Overseas Civilian Contractors

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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

Plea to free captured Britons dismissed by Eritrea’s President

Fears are growing for the safety of four British private contractors captured during a gun battle in the Horn of Africa.

And well they should be. 

In 2001 Afewerki had a group of “dissident” college students locked up in ConEx boxes and left in the hottest desert on earth where many of them died.

Soon after he shut down all newspapers that were not state run and kidnapped 12 journalists the whereabouts of are still in question today.

Afewerki is power drunk little murderer.  The blood of a few Brits on his hands would mean little to him.

The Independent Africa  Monday May 2, 2011

Isaias Afewerki, the President of Eritrea, made a belligerent address on Saturday in which he condemned the group’s possession of “countless numbers of arms” and refused to be drawn on their release.

The comments escalated a diplomatic rift that has been widening since Christmas Eve, when the four men were stopped near Eritrea as they travelled across the Indian Ocean. The confrontation resulted in a round of gunfire and saw the men arrested before being taken back to the mainland for incarceration.

British diplomatic sources say that numerous requests for access to the group have been turned down by authorities in Asmara, the capital. And this weekend, Mr Afewerki compounded fears after an address on state television in which he refused to say whether the group would be granted consular access. “They should ask what they were doing in our territory,” he said. “They are citing the [Vienna] Convention when our laws were being violated.”

He added: “They possessed countless amounts of arms, including sniper rifles. If you come into my house with a gun, don’t I have the right to defend myself?”

The men, one of whom is Adrian Troy, 47, a British-born Western Australian, are contractors working for a Hertfordshire-based security company, Protection Vessels International (PVI).

Founded in 2008, PVI accounts for more than 40 per cent of all armed escort vessels operating in the Gulf of Aden, East Africa, and the Indian Ocean. Two of the men detained are former British military personnel.

Relatives of Mr Troy’s are frustrated with the lack of progress from their British counterparts, and have lobbied the Australian government to accelerate discussions. Last week Mr Troy’s regular employer, Steven Arrow of Arrow Pearls, said that his family and friends were “consumed with concern and worry”.

Yesterday, a spokesman for PVI said: “In response to the recent comments by the Eritrean President, Protection Vessels International remains acutely concerned for the state of the four detained personnel … still being held in Eritrea. It is working closely with the FCO to secure their release through diplomatic channels. Negotiations are ongoing and the issue continues to be sensitive for all concerned; however, we fully support the Eritrean government’s ongoing investigation into this matter.”

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has instructed the British embassy to raise the urgency of the issue “as a matter of priority”, while diplomatic negotiations are being sought in New York, Brussels, Khartoum, Tripoli, Nairobi and Beijing.

Last month, the Conservative foreign minister Henry Bellingham warned Britain was ready to take “robust action” if Eritrea remained silent on the issue. Bellingham said consular access to check on the men’s welfare should have been granted within 48 hours under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, signed by both Britain and Eritrea.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We have been urgently seeking consular access since we became aware of their detention. We are deeply concerned at the failure of the Eritrean authorities to allow us to speak to or visit the men. The minister for Africa, our ambassador and other officials continue to demand access.”

Please read the original story here

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Africa | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ethiopia in Threat to Oust Eritrea’s Regime

All Africa.com March 20, 2011

Addis Ababa — Ethiopia has threatened to topple Eritrea’s regime should the international community fail to enforce sanctions placed on the country in 2009.

Addis Ababa claims Eritrea is trying to destabilise the Horn of African nation by backing rebels, while also supporting Islamist militants in Somalia.

The Ethiopian government usually says it is content to keep security tight at home to deter attacks.

Eritrea fiercely denies the charges and accuses Western nations of siding with Ethiopia over the unresolved border row.

Eritrea, a tiny Red Sea state, broke away from Ethiopia in 1993 and has been under the leadership of President Isaias Afewerki, 67, since. Please read the entire story here

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , | Leave a comment