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  3. We are deeply concerned that the whereabouts of these detainees are unknown to their families and lawyers. We are gravely concerned that these detentions are linked to the peaceful expression of opinion about political matters. The right to freedom of expression and information is guaranteed and protected by provisions of international instruments, and treaties signed and ratified by the Government of Eritrea, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 19, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 19, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Article 9. John Barker Director of Africa Programme International Freedom Expression eXchange May 2, 2003

  4. There were no developments in the following 2001 cases: The September arrest of approximately 10 journalists and editors from independent newspapers who remained in detention without charge and without access to visitors (see Section 2.a.); the September arrest and incommunicado detention of 11 senior PFDJ and National Assembly members, including former Cabinet ministers and army generals, who where part of the Group of 15 and whose whereabouts remained unknown (see Section 2.a.); the September and October arrest of several elders who remained in detention without charge; and the October arrest of two local employees from a foreign embassy who remained in detention without charge and without access to visitors. US Department of State Eritrea – Country Human Right Report March 31, 2003

  5. No private newspapers or magazines have been allowed to publish in Eritrea since September 2001. The government controls all access to information in the country, radio, and television, print. A recent survey by the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders classified Eritrea as 132nd in its index of press freedom of the 139 countries surveyed, below even Iraq. Tom Malinowski Washington Advocacy Director Human Rights Watch Letter to US President George W. Bush December 20, 2002

  6. The (Eritrean) government is trying to stamp out all criticism of its disastrous war policies, the situation is growing sharply worse. President Afewerki’s government is apparently trying to use the world’s current preoccupation with other events to escalate its repressive campaign against dissidents. Suliman Baldo Africa Division Human Rights Watch September 21, 2001

  7. In 2002, the (Eritrean) government ordered all houses of worship other than those affiliated with the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran Christian faiths and Moslem mosques to close. The ban affected Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Pentecostal adherents from practicing their religions. Jehovah’s Witnesses were especially harshly treated because of their religions practices and beliefs. Four Jehovah’s Witnesses were still imprisoned after more than five years without charge or trial for refusing to participate in the national service program, even though the maximum penalty for refusal to serve is three years. Jehovah’s Witnesses are denied national identity cards, making them ineligible for government employment and government permits, such as passports and driver’s licenses. Human Rights Watch World Report 2003 January 2003

  8. It was natural for the (Eritrean) president to freeze the constitution. The electoral law is suspended; the young newspapers are closed and its editors are thrown in jail, together with the eleven reformers – the members of the national and central councils who requested to convene a regular meeting of the national assembly in a previous meeting to evaluate the state of the nation after the war – economic deterioration, chunks of territories occupied, a third of the population displaced and a choking international isolation. Tomorrow, democracy, freedom and rule of law will dawn. Peace and stability will engulf us instead of savage repression, arrogance, darkness and irresponsible wars. That day is not too far. Mohammed Nur Ahmed Former Ambassador to China Open Letter to Eritrea’s Foreign Minister November 30, 2002

  9. When US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld concluded a whirlwind tour of the horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf last week, he left in his wake more than just a handful of new allies in America’s war on terrorism lined up behind him – most of them countries that prior to September 11 rarely turned up on America’s geopolitical radar. He also lent legitimacy to at least one government whose policies in recent years oppose everything the United States claims to stand for. Eritrea, one of several Eritrean colonies on the continent prior to World War II, now stands as one of the only nations without a single private media outlet. All detainees remain imprisoned at undisclosed locations without charges. No one knows if they are dead or alive, and the Eritrean government has made clear that it has no plans to release them anytime soon. The amiable atmosphere surrounding Rumsfeld and Afewerki’s meeting may not be so encouraging to the several dozen Eritreans still languishing in prison – their plight overshadowed by America’s more pressing desire to broaden its anti-terror coalition. Meanwhile, their terror is being suffered in silence, and alone. Alex P. Kellogg Freelance Writer War Justifies All The American Prospect Web Exclusive December 17, 2002

  10. Unfortunately, you can’t ask him (Fesshaye Joshua Yohannes), Eritrea’s government has had him locked up for more than year, and won’t say where or, for that matter, why. But the reason is no secret: Eritrea’s authoritarian rulers have shattered the independent press, postponed elections and jailed those who dare criticize them. Now they hope that America’s war on terror will give them a free pass. And they may be right. Fred Hiatt Truth-Tellers in Time of Terror The Washington Post Page A15 November 25, 2002

  11. Amnesty International has carefully examined the government’s allegations that members of the “Group of 15” committed treason during the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia, and concluded that the detainees are prisoners of conscience arrested solely for their peaceful criticism of the government. We have made several urgent appeals to Eritrean authorities about these prisoners, without receiving any satisfactory response. The government has refused to allow an Amnesty International delegation to visit Eritrea and discuss its concerns directly with the authorities. Amnesty International Press Release September 18, 2002

  12. When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stopped in Eritrea this week, he was politely noncommittal about the prospect of US troops being stationed there. The Bush administration is right to be wary of commitments as long as President Isaias Afewerki represses his people and antagonizes his neighbors. Boston Globe Editorial December 12, 2002

  13. We would like to remind you that, according to the United Nations, imprisonment as a punishment for the peaceful expression of opinion constitutes a serious violation of human rights. As far as we know, these journalists were just doing their work and exercising their right to inform their fellow citizens, a right guaranteed by several international treaties ratified by Eritrea. This lack of freedom of expression prevents citizens from full exercising their rights and duties, won 10 years ago after 30 years of struggle against the Ethiopian dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam. Robert Ménard Secretary-General Reporters Without Borders Letter to President Issaias Afeworki May 23, 2003


  15. As for the detainees, they are detained on security and not political charges. There is no political dispute with me or with others. The government is required to take the necessary measures to provide security for society when there are issues that pertain to national security. Society should not become an experiment plant or a stage for foreign powers that work to ruin social values. The government did not take this step but it was taken upon popular demands. The people said:”It is enough. We do not want parties or newspapers.” This must have been and inadvertent reaction of what emerged here. The phenomenon was not right, and it was not directly linked to politics but to foreign forces. Following the arrests, the National Council examined this issue in detail but did not announce the details. The outcome of the Council’s discussion was announced and this is viewed as an end to the issue. Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki Al-Sharq al-Awsat London, in Arabic 16 Aug.’02 English Translation Posted in Dehai August 20, 2002

  16. WE NEED YOUR HELP • Tell the world about the Eritrean victims • Write to your representative in Congress • Write to your Senator • Contact The White House and State Dept. • Work with Human Rights Organizations • Fight for basic dignity and free speech in Eritrea • Stand up for the Eritrean political prisoners daily

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