Prisoners of Conscience
Estifanos Seyoum, Aster Fissehatsion,
Ahmed Sheriffo, Beraki Gebreselassie, Berhane Gebregziabeher, Haile Woldetensae, Hamad Hamid Hamad, Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo, Ogbe Abraha, Saleh Kekiya
In May of 2006, Group 22 adopted a Prisoner
of Conscience (POC) from Eritrea. Our POC's name is Estifanos Seyoum. (Sometimes his name is spelled Stefanos Syuom.)
have a photo and we don't know his age, although an unconfirmed Wikipedia
stub says he was born in 1947. We do know that he was a
Brigadier General and former head of the Inland Revenue Service.
Estifanos Seyoum was arrested on September 18, 2001, along with 10
members of the "Group of 15" (G15 for short). These senior members
of the Eritrea National Assembly had all signed open letters
policies of President Issayas and calling for open debate of Eritrea's
problems. (Three of the G15 were out of the country when the others
were arrested and one
The Eritrean government said that the G15 detainees committed
treason, but they have never been officially charged or brought to
trial. Since the arrest,
Estifanos Seyoum and the other G15 detainees have been
held incommunicado, without access to their families or lawyers or
international humanitarian organizations, and the location of their
place of detention is secret. At least one of the G15 is alleged to have died while in detention because of ill treatment and denial of medical care.
Action That You Can Take
Amnesty International has closed the case files of Estifanos Seyoum and all the other G15 prisoners except for Aster Fissehatsion. However, we've been informed that we can continue working for our POC if we link his case to that of Aster Fissehatsion.
Amnesty decided that we should no longer write to Eritrea officials because such actions might actually provoke retribution against the families of those we are trying to help.
Here is our
current action. If you would like your letter counted in our
monthly total, or if you should happen to receive a reply, contact email@example.com.
You might also wish to check the current
issue of Group 22's newsletter for an Eritrea action.
Other AIUSA Local Groups are also working on Eritrean POCs. Group 19 in Palo Alto maintains a website for the Eritrean journalists who were also arrested in September 2001. Visit
FreeEritreanJournalists.org for information and actions in which can participate.
Group 21 in Davis works for journalist Medhanie Haile.
Eritrea is located in eastern Africa, bordering on the Red Sea, Sudan,
Ethiopia, and Djibouti.
Formerly an Italian colony, Eritrea was
federated with Ethiopia in 1952 and later reduced to the status of a
province. After 30 years of war with Ethiopia, Eritrea attained
independence in 1993.
In 1997 the transitional government ratified a
Constitution with provisions for a democratic government and
protections for human rights, but the Constitution has never been
implemented and the transitional government headed by President Issayas
remains in power.
From 1998 to 2001, Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a
bitter war over border issues which are still not resolved. There has
been no independent press after 2001.
For more information, go to some
of the links listed below.
Group 22's book discussion group chose a book about
Eritrea as the September
2006 selection: I Didn't Do It For You, by Michela
Links (Amnesty International)
Annual Report (Eritrea)
Public Statement (17 September 2007) 6th Anniversary
Release (May 24, 2006)
(May 18, 2004): "You have no right to ask"
(Sep 17, 2002) Arbitrary Detentions
Eritrea Country Page
Factbook for Eritrea
Dept Report (2008) Human RIghts, Eritrea
Human Rights Watch (16 April 2009) Eritrea: Repression Creating Human Rights Crisis
Article about Asmara (posted on eritreadaily.net)
Group 22 Home Page