STATE OF ERITREA: 28 prisoners of conscience detained 18 years ago must be immediately and unconditionally released

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24 Sep 2019
[International Secretariat]

The Eritrean government must release the 11 politicians and 17 journalists who were arrested in 2001 after criticising President Isaias Afwerki’s rule. Amnesty International today launched an 18-day social media campaign marking the 18th anniversary of the arrests.

The politicians were arrested for writing an open letter to President Afwerki urging him to respect the constitution by holding elections and upholding the rule of law, while the journalists were arrested for reporting on the politicians’ letter. None of the 28 have been seen or heard from since nor have any of them been formally charged with any offence.

“It is a travesty that this injustice persists almost two decades on, more so now that Eritrea is a member of the UN Human Rights Council,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“This continued arbitrary detention shows the lengths President Isaias Afwerki’s government will go to in its unceasing attempts to crush dissent. These 28 men and women in arbitral detention and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

The launch of Amnesty International’s campaign coincides with the first anniversary of the arrest of the country’s former finance minister, Berhane Abrehe. He was arrested on 17 September 2018 after he published a book calling on citizens to peacefully campaign for democracy in the country and has neither been seen nor heard from since.

Like many others, Berhane Abrehe is thought to be held at a secret location. His family has not been informed of his whereabouts or health status since he was arrested.

“The extent of injustice by President Isaias Afwerki and his government against them remains deeply concerning. The world must stand with the victims and their families and not tire in calling on the Eritrean authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.


Among the 11 politicians arrested 18 years ago is Aster Fissehatsion, a veteran pro-independence fighter and prominent member of the Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Front (EPLF), and her ex-husband, former vice-president and foreign minister Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo. Others are former foreign ministers Haile Woldetensae and Petros Solomon. Dawit Isaak and Seyoum Tsehaye, both editors and journalists for Setit, an independent publication were arrested the same day for covering the politicians’ arrests.

17 September 2019

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