Excrept from Human Rights Overview: Eritrea
Forced National Service
All Eritreans between the ages of eighteen and forty-five must perform
two years of compulsory national service. In practice, however, the time
for service is repeatedly prolonged. There are frequent sweeps to round
up evaders. Beginning in 2003, school students must complete their last
year of schooling at the military training camp at Sawa, in western Eritrea.
The commander of the facility said the students are considered members
of the Eritrean Defense Forces. The government sometimes uses national
service as retribution for perceived criticism of government policies.
An Eritrean reporting for the Voice of America (VOA) had his press credentials
withdrawn on July 8, 2003, and was sent to Sawa for national service after
he cast doubt on the government's reports that family members had "celebrated"
when the government finally released the name of war dead almost three
years after the end of hostilities. VOA claimed that the reporter had
previously completed national service and was exempt from further call-up
for medical reasons.
Copyright 2006, Human Rights Watch