• Futsum Abbay
  • Fatsum Abbay is presently a regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant in Canada. He also is an independent researcher on human rights in general and disability human rights in particular. He has received both his masters and doctoral degrees in law from the faculty of Law of Mcgill University. This brief report is an update of the country report on Eritrea, which was published on the 2015 African Disability Rights YearBook: (F Abbay ‘Country report: Eritrea’ (2015) 3 African Disability Rights Yearbook 163-182, Only those sections of the 2015 report with newer information are updated and constitute parts of this report update. The other sections are simply removed from this report.

2.3 While reporting under various other United Nations instruments, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, or the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, did Eritrea also report specifically on the rights of persons with disabilities in its most recent reports? If so, were relevant ‘concluding observations’ adopted? If relevant, were these observations given effect to? Was mention made of disability rights in your state’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR)? If so, what was the effect of these observations/recommendations?

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

In May 2014, Eritrea submitted its 5th report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.[1] Eritrea reported in this document on the enrollment rate of females with disabilities, in particular, the blind and the deaf, in the three special schools for students with disabilities.[2] It also reported on other measures relating to provisions of cash allowance, mobility appliances and involvement of community in volunteering services to persons with disabilities.[3] The UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women reviewed the 2014 Eritrea’s 5th report on the implementation of CEDAW during its meeting from 16 February to 06 March  2015 and provided its concluding observations. In its concluding recommendations, the Committee calls upon Eritrea to increase temporary special measures as a necessary strategy to enhance the rights of women with disabilities, older women and rural women in all areas where they are disadvantaged or underrepresented.[4] In the context of women in political and public life, the Committee also urges Eritrea to hold free and fair elections to National Assembly and other elected bodies and to ensure all women, including from disadvantaged groups, can vote and qtand for election.[5] In February 2018, the Government of Eritrea provided information in follow-up to the 2015 concluding observations on the 5th periodic report of the country by the Committee.[6] Nevertheless, the report does not contain any information on the rights and situations of persons with disabilities in the country.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

In December 2011, Eritrea submitted the 4th report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to the UN Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this report, the country reported on the rights of persons with disabilities in general and on the rights of children with disabilities in particular, focusing on community-based rehabilitation programs, rights to land for farming and residence purposes, provisions of orthopedic appliances and donkeys, access to educational institutions, special schools, the DPOs, and other undertaken administrative and policy measures.[7] The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child examined the 2011 Eritrea’s 4th national report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and issued its concluding observations in June 2015.[8] In regard to the rights of children with disabilities, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its concerns “about the lack of statistical data on children with disabilities, including on those who do not attend school,… (and) the referral of children with visual and hearing impairments, as well as developmental and intellectual disabilities, to special schools.”[9] It was also concerned about the allocation of insufficient resources to implement the comprehensive disability policy and other relevant programmes for children with disabilities.[10] In the meantime, the Committee encouraged the Government of Eritrea:

“(a) Integrating a human rights-based approach to disability in all relevant laws, policies and programmes;

(b) Promoting inclusive education for all children with disabilities and, over time, phasing out the placement of children with disabilities in special schools;

(c) Providing the necessary assistance to children with disabilities who are studying in regular schools to ensure that they have access to meaningful, effective and quality education and can integrate and develop as individuals as fully as possible.”[11]

The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (the ACHPR)

The Government of Eritrea submitted the Initial National Report 1999-2016 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (the ACHPR) on 28 March 2017.[12] In the report, the government states that it will extend its services to all persons with disabilities. It is also reported that the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare of the Government has established a division for monitoring and coordinating mechanisms with government bodies in the welfare of Persons with disabilities.[13] To improve the economic situation of persons with disabilities, the government committed to provide to Persons with disabilities persons with disabilities over the age of 18 years, regardless of their marital status land for housing and for carrying out various agricultural activities. According to the report, the government has also implemented a loan program for persons with disabilities to help them be engaged in gainful employment activities.[14] The government has also provided persons with disabilities with various mobility appliances such as prostheses, orthosis, crutches, arch support, wheelchairs very often for free. Between 1991 and 2015, for example, 42,168 persons with disabilities, out of which, 34,496 are males, have received mobility support appliances.[15] The Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare also provides free mental health services to persons living with mental health problems and psychological disorders.[16] In collaboration with the National Association for the Deaf, the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare has also published the first sign language dictionary in Tigrigna and was later translated to Arabic and English.[17] The report also account in detail how the government has provided subsidies and support to war disabled veterans through the Eritrean National Association of War Disabled Veterans, such as, covering of 70% of transportation costs for abroad medical services, mobility support, loans, training in various technical and vocational skills, and (monthly subsistence allowance and free medical services to those who are not within the institution-based rehabilitation program of Denden Camp in Asmara).[18] In regard to rehabilitation measures, the Government reported that it has implemented the community-based rehabilitation program as of 1994. Presently, the community-based rehabilitation programmes are functioning in all six zones of the country, covering 52 sub-regions out of 58; and 90% of the programmes are implemented in rural and semi-urban areas.[19]

In the context of education, recognizing the special needs of Persons with disabilities, the ministry of education opened and maintained the functioning of many special schools for Persons with disabilities: one for children with vision impairments, two for children with hearing impairments and one for children living with autism and down syndrome. Eight special schools for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities are also established within the premises of regular schools. The focus on opening and managing special schools for Persons with disabilities with the goal of addressing their special needs by the government is contrary to the principle of inclusive education. Even so, the government acknowledged in the report that access to education by Persons with disabilities is still was low despite the government’s efforts.[20]

The African Commission on the ACHPR has not yet reviewed this report.

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

In July 2012, Eritrea submitted its initial report on the implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC).[21] In this report, the Government of Eritrea reported on the rights of handicap children by focusing on establishment of community-based rehabilitation programs, organizations of disabled persons and special schools.[22] The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) reviewed this Eritrea’s initial report during its 28th session in October 2016 and issued its concluding observations and recommendations.[23] The Committee noted that it was concerned that the country has not yet adopted a specific legislation on protecting the rights of children and failed to implement the 1997 ratified Constitution of the country, which promotes the rights of children.[24] In the context of children with disabilities, the Committee recommended the country: -          

  • Develop and continually update a national database of children living with disabilities for effective, inclusive response;
  • Assess the extent to which adopted measures do not discriminate against children with disabilities;
  • Endeavour to improve and increase inclusive schools along with teachers provided the necessary training to ensure children with disabilities are able to enjoy their life;
  • Ensure public facilities are made accessible to children with disabilities;
  • Provide necessary services to increase the standard of living and health and ensure other government facilities are made accessible to children with disabilities; and
  • Support children with disabilities from poor households.”[25]

In relation to the right to education of children with disabilities, the Committee recommended that Eritrea should develop measures that will provide inclusive education for children with disabilities. The committee also recommended that the country should abandon pilot programmes on special needs education where inclusive education and facilities of education are accessible to children with disabilities and establish more special schools throughout the country so as to cover the country as wide as possible.[26]

4.1 Does Eritrea have legislation that directly addresses issues relating to disability? If so, list the legislation and explain how the legislation addresses disability.

Many disability-related provisions in Eritrea are scattered in the various general laws of the country. The following are the new updates as of 2015.[27]

Civil Code of May 2015[28]  

The country’s Civil Code of May 2015 has replaced the 1991 Transitional Civil Code, which was the subject of discussion in the 2015 Eritrea: Country Report.

Articles 315-349, 529, 531 (2) (c), 550, 559, 659 (3), 733 (2), 734, 1373 (2-3) and 1374 directly provide and speak to disability or persons with disabilities.

Articles 315-349 of the Code lays down the rights, powers and limitations of insane, infirm and judicially interdicted persons.

Article 315 (1) of the Civil Code defines an insane person as a person who is not capable of understanding the importance or consequences of his actions due to his insufficient development, mental defects or senility. Sub-Article 2 of the same article also stipulates that feeble-minded, drunkards, habitually intoxicated and prodigal persons can be assimilated to insane persons in appropriate cases. With regard to infirm persons, Article 316 of the Civil Code provides that, persons such as the blind, the deaf-mute and other persons, who are not capable of taking care of themselves or of administering their property due to permanent infirmity, may invoke in their favour the provisions of the Code that protect the interests of insane persons. According to Article 321 of the Civil Code, a judicially interdicted person is defined as an insane or infirm person, who is pronounced as an interdicted person by a court where: in the case of an insane person, the health or interests of the insane person or the interests of his presumptive heirs so require; or in the case of an infirm person, where the infirm person is not capable of controlling himself or administering his property due to permanent disability.Article 322 of the Code further stipulates that an application for interdiction can be made by the insane or infirm person himself, or by his spouse, or by any of his relatives by blood or marriage, or by the public prosecutor. As stated in Article 324 of the Code, a decision against a judgement of interdiction by a court may be appealed by the same persons mentioned above.

Articles 317-319 of the Code stipulate that juridical acts performed by an insane person may be annulled if his/her mental impairment prevented him/her from making a reasonable appraisal of the interests involved. The existence of such mental incapacity is presumed if the juridical acts are prejudicial to the insane person unless the prejudice can be reasonably foreseen at the time when the judicial acts where effected. In the context of marriage, for instance, Article 531 of the Civil Code relating to Family Law states that the consent to marry may be vitiated if the spouse has made an “error regarding the state of health or the bodily conformation of the (other) spouse, who is affected by leprosy or who does not have the requisite organs for the consummation of the marriage.”[29]

In cases of successions, pursuant to Article 734 of the Civil Code, a will may also be invalidated if the testator was obviously insane at the time of the will-making.”[30]

Articles 321-326 of the Civil Code makes provisions for procedures to be followed when PRONOUNCING an insane and infirm persons a judicially interdicted persons. The subsequent articles determine the rights and limitations of judicially interdicted persons. Pursuant to Article 337 and 733 (2) of the Civil Code, a judicially interdicted person cannot make a will during his/her interdiction period. As Articles 338 (3), 529 and 559 of the Code stipulate, a judicially interdicted person cannot enter in a marriage contract save for the leave of court. To request for divorce by the judicially interdicted person, as Article 339 of the Code states, a consent of the judicially interdicted person and of his/her guardian is required.[31] According to Article 340 (1) and 659 of the Civil Code, “an interdicted man may not acknowledge a child born out of wedlock save for a court order”. In terms of medical treatment, Article 20 (3) of the Civil Code, a judicially interdicted person may not refuse to submit himself/herself to medical examination or treatment, the decision is left to his/her guardian.[32] According to Article 1374 of the Civil Code relating to General Contracts, judicially interdicted persons cannot be witnesses in contracts.[33] In general, at the declaration of judicial interdiction of a person, the court may prescribe specific acts the judicially interdicted person may perform himself/herself.[34] In signing contracts, Article 1373 of the Civil Code stipulates that any contracting party, who cannot write, may fix his/her thumb-mark. However, a blind and an illiterate person is not bound by his/her signature or thumb-mark unless it is authenticated by a notary, registrar or a judge acting during the course of his/her duties.[35]

Penal Code of Eritrea (2015)[36]

The 2015 Penal Code has replaced the 1991 Transitional Penal Code of the country.

Articles 7 (6), 21, 291 (1) (i) and 302 (1) (a), of the Penal Code are the relevant criminal provisions directly addressing disability and persons with disabilities.

Article 7 (6) of the Penal Code prohibits discrimination against persons on the account of a list of factors, one of which is disability. It stipulates that, “criminal law applies equally to all persons and no person may be discriminated against on account of race, ethnic origin, language, colour, gender, religion, disability, age, political view, or social or economic status.” According to Article 21 of the Penal Code, a person is not criminally “responsible for his acts when, “by reason of mental impairment at the time of the relevant conduct, the person was incapable of appreciating the nature or consequences of the conduct or of appreciating the wrongfulness of his conduct.” Similarly, according to Article 20 (2) of the code, a person, who engages in conduct, lacks the required element of criminal fault by reason of intoxication is not guilty of an offence. Article 58 (2) of the Penal Code also affirms that the punishment for a criminal offence must not cause physical suffering to the offender or degrade his/her human dignity. Article 64 (3) (b) of the Code also stipulates that a sentence of a capital punishment shall not be carried out on a person, who is seriously ill physically or mentally. In regard to offences against persons with disabilities or relating to disability, the Code states that a kidnapping or abducting “a person on the pretext that the person suffers from mental disorder or a dangerous condition,” is an aggravated offence,[37] punishable by seven to ten years of imprisonment.[38] Offending “the honour of a person by insult or injury by distastefully touching upon the person’s physical or mental impairment” also is an offence punishable by one month to six months imprisonment or 5000-20000 Nakfas (the country’s currency).[39]

9.2 In the countries in Eritrea’s region (East Africa) are DPOs organized/coordinated at national and/or regional level?

In Eritrea, no unifying single umbrella organization of DPOs exists at a local or national level in the country that could voice collectively disability issues. However, most countries in the region of East Africa have national umbrella organizations of DPOs. The following below contain a list of national umbrella organizations of DPOs in the region:

  • Federation of Ethiopian National Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FENAPD) in Ethiopia;
  • Fédération Nationale des Personnes en situation de Handicap (FENAPH), Rwanda;
  • National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) in Uganda;
  • Union des Personnes Handicapées du Burundi in Brundi;
  • United Disabled Persons of Kenya (UDPK) in Kenya;
  • Sudanese National Union of the Disabled in the Republic of Sudan;
  • Somalia/Somaliland Disability Network (SOSODIN) in Somalia; and
  • Tanzania Federation of Disabled People’s organizations (SHIVYAWATA) in Tanzania.[40]

At the regional level, there are two transitional organizations working on disability in East Africa. These are: the East Africa Federation of the Disabled (EAFOD) and the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN).[41]

9.10 Are there specific research institutes in the region where Eritrea is situated (East Africa) that work on the rights of persons with disabilities and that have facilitated the involvement of DPOs in the process, including in research?

There are no specific research institutes or centres in Eritrea working on the rights of Persons with disabilities.

But there are centres and research institutions in East Africa working on disability issues, such as branches of the International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation (the ICDR). The University of Toronto-based ICDR has established branches of partners of ICDR in countries such Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. The ICDR and its group members aim to enhance full participation of Persons with disabilities in their communities, improve their quality of life through education, research and provision of rehabilitation services and participate in the training and education of rehabilitation professionals.

There is also Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE). KISE is an educational institution in Kenya that offers educational service in special education to its students. It also “facilitates provision of services for persons with special needs and disabilities through human capital development, research, functional assessment, rehabilitation, technology and production of educational resources.”

Pan African Christian University in Kenya is another institution. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Pan African Christian University has a diploma programme on ‘disability studies’. The goal of the programme is to train professionals working with Persons with disabilities in different sectors in Kenya.

Persons with disabilities *

[1] Government of Eritrea 5th Periodic report on the Implementation of CEDAW, submitted in May 2014, (here-in-after, Eritrea 5th Report on CEDAW).

[2] As above, Para 31,.

[3] As above Paras 105-107.

[4] Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding observations on the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Eritrea (CEDAW/C/SR.1291 and 1292), Para. 17, adopted at its 1291st and 1292nd meetings, from 16 February to 06 March 2015.

[5] As above, Para. 25 (a).

[6] Government of Eritrea, Concluding Observations on the 5th Periodic Report of Eritrea: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Addendum,   (information provided by Eritrea in follow-up to the concluding observations, (submitted on 23 February 2018), online:, (accessed on 17 November 2018).

[7] Government of Eritrea, 4th Country Report on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Paras 20, 35, 72, 83, 180-188, & 324-331, December 2011, online: (accessed 21 November 2014).

[8] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Eritrea, Paras. 53-54, adopted at its 2024th meeting held on 5 June 2015, online: (accessed on 24 November 2018).

[9] As above, Para. 53.

[10] As above.

[11] As above, Para. 54.

[12] State of Eritrea, Initial National Report 1999-2016 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, (submitted to the African Commission on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on 28 March 2017), online: (accessed on 18 November 2018).

[13] As above, Para. 346.

[14] As above, Para. 347.

[15] As above, Para. 348.

[16] As above, Para. 357.

[17] As above, Para. 351.

[18] As above, Paras. 348-350

. [19] As above, Para. 354.

[20] As above, Para. 358-359.

[21] Government of Eritrea, Initial Report On the IMPLEMENTATION of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, submitted to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, July 2012, available at (accessed 3 November 2014).

[22] As above, Paras 29-33.

[23] African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), Concluding Recommendation on the State of Eritrea Initial Report on the Status of implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, adopted during its 28th session in Banjul, the Gambia, from October 21 to 01 November 2016, online:, (accessed 18 November 2018).

[24] As above, Para. 3.

[25] As above, Para. 19.

[26] As above, Para. 17.

[27] The Government of Eritrea published several codes, such as, the Penal Code, the Civil Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Civil Procedure Code and put them in force, by replacing the transitional ones. However, implementation of the codes does not seem to be uniform throughout the country. The 2017 National Action Plan for Health Security for 2017-2021 of the country still mentions the transitional codes. Ministry of Health of the State of Eritrea, National Action Plan for Health Security 2017-2021, Para. 14, (June 2017), online: (accessed on 18 November 2018).

[28] The Civil Code of the State of Eritrea, (unofficial English Translation), adopted on 15 May 2015, online: (accessed on 17 November 2018). The discussion on disability-related provisions of the Transitional Civil Code of Eritrea, which was part of the 2015 country report, is now updated with the provisions of the Civil Code of the State of Eritrea of May 2015. The numbering of the articles and organization of the sections and chapters are totally changed. However, the contents are more or less the same. In fact, I have made additional discussions, such as on definitions and pronouncement of a judicial interdiction in this update report. This should not imply that they were new additions in the new Civil Code of May 2015.

[29] As above, Art. 531 (2) (c).

[30] As above Art 734.

[31] As above Art 339 (1).

[32] As above 20 (3)

. [33] As above Art 1374 (1).

[34] As above Art 341.

[35] As above, Art. 1373 (2-3).

[36] Examination of the disability-related provisions of the 1991 Transitional Penal Code in the 2015 country report are now replaced in this report by the examination of the 2015 Penal Code of the country. The 2015 Penal Code has introduced classifications of offences into various degree of gravities and corresponding punishments and narrowed the ranges of punishment between the maximum and minimum punishments to predict the sentencing patterns

. [37] The Penal Code does not provide a definition for an aggravated offence. However, Article 63 of the Code classifies seriousness of offences in various classes for the purpose of sentencing the degree of punishment. Its Article 59 also states that “a sentencing should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and degree of responsibility taking into account the dangerousness, antecedents, motive and purpose, personal circumstances and standard of education of the offender, as well as circumstances of the commission of the offence.” Articles 67 and 68of the Code list a number of aggravating and mitigating circumstances respectively that the court should consider in sentencing and determining the type and degree of punishment

. [38] Penal Code of the State of Eritrea (May 2015), Art. 291 (1) (i).

[39] As above, Art. 302 (1) (a).

[40] See information on African Disability Forum (an African  organization comprising of national federations of DPOs, regional federations of DPOs and continental DPOs), online: (visited 23 November 2018).

[41] Corina Hoffmann, “Disability-Rights-Movement in East Africa: the Role and Impact of Self-Representation of Persons with Disabilities on National, Transnational and Regional Level”, at p10, (draft paper presented at ECPR Joint Sessions of workshops, Spain, 10 April2014), online: (accessed on 21 November 2018).