22/12/06 (B374) Eritrea dismisses rights reports on mass arrests / Asmara, Eritrea.

22 December
2006 12:29

Eritrea dismissed on Friday reports by Amnesty International that accused
the Red Sea state of arresting 500 parents of people who fled the country
illegally to avoid conscription.

routinely denies rights criticism from abroad, saying the world has long been
prejudiced against it and in favour of the Horn of Africa’s main power, Ethiopia.

will not spend our time running after daily accusations from that institution
which doesn’t do any work except making such kinds of statements every day,"
Information Minister Ali Abdu told Reuters by telephone.

service officially lasts for 18 months, but in many cases is extended for
several years. Almost one in 10 residents is conscripted.

of those arrested has been charged with a criminal offence or taken to court
within the 48 hours stipulated by the Constitution and laws of Eritrea,"
the United States-branch of Amnesty said in a statement late on Thursday.

arrests reflect an upsurge in the Eritrean government’s use of arbitrary and
punitive sanctions against civil society, religious groups and human rights
defenders," it added.

The information
minister did not deny or confirm accusations by Amnesty that relatives are
forced to either produce the missing child, pay a 50 000 nafka (about $3 300)
fine or serve six-months in the army.

don’t have any right to intervene in our internal affairs," he said.

government regulations make it difficult for young people to leave the country,
which remains mobilised for the possibility of renewed war against Ethiopia
over a disputed border ruling.

The two
sides waged a 1998 to 2000 border war, in which an estimated 70 000 people
died. — Reuters