is one of the world’s most repressive and closed countries. The government of President Isaias Afewerki has effectively banned the independent press. Journalists languish in detention, as do officials who question Isaias’s leadership; many have died in jail. No civil society organizations are allowed to exist. Arbitrary arrest of citizens is rampant, and torture in detention is common.  Leading religious institutions – Orthodox Christian and Muslim – are run by government-appointees; adherents of other religions are jailed until they renounce their faiths.  Nearly all men and many women over 18 are conscripted into indefinite “national service,” which exploits them as forced labor at survival wages.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT - Torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners were widespread. Prisoners were beaten, tied in painful positions and left in extreme weather conditions, and held in solitary confinement for long periods. Conditions in detention amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Many detainees were held in metal shipping containers or underground cells, often in desert locations, where they were exposed to extremes of heat and cold. Detainees received inadequate food and water. They were frequently denied – or provided with only inadequate – medical care.

Journalist Yirgalem Fisseha Mebrahtu, arrested in February 2009, was reportedly admitted to hospital in January, under permanent guard and with no visitors permitted. Her family was not told why she had been admitted.

Petros Solomon, a former Foreign Minister and one of the G15 group – 11 high-profile politicians detained arbitrarily since 2001 – was reportedly hospitalized in July due to a serious illness. However, adequate medical care was unavailable in Eritrea. His fate remained unknown.

A number of deaths in custody were reported.

In August, Yohannes Haile, a Jehovah’s Witness detained since September 2008, reportedly died at Me’eter prison from the effects of extreme heat after being confined underground since October 2011. Three others detained with him were reportedly in critical condition. Their fate remained unknown.


For current articles:: Search Amnesty International Website

[accessed 31 December 2018]

Scroll Down


Human Rights Reports » 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 25, 2009

[accessed 25 January 2013]

[accessed 3 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law and ratified but unimplemented constitution prohibits torture; however, there were numerous reports that security forces resorted to torture and beatings of prisoners, particularly during interrogations. There were credible reports that several military conscripts died following such treatment. Security forces severely mistreated and beat army deserters, draft evaders, persons attempting to flee the country without travel documents and exit permits, and members of certain religious groups. Security forces subjected deserters and draft evaders to such disciplinary actions as prolonged sun exposure in temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the binding of hands, elbows, and feet for extended periods. No known action was taken during the year to punish perpetrators of torture and abuse.

There were reliable reports that torture was widespread in an unknown number of detention facilities, corroborated by prison escapees. For example, authorities suspended prisoners from trees with their arms tied behind their backs, a technique known as "almaz" (diamond). Authorities also placed prisoners face down with their hands tied to their feet, a technique known as the "helicopter."

There were reliable reports that military officials tortured foreign fishermen captured in Eritrean waters.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 7   Civil Liberties: 6   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 25 January 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 12 May 2020]

According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, torture, arbitrary detentions, and political arrests are common. Religious persecution and ill-treatment of those trying to avoid military service are increasing, and torture is systematically practiced by the army. Prison conditions are poor, and outside monitors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross have been denied access to detainees.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES. 

Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Eritrea",, [accessed <date>]