Jehovah's Witnesses have lost citizenship rights

Eritrea Ministry of the Interior

Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts March 4, 1995

SOURCE: Source: Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea, Asmara,

Text, as broadcast by Eritrean radio, of a Ministry of Interior statement regarding Jehovah's Witnesses

As may be recalled a presidential statement was issued on 25th October 1994, regarding Jehovah's Witnesses in Eritrea. Some groups have used the said statement to try to portray the government as an oppressor and abuser of human rights, and for the past two months they have been spreading misinformation about the government. However, the accusations by the Jehovah's Witnesses have no basis whatsoever and are total lies. The truth is the following:

The Jehovah's Witnesses lost their right to citizenship because they refuse to accept the government of Eritrea and its laws. The government has refrained from taking action against them, hoping they would cease their repeated unlawful actions.

1. The Eritrean people have felt the consequences of 30 years of bloody war and have lost over 60,000 people, with 20,000 crippled and over 700,000 forced to flee. [Words indistinct] therefore those who watched silently while the Eritrean people were killed indiscriminately, cannot talk about morality now when the only action taken [against the Jehovah's Witnesses] is sacking them from their jobs. There is no family that has not lost loved ones in the war. Those who are not affected are the Jehovah's Witnesses. They refused to take part in the struggle. As a result, the Eritrean people developed a strong hatred of them.

3. In 1991, when the people of Eritrea were casting their votes during the referendum, those people [Jehovah's Witnesses] refused to cast their votes, saying they did not recognize the so-called government of Eritrea, but only the heavenly bodies.

4. The Jehovah's Witnesses cannot speak about human rights regarding a government they do not recognize. They have lost their right of citizenship as a result of not recognizing the government of Eritrea and accepting its laws. What everybody should understand is that the rights of individuals go hand in hand with national obligations.

5. The people of Eritrea were angered when the Jehovah's Witnesses refused to vote during the referendum and asked the government to take the necessary action against them, while some people took action of their own against them. The government, including the president himself, tried to calm the situation and warned those people who were taking action against the Jehovah's believers.

6. The Jehovah's Witnesses refused to do national service.

7. Finally, the government stated that they [Jehovah's Witnesses] would not have rights equal to those of any other citizen since they had refused to accept the government and its laws. [Passage indistinct] Patience has its limits. Based on the above points, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has no option other than to abide by the statement issued on 25th February 1994 [date as heard]. Ministry of Internal Affairs, Asmara, 1st March 1995.