Amnesty International believes that at least 10,000 political prisoners have been imprisoned by the government of President Isaias Afewerki, who has ruled since the country’s independence in 1993. With no known exception, not a single political prisoner has ever been charged with a crime or tried, had access to a lawyer or been brought before a judge or a judicial officer to assess the legality and necessity of the detention.
In the vast majority of cases, the prisoners’ families are not informed of their whereabouts, and often never hear from their relative again after they are arrested. Torture – for punishment, interrogation and coercion - is widespread. Practitioners of unregistered religions are tortured to force them to recant their faith.
Amnesty International has received many reports of deaths in detention, as a result of torture, appalling conditions or suicide. These include accounts of prisoners dying of treatable diseases such as malaria and illnesses caused by excessive heat.