Eritrea has punished the family members of thousands of alleged draft evaders during a conscription drive intended to bolster its military campaign in neighboring Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. Women as old as 71 were arbitrarily detained and expelled from their homes as the authorities sought to locate their missing relatives, the US-based rights group said in a report. The HRW report, based on interviews with more than a dozen people who had fled the country and relatives of people caught up in the conscription drive, provides a glimpse into how the secretive country powered its military campaign in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. It said security forces went door to door to identify draft dodgers and detained people who could not account for missing family members. Eritrea last June dismissed a report from the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea that noted forced military conscription, among other violations. It said it deeply regretted an attack on “the national service program which is the backbone of Eritrea’s national defense capabilities ascertaining the right of self-defense, the right to live in peace without any threat and defend its sovereignty”.
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