Earlier this month, Eritrean police raided a group of Christian college students who had gathered to worship and record
video clips for social media.
Release International reported that 103 Christians, mainly students, were arrested in the crackdown. The raid took place in the capital, Asmara, and those arrested were taken to Mai Serwa prison.
There are now more than 500 Christian prisoners detained indefinitely without trial in Eritrea. The prison where the students were taken, Mai Serwa, is notorious for its harsh conditions, overcrowding, and poor treatment of inmates. Many prisoners there were imprisoned for political reasons.
Known as the worst governmental violator of religious freedom in Africa, Eritrea has long operated as a pariah state for its blatant disregard for human rights. Though it occasionally releases prisoners of conscience, it is known to keep many Christians and other religious minorities in abysmal conditions. Survivors of Eritrea’s several prison camps report the worst abuse imaginable, including severe torture and grossly inhumane living quarters.
In 2021, the European Union sanctioned Eritrea for its “serious human rights violations, in particular arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of persons and torture committed by its agents.”
Eritrea has a well-documented history of treating its prisoners inhumanely and targeting religious minorities for particularly harsh treatment. The United States did not join the EU in its sanctions on Eritrea in keeping with its years-long policy of conciliation rather than confrontation, though it did designate Eritrea as a Country of Particular Concern for particularly severe violations of religious freedom in a November 2021 announcement.
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