Country Report on Terrorism 2015 - Chapter 2 - Eritrea

Overview: The Government of Eritrea continued to make regular public statements about its commitment to fighting terrorism. Additionally, it participated in the Countering Violent Extremism Conference in Kenya in June and the UN Global Counterterrorism Forum Conference in Morocco in July, making strong statements at both international gatherings. Also, on December 21, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press statement expressing its support for the Saudi initiative to form an alliance against terrorism.

In May, the United States re-certified Eritrea as “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts under Section 40A of the Arms Export and Control Act, as amended. In considering this annual determination, the Department of State reviewed Eritrea’s overall level of cooperation with U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, taking into account U.S. counterterrorism objectives and a realistic assessment of Eritrean capabilities.

The Government of Eritrea has been under UNSC sanctions since December 2009 as a result of past evidence of support for al-Shabaab and regional destabilization. UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1907 (2009) and 2013 (2011) continued an arms embargo on Eritrea and a travel ban and asset freeze on some military and political leaders, calling on the nation to “cease arming, training, and equipping armed groups and their members, including al-Shabaab, that aim to destabilize the region.” The Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group’s 2014 and 2015 reports found no evidence that Eritrea is supporting al-Shabaab.

Lack of transparency on how governing structures function means that there is not a clear picture of the methods the Government of Eritrea uses to track terrorists or maintain safeguards for its citizens. For a number of years, members of the police have refused to meet with security officials from western nations to discuss policy matters, although the U.S. government had informal contact with law enforcement counterparts in 2015.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Articles 259-264, 269-270, and 282 of the Eritrean Penal Code, grandfathered into present-day law from Ethiopia’s 1957 code, criminalize terrorist methods; measures of intimidation or terrorism; acts of conspiracy carried out by organized armed bands; offenses that make use of arms, means, or support from foreign organizations; use of bombs, dynamite, explosives, or other methods constituting a public danger; genocide; and war crimes against the civilian population. Other sections of Eritrean law could also be used to prosecute terrorism, including acts related to offenses against public safety; offenses against property; offenses against the state; offenses against the national interest; offenses against international interests; attacks on the independence of the state; impairment of the defensive power of the state; high treason; economic treason; collaboration; and provocation and preparation.

The Government of Eritrea does not share information about its ports of entry, law enforcement actions, arrests or disruptions of terrorist’s activities or prosecutions. Entities including the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Police, and Immigration and Customs authorities all potentially have counterterrorism responsibilities. There are special units of the NSA that monitor fundamentalism or extremism. Chain of command may work effectively within some security and law enforcement elements, but there are rivalries and responsibilities that overlap between and among the various forces. Whether information sharing occurs depends on personal relationships between and among particular unit commanders. Many soldiers, police officers, and immigration and customs agents, are young national service recruits or assignees, performing their jobs without adequate training.

The Eritrean government closely monitors passenger manifests for any flights coming into Asmara, and scrutinizes travel documents of visitors, but does not collect biometric data. Government officials lack the training and technology to recognize fraudulent documents.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Eritrea is not a member of a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. This gap impedes any overall assessment of the risks the country faces in regards to terrorism financing. Eritrea’s general lack of transparency on banking, financial, and economic matters makes the gathering of definitive information difficult. There is no available information to indicate that Eritrea has identified any terrorist assets or prosecuted any terrorism financing cases. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Countering Violent Extremism: In June, Eritrea participated in the regional Countering Violent Extremism conference hosted by Kenya in Nairobi. While Eritrea’s laws and the public statements of Eritrean officials stressed the importance of preventing violent extremism in Eritrea, the lack of transparency from the government made it impossible to assess whether they have implemented initiatives aimed at prevention, counter-messaging, or rehabilitation and reintegration.

International and Regional Cooperation: Eritrea is a member of the AU. In 2015, Eritrea increased its military cooperation with the Gulf States and increased its political support for the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen. Eritrea would like to reactivate its membership in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); however, Eritrea’s return to IGAD is opposed by Ethiopia and Djibouti, both of whom had military conflicts and have ongoing border disputes with Eritrea.