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Eritrea singled out by a report for its military service

A report by the Australian association Walk Free, published this week, estimates that 50 million people live in situations of modern slavery in the world in 2021. This expression covers “ forced labour, forced marriage, debt bondage, sexual exploitation “. Among the countries at the bottom of the annual ranking is an African country: Eritrea, just behind North Korea and ahead of Mauritania.

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Despite the Eritrean government’s denial, its “national service” is a form of forced labor. At least within the meaning of the Convention of the International Labor Organization, the ILO, which defines it as ” any work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily “.

It is indeed by virtue of this criterion that Eritrea is singled out by Walk Free. Eritrean conscripts are subject to military authority from the age of 17, in their last year of high school, where ” they combine the handling of weapons with the preparation for examinations “, says the association.

Many of them, she adds citing a UN survey, are forced to do agricultural work on farms (…) owned by government and military officials “. Some ” are severely punished and abused, with women being subjected to sexual violence and harassment “. And there is no official demobilization before the age of 40, and sometimes much more.

Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel, however, called the report ” absurd “. ” slavery, he said, is foreign to the history, culture and social justice politics of Eritrea “.

>> To read also: In Eritrea, severe reprisals against those who resist military service

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