Eritrea entered the World Watch List top 50 in 2002, and in 2004 the country jumped into the top 20. The Eritrean regime is absolutely authoritarian and intolerant towards any form of association, dissent, and free expression. The government’s attempt to control all religious institutions culminated in the deposing of the Eritrean Orthodox Church Patriarch who has been under house arrest since 2007. Eritrea has also consistently supported the rise and spread of radical Islam in the Horn of Africa. In the international context, it is also important to take note of the fact that Eritrea is one of the two African Countries designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) by the US State Department because of severe violations of freedom of religion. The situation in Eritrea is also contributing to the global refugee crisis. One refugee stated that “the country is almost without its youth - some of them are in the SAWA Defense Training Center and others are escaping the regime through every possible outlet. And the country has become uninhabitable.” That is why Robert P. George and Thomas J. Reese from USCIRF ask: “Should Eritrea’s track record on human rights crimes and religious freedom warrant a referral to the International Criminal Court at The Hague?
For years following Pastor Naigzhi’s arrest in 2004, his wife Awet* and their three children waited patiently for his release. But everything changed in 2013, when Awet received credible information that the government wanted to arrest her and the children.