Rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) have called on the European Union (EU) and other allies to put pressure on the Eritrean government to release opposition politicians and journalists arrested 15 years ago.
The call was made on the 15th anniversary of the arrest and detention. Last week, the United Nations had also expressed worry at the situation and called for their unconditional release or that the government charges them to court.
Felix Horne, HRW’s Senior Researcher in the Horn of Africa in a statement in their Dispatches column titled ‘‘15 Years Behind Bars in Eritrea,’‘ said the EU and other allies should push for a disclosure on the whereabouts of the detained persons.
On this anniversary of Eritrea’s crackdown, the EU and Eritrea’s other new-found friends should push for information about the whereabouts of those arrested in September 2001.
‘‘Over the past two years, the EU and several countries have broken with the isolationist approach historically adopted on Eritrea and opened renewed dialogue and partnerships.
‘‘On this anniversary of Eritrea’s crackdown, the EU and Eritrea’s other new-found friends should push for information about the whereabouts of those arrested in September 2001.
If they are still alive, they should be charged and tried fairly and impartially, or released immediately,’‘ he said.
In September 2001, Eritrean security forces arrested 11 government officials, 10 journalists, and numerous other dissidents, all those detained were believed to have criticized President Isaias Afeworki’s leadership.
None have been charged with a crime in court neither have they been seen since. They have now been held in incommunicado and indefinite detention for fifteen years. They have never been visited by family members. International calls for their release have been wholly ignored.
The Government of Eritrea has in the past defended their actions of 18 September 2001 stating that they were in response to national security threats posed by the prominent politicians and independent journalists.
According to HRW, there was no rule of law in Eritrea, which they described as ‘‘one of the worse abusers of human rights in Africa. It has no functioning legislature, no opposition parties, and no independent media.’‘