09 May 2013
Eritrea: 20 years of independence, but still no freedom

Eritrea prisoners composite image.© Private

While Eritrea celebrates its 20th anniversary of independence on 24 May 2013, thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners languish in Eritrea’s detention centres without charge or trial.

Since independence, the Eritrean government has taken extreme action against actual and perceived critics. It has arbitrarily arrested and detained people in order to crush all opposition, to silence all dissent, and to punish anyone who refuses to comply with the repressive system. As a result, the country’s prisons are filled with thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners.

Journalists, politicians and members of religious groups make up some of the prisoners detained for simply expressing their opinion, practicing their religion or trying to flee the repression in their country. None of these prisoners have been charged with a crime or brought before a court. Many of them have been detained without charge for over a decade, and some for nearly 20 years. Thousands of people have disappeared into secret, incommunicado, detention without charge or trial, and without access to their family or to lawyers.

Many prisoners are believed to have died in detention as a result of torture and other ill-treatment; or harsh conditions in detention. The government refuses to confirm or deny these reports, leaving families unaware of the fate of their loved ones

This repression must end. Sign the petition below to urge the President of Eritrea to release all prisoners of conscience and end unlawful detention in Eritrea. We will not share your email address.

Dear President Isaias Afewerki,

I am writing to you concerning the thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners currently imprisoned in Eritrea without charge or trial. I call upon you to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience detained for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, opinion, association or religion or belief.
  • Ensure that all other prisoners suspected of a crime are immediately charged with a recognizable criminal offence or else released. Those charged must be tried promptly in fair proceedings which meet international standards.
  • Immediately reveal the whereabouts and fate of all prisoners, grant them access to their families and lawyers, end the use of torture and other ill-treatment, and provide them with all necessary medical care.


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