Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh, maintained in an interview with Radio France International that political prisoners arrested and held without trial since September 2001 are ‘all alive’.
Now a statement has been released calling for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit the prisoners to determine the accuracy of the Minister’s remarks.
It is signed by senior former Eritrean officials: Mesfin Hagos and Adhanom Ghebremariam – both of whom narrowly escaped imprisonment themselves.
The call came as thousands of Eritreans demonstrated in Geneva in support of the UN Commission of Inquiry’s finding that the Eritrean regime is responsible for crimes against humanity.
Former Eritrean Freedom Fighters and High-ranking Officials (now exiled) call upon the ICRC to visit Political Prisoners in Eritrea*
Frankfurt, Germany, and New York, USA
June 22, 2016
In an interview with Radio France International (RFI), on June 20th, 2016, the Foreign Minister of Eritrea, Mr. Osman Saleh, announced that all prisoners, and particularly those high-ranking government officials and veterans of Eritrea’s liberation struggle (aka G15) and journalists of the private press, who were arrested on September 18, 2001 and in its immediate aftermath, “are all alive” and “in good hands”.
We have been gravely concerned about the fate of our fellow veterans, and for almost 15 years, we have not stopped seeking information about them, and based on our sources, we have come to believe that at least half of them are no longer alive. All attempts by family members to visit them have been denied.
Political prisoners in Eritrea are held incommunicado, and their family members don’t have the right of visitation; and it is virtually impossible to confirm their well-being and whereabouts. We are concerned this announcement might give false hope to family members, who have already heard the deaths of their loved ones from various sources. It would be a cruel act further aggravating their suffering.
We call upon the International Community to use this opportunity and encourage the regime in Eritrea to allow the ICRC to visit the prisoners and confirm their well-being and ensure that they are no longer denied their right of due-process of law. The Foreign Minister’s announcement will only have credence if the ICRC can corroborate it. In view of the Eritrean government’s proven record of denial of the facts, not to have the ICRC visit the prisoners to check if the Foreign Minister’s statement is true would amount to an acceptance of a patent lie, and the Asmara regime’s shameless attempts to deceive the international community, at a time when its image is irreparably damaged.
* Mesfin Hagos served the government of Eritrea as Chief of Staff of the Defense Forces, Defense Minister of the GOE and Governor of the Southern Region, and Adhanom Ghebremariam, as Attorney General of the GOE, Governor of Seraye province and its Ambassador to Sweden and Nigeria. They are both members of the G15, the group of prominent veterans and government officials who advocated change and demanded the implementation of the ratified 1997 Constitution. Both escaped their imprisonment because they were outside the country on September 18, 2001, when their fellow members were arrested.