Thousands of people held at Adi Abeto army prison

Thousands of people arrested on suspicion of evading military conscription and held at Adi Abeto army prison are thought to be at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment. At least a dozen prisoners have reportedly been shot dead and many more were wounded following a disturbance at the prison. On 4 November Eritrean security forces in the capital, Asmara, indiscriminately arrested thousands of youths and others suspected of evading military conscription. The arrests took place in the streets, shops and offices, at roadblocks and in homes. Those arrested were taken to Adi Abeto army prison just outside Asmara. Conditions in this military holding centre are harsh, with severe overcrowding, little food or sanitation. Many detainees have reportedly been forced to sleep outside in the very cold weather without blankets or shoes. Prisoners have no access either to their families or to lawyers.

Towards midnight on 4 November, a prison wall was apparently pushed over by some prisoners, possibly in an escape attempt. Soldiers opened fire and shot dead a number of the prisoners, wounding many more. On 8 November, the Minister of Information said that two prisoners had been killed. Other sources claim at least a dozen people were killed, and that bodies were buried without being returned to their families. Those wounded were taken to hospital and held incommunicado under military guard.

Amnesty International, 9 November 2004, AFR 64/008/2004