Statement Read at the 63rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Public Session (Item 3): Human Rights Situation in Africa, 27 October 2018
Madam Chairperson, Respected Commissioners, State Representatives and Fellow Members of Civil Society Organisations.
I make this statement on behalf of Reporters Without Borders/Swedish Section. The focus is on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and in particular the suppression of media freedom.
We have just seen a promising development with a peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It should bring hope. But fundamentally nothing has changed for the imprisoned journalists in Eritrea. They are still imprisoned without sentence, isolated from the world at undisclosed locations. Several of them have been in detention for more than 17 years. And for 17 years all free media have been banned in Eritrea. This is something which must end.
Here we take note of another ominous sign. The former Finance Minister Mr. Berhane A. Kidane too, has just been detained after publishing a book on Eritrea.
A couple of days ago the daughter of one of these imprisoned journalists, Mr. Seyoum Tsehaye, told us to ask in this statement: where her father is. Where is Seyoum Tsehaye? Abie Seyoum was a young child when her father was taken away. She has the right to know. She also wants to see him. That the prisoners are not allowed any visits is cruel both on them and their families. It violates their rights and they should be granted visits. Immediately. They should be released. Immediately.
This Commission has made these demands in two decisions already: 275/03 and 428/12. Eritrea has, so far, not respected the Commission’s very clear requests.
We have repeatedly asked for information from the Eritrean Government in letters and here on what they are doing to live up to the African Charter as pointed out by this Commission. We have received no reply. May we once again ask the Eritrean Government to clarify what is done to respect the decisions in cases 275/03 and 428/12. Since the peace agreement with Ethiopia there have been rumours that the journalists as well as other political prisoners would be released. When will these rumours become true? Given the conditions in prison and the long time in detention we fear for the lives of our colleagues. There is no time to lose.
As long as the press ban in Eritrea remains in place and as long as the journalists are detained we would ask that this august body holds an Implementation hearing with Eritrea. Why does the Government in Asmara not heed the calls in Communications 275/03 and 428/12?
Eritrea continues violating many of its treaty obligations, such as those related to the Robben Island Guidelines, the Arusha Declaration, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners – to name a few. But most relevant here: The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
All this can be solved by the immediate release of the detained journalists.
(Dr. Daniel R. Mekonnen on behalf of Reporters Without Borders/Swedish Section).