Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Amnesty urge Eritrea to release officials

Aljazeera Africa  September 16, 2011

Rights group Amnesty International has demanded the release of 11 former Eritrean officials who have been held incommunicado since a government crackdown in 2001.

Friday’s call comes a day after the European Parliament condemned the detention of Eritrean-Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak, who was arrested as part of the same crackdown, and called for him to be given a fair
trial by an independent court.

Eritrea is routinely labelled by watchdogs as one of the world’s worst offenders against human rights, but the Horn of Africa nation rejects the allegations and often accuses rights groups of working for foreign intelligence services to undermine the government.

Vice President Mahmoud Sherifo, Foreign Minister Haile Woldetensae, military Chief-of-Staff Ogbe Abraha and eight central committee members were part of a group of 15 officials who criticised President Isaias Afewerki and asked for reform following Eritrea’s 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia.

The government subsequently arrested 11 members of the group, saying they had conspired with Ethiopia to topple Isaias.

“The Eritrean authorities must immediately and unconditionally release 11 prominent politicians, including three former cabinet ministers, who have been held incommunicado without charge for 10 years,” UK-based Amnesty International said in a statement.

“Their families must be told of their whereabouts, and they must be given access to lawyers as well as any medical treatment they need,” added Michelle Kagari, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for Africa.

‘Dire’ conditions

Amnesty, which has described the detainees as prisoners of conscience, said prisons were “notoriously dire” in the Red Sea state, with inmates subjected to soaring desert temperatures while incarcerated in underground cells and in shipping containers.

The UK-based rights group said several members of the group were already suffering from illness before their arrest.

Eritrean government officials in Asmara, the capital, were not immediately available for comment.

A former prison watchman who guarded the Embatkala and Eraeiro camps where the detainees are held, and where temperatures can soar to up to 50 Celsius, said in May last year that Mahmoud, Ogbe and four other former central committee members had died due to illness and heat exhaustion.

The guard spoke to journalists in Addis Ababa days after fleeing to neighbouring Ethiopia.

Amnesty did not confirm the deaths, and the government has so far kept a tight lid on their whereabouts.

Last week, the government charged Amnesty of plotting to incite Middle East-style popular unrest, a claim the group dismissed.

‘Inhumane circumstances’

Isaak has never faced charges but the presumption of human rights activists is that he was detained because of his criticism of the Eritrean government. He was arrested in Asmara on September 23, 2001.

The resolution passed by European politicians in a 53-0 vote said the 46 year old “has been held incommunicado and in all probability under inhumane circumstances almost permanently ever since,” and demandede be given a fair trial.

It also calls for Eritrea to be suspended from the Cotonou Agreement, a comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the European Union that includes economic aid.

“Our hope is that Dawit Isaak is alive,” the parliament’s president, Jerzy Buzek, said in a speech on Wednesday.

“That he will be free. That he will rejoin his family. That we will not have to observe another anniversary as
this one.”

The parliamentarians demanded that EU representatives to be given access to Isaak to determine his health care and other needs.

Please read the original at Aljazeera here

September 16, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea: Regime And Its Relationship With Outside World

“Today Eritrea is becoming more like a private company that belongs to President Isaias Afewerki rather than a country with 5 million inhabitants. Even worse, President Isaias doesn’t seem is interested in promoting peace, stability and democracy in the country mainly to protect his grip on power for many years to come. Therefore, there is little hope for better Eritrean foreign relationships with the world and its neighbours without a radical change in direction by the regime.”

Institute for Security Studies at allAfrica.com

Addis Ababa — Tensions between the Eritrean government and Britain escalated in recent months as a result of the continued detention of four British citizens since December 2010 until their release on 12 June 2011.

 According to reports, the accused Britons were arrested after a gun battle with Eritrean coastal forces on the pirate-infested waters of the Red-Sea. Two of the four detainees, who tried to escape, were captured off the Eritrean coast and left without food and water for a day on a small island, before being taken back to the mainland to be imprisoned. It was also reported that all the prisoners were former Royal marines and worked for Protection Vessels International (PVI), a company that provides security services to vessels on the sea from piracy.

In a statement the Eritrean Ministry of Information claimed that the detainees admitted to having committed a crime. The Eritrean government also said the detainees regretted trying to escape from the port of Massawa, where there was an apparent dispute with local businessmen about payment for fuel and supplies. In addition, the statement declared that the detainees bore accountability for acts of invasion, organizing terrorism and espionage”.

In response to the Eritrean regime’s defiance to release its nationals, the British government, on 6 June 2011, restricted the Eritrean embassy in London from providing any other services to the large Eritrean community in the country, other than consular services and the issuing of visas. Prior to this restriction, the British government had given two directives to the embassy in retaliation for the imprisonment of British citizens. First, Eritrean diplomats and visiting officials were to be restricted to the London area only; and second, the UK government banned the collection of taxes from the Eritrean community in the UK by the Eritrean regime. As one of one of the detainees is an Australian citizen, the Australian government imposed similar restrictions on Eritrean diplomats based in Australia.

 These detainees were not the only foreigners in the prisons of Asmara. There are several others from many parts of the world. The Swedish-Eritrean journalist and writer, Dawit Isaak, has been held in an Eritrean prison since 2001 without trial and is considered a traitor by the Eritrean government, even though the Swedish government and other notable organizations have tried very hard to get him released.

Please read the entire analysis here

June 30, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment