ERITREA: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Eritrea's national legal provisions on children's rights, including guidance on how to conduct further research.

National laws on children's rights

Status of the CRC in national law

Ratified treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, do not automatically form a part of the laws of Eritrea; rather, treaties must be incorporated into national law by the National Assembly.  As of 2008, Eritrea had not yet directly incorporated the CRC, meaning that the Convention as a whole would not be directly enforceable in the courts.  Nevertheless, the Government of Erirtrea has indicated that the CRC could in theory be cited in relevant court cases, although it was not aware of any instances in which the Convention had been raised.

Constitution: The National Assembly ratified the Constitution of Eritrea in 1997, though it is yet to enter into force. The Constitution contains a number of rights provisions that would apply to children as to adults, and one that would apply specifically to children:

  • Art. 22(3): establishes a right and duty for parents to bring up their children with proper care and affection and a corresponding duty for children to respect their parents and sustain them in their old age

Legislation: Much of Eritrean law is arranged in thematic codes.  Although there is no specific children's code, laws relevant to the rights of children include, but are by no means limited to:

  • The Transitional Penal Code
  • The Transitional Civil Code
  • Proclamation No. 158/2007 aimed at abolishing female genital mutilation
  • Proclamation No. 118/2001 the labour proclamation of Eritrea
  • Proclamation No. 1/1991 on marriage

It should be noted that customary law also plays a significant role in national law, and that the content of these laws can vary widely across the country.

Legal Research:
There is a general lack of legal information about Eritrea available online, but the International Labour Organisation's NATLEX database provides a small number of links to Eritrean legislation in English ( In addition, the GlobaLex initiative at New York University has published a guide to legal research in Eritrea (, and the U.S. Law Library of Congress ( and World Legal Information Institute ( provide links to a selection of legal and governmental resources.

Case Law
CRC Jurisprudence
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any cases in national courts that reference the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Case law research
Eritrean case law resources are not generally available online. The Supreme Court is not currently operational, and the Highest Appellate Court of the High Court does not publish its judgements online.

Compliance with the CRC
In its 2008 Concluding Observations, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its continued concern "at the lack of progress of Eritrea in reforming its legislation with a view to harmonising it with the Convention on the Rights of the Child". The Committee noted that the draft Civil and Penal Codes had not been adopted, that the legislative review of the Child Law Committee had not been completed and that customary laws continued to pose an obstacle for the implementation of the Convention.

In depth analysis
The Committee on the Rights of the Child's 2008 Concluding Observations raised numerous concerns about Eritrea's failure to properly implement legislation in relation to children's rights. Specifically, the Committee noted the enactment of the law on female genital mutilation, but expressed concern at the continued prevalence of the practice, and urged the State to effectively implement and enforce relevant legislation. Similarly, the Committee welcomed the provisions of the Constitution and Civil Code that set a minimum age for marriage at 18, but expressed concern that customary law allowed for children to marry much younger and that many children, particularly girls, commonly married between the ages of 13 and 15. The Committee also welcomed legislation setting a minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces at 18, but expressed concern that under-age recruitment of children was ongoing and was accompanied by serious mistreatment and violence against children. The Committee recommended that the State act to enforce legislation across all areas, and that it seek appropriate sanctions against perpetrators of crimes against children.

With regards to the justice justice, the Committee expressed regret at the at the absence of a child-friendly juvenile justice system in the country and expressed concern that children between the ages of 15 and 17 could be tried as adults, that deprivation of liberty was not used only as a measure of last resort and that children were not kept separately from adults in pre-trial detention. The Committee recommended that the State enact reforms to develop a specialised juvenile justice system, including specialised juvenile courts. Specific recommendations included ensuring that children are never tried as adults, that child victims of crime as well as those accused of crime are provided with adequate legal assistance throughout legal proceedings and that detention and institutionalisation is only used as a measure of last resort.

The Committee also noted the provisions restricting the use of corporal punishment in the Transitional Penal Code, but expressed concern that they only applied to children under 15 when the punishment gravely endangered their physical or mental health and that "reasonable chastisement" remained permitted. Accordingly, the Committee urged the State to enact and enforce a prohibition on corporal punishment in all settings.

Current legal reform projects
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any current legal reform projects.


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.