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Three journalists held since 2001 die in Eiraeiro Eritrea prison camp

Reporters Without Borders  August 30, 2012

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Eritrean abuses

In 2001, 15 members of the ruling party – including high-level ministers – signed an open letter to Isaias calling for political reform. Shortly after, 11 of the 15 (known as G-15) were arrested and detained without charge along with 10 journalists. Nearly 11 years later, little is known about the prisoners’ condition or whereabouts save for some unconfirmed accounts from those who have managed to flee the country.

After several weeks of investigating reports from sources in Eritrea and from prison guards who fled the country, Reporters Without Borders has been able to confirm that three more journalists – Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab and Wedi Itay – have died in the northeastern prison camp of Eiraeiro. All three had been held since late 2001.

Another journalist arrested in February 2009, whose identity has not been established with certainty, has also reportedly died in detention – in his case, in Abi Abeito military prison near the capital, Asmara.

The only good news is that Tesfalidet “Topo” Mebrahtu, a well-known sports journalist who worked for state-owned radio Dimtsi Hafash and state-owned Eri-TV, was “released on bond” (he is still under surveillance, with relatives acting as guarantors) in early 2012 after being held for 10 months.

“While all eyes are turned on Syria, another, less visible, tragedy is being played out in Eritrea, a country forgotten by the international community although it is the world’s leading media freedom violator and Africa’s biggest prison for journalists ” Reporters Without Borders said.

“In Eritrea, journalists have been thrown in prison just for daring to express their opinions. Some have been held for more than 10 years and are disappearing one by one. Located in the northeast of the country, Eiraeiro is not a prison, it is a death camp.”

Reporters Without Borders first revealed details about conditions at Eiraeiro in January 2008 (http://en.rsf.org/eritrea-new-revel…), after meeting a former camp guard. Further details were provided in 2010, on the basis of statements made by another former guard, Eyob Bahta, shortly after he fled to Ethiopia. What follows is based on new eyewitness accounts from this death camp.

I – Three more of the journalists held since 2001 die in detention

Please read more here

 

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Journalists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea: Government Accused of Human Rights Abuses

Reuters at The New York Times Africa  June 19, 2012

The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, on Monday accused Eritrea of carrying out torture and summary executions. Ms. Pillay told the United Nations Human Rights Council that there were 5,000 to 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea, which holds a strategic stretch of the Red Sea coast and has been ruled by a single party and president since independence from Ethiopia in 1993. “Credible sources indicate that violations of human rights include arbitrary detention, torture, summary executions, forced labor, forced conscription and restrictions to freedom of movement, expression, assembly and religion,” Ms. Pillay said. She said the Eritrean government had not responded to requests to discuss her concerns.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics, Safety and Security Issues, United Nations | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ethiopia Attacks Military Base Inside Eritrea

VOA  March 15, 2012

Ethiopian government spokesman, Shimeles Kemal speaks in Addis Ababa on March 15, 2012, where he announced that Ethiopia had attacked an Eritrean military base today, where rebel groups are armed and trained by the Eritrean government.

Ethiopian troops have carried out a cross-border attack against military training camps inside Eritrea.

Ethiopia’s statement

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal says Ethiopian troops crossed into Eritrea early Thursday to strike military outposts used by what he calls ‘”hit-and-run” subversive groups operating in the remote region.

“The Ethiopian National Defense Force has entered into Eritrea, 16 kilometers from the border of Ethiopia, and launched a successful attack against military posts that have been used by subversive groups organized, supported, financed and trained by the Eritrean government,” said Shimeles.

The two camps targeted in the attacks are along Ethiopia’s northeastern border, near where a group of European tourists were attacked in January. Five of the tourists were killed, and two others were taken captive. A little-known Ethiopian rebel group released the two captives last week.

Rebel activity

Spokesman Shimeles indicated the camps had been used by the rebels.

“Certainly these camps, these military posts were used by anti-Ethiopian forces launching attacks inside Ethiopia, similar with the recent attack taken against European terrorists,” he said.

Shimeles gave few details of the incursion, other than to indicate there had been no clash between Ethiopian and Eritrean troops.

“Today’s measures do not constitute a direct military confrontation between the two armies, the armies of the two countries,” added Shimeles.

Retaliation

The Ethiopian spokesman said he did not anticipate any retaliation from Eritrea.

“We know for certain the Eritrean Defense Force is not in a position to launch a counter attack against Ethiopia, and if they do so, the result would be disastrous,” he said.

An Eritrean diplomat in Addis Ababa told VOA he had no immediate response to the incident. The two countries do not maintain diplomatic relations, but Eritrea does have a mission to the African Union, based in the Ethiopian capital.

The two countries fought a two-year border war more than a decade ago that killed 80,000 people

Please see the original and read more here

March 15, 2012 Posted by | Eritrea | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 German tourists kidnapped in Ethiopia released, official says

AP at the Canadian Press  March 8, 2012

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – An Ethiopian official says two German tourists who were kidnapped during an attack by gunmen in January have been released.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said the Germans were freed from kidnappers who were associated with the country’s archrival, Eritrea.

He denied claims two days ago by a rebel group from Ethiopia’s northern Afar region that the group had released the tourists.

Dina said he couldn’t give any further details about the Germans’ release, including their health status or when they were freed.

The German Foreign Ministry had had no immediate comment.

Five tourists were killed and two wounded in the Jan. 18 attack in Ethiopia’s arid north

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March 8, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea | , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea opposition figure feared abducted in Sudan

AFP  February 16, 2012

An Eritrean opposition party official has been missing for two days in eastern Sudan and there are fears he may have been kidnapped by Asmara’s security agents, the party alleged on Thursday.

Mohammed Ali Ibrahim, a member of the People’s Democratic Party central council, left his house in Kassala town at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) on Tuesday and has not been seen since, the party said in a statement emailed to AFP.

Sudanese police and the Kassala hospitals had no word on him, it said.

“The big fear prevailing in Kassala is that he might have been kidnapped by security agents of the Eritrean regime, who enjoy free mobility in the region,” it said.

Eastern Sudan is home to tens of thousands of ethnic Eritreans

Please see the original and read more here

February 16, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Sudan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea: Free Political Prisoners 10 Years On – President Isaias in New York to Demand UN Respect His Rights, Denies Them to His People

“Instead of lobbying the UN, President Isaias should allow people to speak freely, to worship as they please, and to leave Eritrea if they want,” said Bekele. “Eritreans will continue to face prolonged, indefinite national service, repression, and torture unless President Isaias changes his abusive policies”

All Africa Human Rights Watch Washington DC   September 22, 2011

Ten years after President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea ordered the detention of 21 senior government members and journalists who criticized him, his government should release the detainees or reveal their fate, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. Eritrea should also open its jails to international monitors, Human Rights Watch said.

Isaias is visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly in an attempt to rehabilitate his country’s image even as his government labors under UN sanctions for its role in supporting the Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab.

In the past 10 years, Isaias has closed all independent media outlets and turned Eritrea into a country where arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance, and death are rife and where it is almost impossible to leave. The paper, “Eritrea: 10 Long Years, A Briefing on Eritrea’s Missing Political Prisoners,” outlines what is known about the political prisoners, none of whom has been seen by outsiders since being detained in September 2001.

“Eritrea is effectively a giant prison, and international pressure should continue on Eritrea until President Isaias frees political prisoners and restores the rule of law,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “To start with, President Isaias should end the inhumanity of prolonged secret, silent detention and allow family members and international monitors to see the prisoners.”

In mid-September 2001, Isaias ordered the arrest of 11 high government officials who had written open letters criticizing his rule. He also arrested 10 journalists who had published the letters and other information critical of him and his policies, and closed all independent newspapers.

The 20 men and one woman have never been seen again by anyone outside the penal system, including their families, lawyers, or prison monitoring groups. They have never been afforded a hearing; rather, all 21 were incarcerated in secret detention facilities in solitary confinement. According to former guards whose reports Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm, 10 of the 21 have died in prison and the remaining 11 are physically or mentally incapacitated and emaciated.

The 21 are the most prominent victims of Isaias’s denial of basic rights, but hundreds of thousands of others in the country of 5 million have been victimized during the past decade. The briefing paper recounts that thousands of Eritreans are incarcerated because they are suspected of not fully supporting the regime or have attempted to flee Eritrea’s compulsory and indefinite national service. They are given no access to a court and no means to appeal to any impartial body. Thousands more Eritreans are incarcerated because they are members of religious groups that the Eritrean government refuses to recognize as legitimate: Jehovah’s Witnesses, evangelical Christian churches, and reformist wings of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.

Please read the entire press release here

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

2 Israeli pilots released by Eritrea worked for Ofers

Globes  August 24, 2011

Eritrea has released two Israeli pilots, Vered Aharonson and Yehuda Maoz, whom it held for ten days. Hebrew daily “Yediot Ahronot” reports that they had transported weapons and munitions to Eritrea for a German ship owned by Ofer Holdings Group’sOfer Shipping Group to defend it against Somali pirates.

The pilots flew to Eritrea on July 29, after notifying Israeli air traffic control at Ben Gurion Airport that they were going to pick up an injured person in Eritrea. In fact, the plane’s cargo bay carried arms, including Kalashnikov rifles.

The manifest did not list the arms, but other items. The pilots were arrested after an unannounced inspection by Eritrean security forces. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was worried that the pilots had no authorization, and could have been jailed for years. Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman ordered a strong diplomatic effort to obtain their release. Following the pilots release, they returned to Israel yesterday.

The Israeli authorities are investigating whether the pilots acted legally and if legal action should be taken against them.

An Ofer Shipping Group spokesman told “Yediot Ahronot” in response, “We do not comment on the security of our ships against pirates

Please read the entire story here

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Kidnapped, Eritrea, Legal Jurisdictions, Pirates, Somalia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Silent crisis” as more Eritreans flee

ADDIS ABABA, 5 August 2011 (IRIN)

More and more Eritrean refugees, mostly educated young men, continue to arrive in Ethiopia, with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, expressing concern over the rising numbers.

“Most say they left their country [to avoid] a prolonged military conscription, but they also say they want to join their families on the road,” Moses Okello, UNHCR’s representative in Ethiopia, told IRIN.

Ethiopia hosts at least 61,000 Eritrean refugees.

UNHCR has described the latest Eritrean refugee influx as a “silent crisis”, coming at a time when the Horn of Africa has been gripped by the worst drought in 60 years.

Okello said those arriving were in good condition compared with thousands of Somali refugees in Ethiopia’s Dolo Ado area in the southeast.

On average, 1,300 Eritreans leave their country for Ethiopia every month, according to government statistics.

“The trend seems non-stop and yet increasing,” according to Ayalew Aweke, the deputy director of the government’s Administration for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA)

Please read more here

August 5, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea | , , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea planned massive attack against African Union summit, says UN report

The UN News Centre  28 July 2011 –

The Eritrean Government planned a massive attack on an African Union meeting held earlier this year, according to a new United Nations report that states that this was just one of multiple violations of Security Council arms embargoes committed by the small East African nation.
“If executed as planned, the operation would almost certainly have caused mass civilian casualties, damaged the Ethiopian economy and disrupted the African Union summit,” states the reportof the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.The UN panel is tasked with monitoring compliance with embargoes on the delivery of weapons and military equipment to Somalia and Eritrea, as well as probing activities – financial, maritime or in another field – which generate revenue used to violate those embargoes.

The report states that the Eritrean Government “conceived, planned, organized and directed a failed plot to disrupt the African Union summit in Addis Ababa by bombing a variety of civilian and governmental targets.”

It adds that “since the Eritrean intelligence apparatus responsible for the African Union summit plot is also active in Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan and Uganda, the level of threat it poses to these other countries must be re-evaluated.”

The report, which is over 400 pages, also points to Eritrea’s continuing relationship with Al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group that controls some parts of Somalia’s territory and has been waging a fierce battle against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) there.

While the Eritrean Government acknowledges that it maintains relationships with Somali armed opposition groups, including Al-Shabaab, it denies that it provides any military, material or financial support and says its links are limited to a political, and even humanitarian, nature.

However, evidence and testimony obtained by the Monitoring Group, including records of financial payments, interviews with eyewitnesses and data relating to maritime and aviation movements, all indicate that Eritrean support for Somali armed opposition groups is not limited to the political or humanitarian dimensions.

Please read the entire report here

Read the UN Report here

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Eritrea, Safety and Security Issues, Somalia, United Nations | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Diplomatic tit for tat over held WA skipper in Eritrea

Head shot of Adrian Troy, skipper with WA Broome based Arrow Pearls, arrested in Eritrea

ABC Australia  July 21, 2011

The Federal Government has imposed travel restrictions on the Consul General of Eritrea after being refused access to a Broome skipper detained in the African nation.

Five months after Western Australian pearling skipper Adrian Troy and three British men were detained in Eritrea, the British and Australian Governments have made their first move, imposing limited sanctions.

The United Kingdom has barred Eritrean diplomats from travelling outside London and the Australian Government has responded with similar restrictions.

The Eritrean Consul General now cannot travel outside a 100 km radius of Melbourne, without permission from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The four men were arrested in December over what is believed to have been a dispute with the Eritrean Navy.

The Federal Government says it will continue to push for consular access until it is granted.

July 20, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Pirates, Propaganda | , , , , , , | 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

Eritrea: Opposition Asks for International Support As Volcano Kills Seven

All Africa.com  June 22,2011

earthquakereport.com

Addis Ababa — An exiled Eritrean opposition group on Wednesday called on the international community to immediately act to provide urgent assistance to the thousands of Eritreans it said are affected by the Narbo volcano that erupted over a week ago in the country’s south.

The Addis Ababa-based Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) said the volcanic eruption has killed at least seven people, injured many others and displaced thousands of people.

“We call on the international community to swiftly use diplomatic pressure over the Eritrean government to allow an international humanitarian aid to the thousands of volcano-hit people” reached by phone Yasin Mohamed Abdela, RSADO spokesperson told Sudan Tribune from the Ethiopia-Eritrea border.

Independent news about the eruption is hard to come by as Eritrea does not allow independent local journalists or foreign correspondents into the the Red Sea nation.

The RSADO official accused the Eritrean government of hiding the level of the disaster. He said that his party holds the Eritrean government accountable for the loss of life and other related damage caused by the volcanic activity.

“The Eritrean government had the knowledge in advance on the occurrence of the volcanic eruption and evacuated hundreds of its soldiers from the area one day ahead of the eruption however [they did not give] advanced notice to the inhabitants nor did [the government] evacuate them to safety” Yasin said.

The UN or other NGOs are reportedly not allowed to leave the capital, for independent assessments of the situation of the people. Since Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia in 1991 the country has been retiscent to allow a large UN and NGO presence in the country stating that it did want to become dependent on foreign aid.

“The Eritrean government is well known of deliberately blocking access to foreign media coverage in the country to avoid any possible international intervention” Yasin said.

“This is what the latest incident proves – hide the level of the impact, neglect and trade its own people to its odd ties with the international community” he added.

After over a week-long silence, Eritrean state television last night confirmed the causalities after the Red Sea Afar rebels released a statement on their website regarding the deaths and damage the volcano had caused.

Please read the entire story here

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Africa, NGO's, United Nations | , , , , | Leave a comment

British men detained in Eritrea are released

“We are pleased that the four British nationals have now been able to leave Eritrea and can be reunited with family and friends. We are very grateful to the Government of the State of Qatar for helping facilitate their return.”

The Independent   June 12, 2011

Four British men that were detained in Eritrea and held without consular access for more than six months, have been released and are on their way back to London, The Independent can exclusively reveal.

Sources close to the situation say that the men were released this morning, and families have been notified.

The men, two of whom are former Royal Marines, disappeared on Christmas Eve hours after their ship was intercepted by the Eritrean navy, following an unscheduled stop at a port in Massawa. They were sent back to the mainland and put in jail.

Please read the entire article here

June 12, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Kidnapped, Legal Jurisdictions, Pirates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea accuses Britons of espionage, terrorism

Britain has in the past called for “punishment” of Asmara for its suspected support of Islamist insurgents in Somalia. The United Nations imposed sanctions on Eritrea in late 2009.

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Eritrea has accused four British nationals it detained late last year of espionage, terrorism and using one of its islands as a depot for arms.The four, who work for a British maritime security firm, were arrested by Eritrean authorities on December 24 over a payment dispute.

A Foreign Ministry report obtained by Reuters on Thursday said further investigation found them to be in possession of “countless amounts” of arms.

The accused work for the UK-based Protection Vessels International (PVI) which says they were en route to provide security for ships in a region where piracy is rife.

It said the four were forced to make an unscheduled stop in Eritrea due to “rough weather” and acknowledged its staff had “mishandled the situation.”

The incident has worsened already frosty relations between Eritrea and Britain, whom Asmara accuses of siding with arch-foe Ethiopia along with the United States. The Red Sea state is at loggerheads with its southern neighbour over a border dispute.  Please read the entire story here

June 9, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Kidnapped, Legal Jurisdictions, Pirates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment