Abune (Father) Antonios, the legitimate patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, died a year ago today. He was 94 years old, and had spent the last 16 years of his life under house arrest following his repeated objections to unwarranted government interference in church affairs.
In April 2004, the patriarch was appointed with the unanimous endorsement of the Holy Synod of the Church to lead one of only four recognised religious denominations in Eritrea (the others being Catholicism, Evangelical Lutheranism, and Sunni Islam). As a leader of one of the few religious communities not directly outlawed by the Eritrean authorities, one might have expected that he would not face the harassment and pressures the Eritrean regime excels in dispensing.
However, this was not the case. By August 2005 he had been removed by the government from administrative control of the patriarchate, and confined to ceremonial duties. Then in January 2006 he was removed from office in violation of canon law, his advisor Merigeta Yitbarek Berhe was detained, and he was held under de facto house arrest at his official residence. Eventually, in 2007 the patriarch’s personal pontifical insignia and clothing were seized, and he was formally placed under incommunicado house arrest in an undisclosed location in the Eritrean capital, Asmara.
Continue reading “Let us honour the memory of Patriarch Antonios by bringing an end to the violations of the Eritrean regime” →
In November last year, Ken McCallum, the Director General of the UK’s Security Service known as MI5, claimed that his agency had identified “at least ten” potential threats to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the Iranian regime. He added that the Iranian intelligence services “are prepared to take reckless action” against opponents in the West, including by luring individuals to Iran.
Coming at a time of intense civil unrest in Iran following the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for incorrectly wearing her hijab, McCallum’s comments highlighted a concerning issue that applies to several of the countries CSW works on: repressive regimes are becoming increasingly unafraid to reach beyond their borders.
Perhaps one of the most obvious examples is China, a global superpower which regularly uses its economic and geopolitical influence to shape decisions in international fora such as the Human Rights Council, and routinely metes out sanctions against Western parliamentarians and others who openly condemn the widespread violations taking place in the country.
Continue reading “As China, Eritrea, Iran and more extend repression beyond their own borders, we must do better” →
Netflix’s hit dystopian drama – with deadly playground games, anonymous masked henchmen and a giant murderous doll – is far-fetched to say the least. And yet, arguably, one storyline underplays the grim reality.
In just four weeks, Squid Game, the Korean production where contestants play children’s games and the losing players are killed, became Netflix’s most popular series ever and number one in 90 countries.
In one storyline, guards take the bodies of losing contestants and operate on them, removing vital organs while the subjects are still alive. These organs are then rushed to be sold to Chinese traders.
Continue reading “Far-fetched and fantastical? One aspect of Squid Game could be all too real” →
On 4 November 2020 Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) forces in response to an attack on a federal army base which the Tigrayan authorities described as pre-emptive. Troops from Eritrea and Somalia joined the ENDF in launching a pincer movement against the Tigrayans, and communications to the region were cut and remain disrupted to this day.
The attack marked the beginning of a conflict which is still ongoing, one in which over 52,000 people have died, and an estimated 1.7 million have been displaced internally. One year on and the crisis in Tigray is showing no signs of coming to an end, with Prime Minister Abiy pledging to “bury this enemy with our blood and bones and make the glory of Ethiopia high again” in a statement on 3 November – hardly the words expected from a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Along with the Eritrean leader, PM Abiy and his government are responsible for a horrific campaign of violence against the people of Tigray which a joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) recently found may have involved war crimes and crimes against humanity, a finding they attribute to both sides of the conflict.
Continue reading “365 days and counting: The international community still needs to end the suffering of Tigray” →
Religion-related tensions continue to arise in many African countries. They come in varying forms and degrees of intensity, and can be intra-religious or occur between religious communities.
Religion is either instrumentalised as a rallying point or is the raison d’étre of armed non state actors seeking to enforce an extremist interpretation of their creed or to gain material advantage. It is used by individuals or political parties as a bridge to power and rallying point. In addition, some governments view religion, or certain religious or non-religious groups, as threats, exercising control through excessive registration requirements or more forcible means.
Every country on the African continent is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), with its expanded articulation of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), and to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), where the right to change or refuse one’s religion or belief as an act of conscience can be inferred from Article 8. However, in parts of the continent, human rights in general, and FoRB in particular, are challenged by arguments about cultural relativism and frequent but erroneous assertions that they are a Western construct.
Thus, despite being parties to international and regional treaties, many African countries either do not give legal effect to them, or create exemptions for their implementation. This has further exacerbated their already poor profile on human rights protection.
Continue reading “Long Read: Removing the Obstacles to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Africa” →