ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Eritrea’s government has jailed about 10,000 dissidents without charge or trial over the years, a rights group said in report Thursday, describing the Horn of Africa nation as one of the world’s most repressive states.
The new report by Amnesty International said those held in detention include suspected critics of the government, politicians, journalists, and “anyone who refuses to comply with the repressive system.”
In a statement Thursday, Eritea’s governmnet called the report “unsubstantiated” and a “political assault” on the country.
Among those behind bars are 187 people detained since January, when a group of more than 100 soldiers stormed the Ministry of Information and demanded the release of all political prisoners. Some Western diplomats and observers said at the time that this event was an attempted coup against President Isaias Afewerki, who led the country to independence from Ethiopia in 1991. He has been president since 1993.
According to Amnesty International, Eritrea has since become “one of the most repressive, secretive and inaccessible countries in the world.”
Increasingly isolated, Eritrea is under sanctions imposed by the African Union and the United Nations. In late 2011 the U.N. Security Council expanded an arms embargo against Afewerki’s regime. The country is accused of supporting al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in Somalia.
Neighboring Ethiopia has stepped up its criticism of the regime, which it sees as a negative force in the region. In March 2012 Ethiopian troops moved deep into Eritrean territories to destroy military camps that the government said the camps were used to train “subversive groups” that routinely attack Ethiopia.
“There are calls by some corners to ease sanctions imposed on Eritrea. We reject this,” Dina Mufti, a spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thursday.”