Country Reports on Terrorism 2012: Eritrea

Limited dialogue between Eritrea and U.S. regarding terrorism in 2012
Limited dialogue between Eritrea and U.S. regarding terrorism in 2012

By The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism,

Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 is submitted in compliance with Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f (the “Act”), which requires the Department of State to provide to Congress a full and complete annual report on terrorism for those countries and groups meeting the criteria of the Act. The report was published May 2013.

OVERVIEW:

There was limited dialogue between Eritrea and the United States regarding terrorism in 2012.

The Government of Eritrea stressed that it wanted to be a partner in international counterterrorism efforts, and it cooperated in providing over-flight clearance to U.S. military aircraft engaged in regional security missions. 

Still, its poor relations with surrounding nations, potential African partners, and the United States reduced opportunities for cooperation. Lack of transparency on how governing structures function meant that there is not a clear picture of methods the government used 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 of western nations, closing off opportunities for information-sharing and dialogue. The Eritrean government’s national doctrine of self-reliance and disinclination to accept international assistance prevented the United States from providing training, technology, or other counterterrorism assistance.

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.


Eritrea has been under UNSC sanctions since December 2009. UNSCR 1907 imposed 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.” In December 2011, UNSCR 2023 was adopted, strengthening the provisions of the earlier resolution and establishing guidelines for use of the “diaspora tax” that the government levies on Eritreans living overseas.

 

LEGISLATION, LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND BORDER SECURITY:

The Government of Eritrea closely monitors passenger manifests for any flights coming into Asmara, and scrutinizes travel documents of visitors, but does not take fingerprints. The government did not share information gathered at ports of entry with the United States. Eritrea’s borders with Ethiopia and Djibouti are tightly controlled, whereas the border with Sudan is porous in some places, resulting in considerable movement across by persons who are not recorded as coming or going.

As U.S. relations with Eritrean law enforcement entities were extremely limited, we do not know what capabilities the Eritrean government had in terms of special response units. In September, however, the Eritrean government cooperated effectively with the Embassy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Justice in denying a work permit to a third-country national suspected of terrorist affiliation.

In 2011, the government ceased providing police protection to diplomatic missions, claiming Asmara to be safe. The Embassy periodically requested and received extra police for special events, however, but the numbers deployed were usually small. On occasion the police asked for transportation, fuel, or extra pay.

COUNTERING TERRORIST FINANCE:

Eritrea is not a member of any Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Eritrea’s general lack of transparency on banking, financial, and economic matters made gathering of definitive information difficult.

Eritrea does not adhere to international standards for monitoring or regulation of remittance services. It extensively monitored remittances and money transfers of the Eritrean diaspora, members of whom are required to pay a two per cent foreign income tax to the government to receive passport and other services, and it extensively monitored transfers of money out of the nation to ensure than an artificially high exchange rate is not undercut by black market exchanges.

Eritrea does require the collection of data for wire transfers; however, this is more for tracking the “Diaspora Tax” and hard currency outflows than for counterterrorism.