Eritrea 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.) We don't 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 other members of the "Group of 15" (G15 for short). These senior members of the Eritrea National Assembly had all signed open letters criticizing the 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 has recanted.)

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 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 for information and actions in which can participate.

Group 21 in Davis works for journalist Medhanie Haile.

About Eritrea

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 Wrong.

Links (Amnesty International)

2009 Annual Report (Eritrea)
Public Statement (17 September 2007) 6th Anniversary
News Release (May 24, 2006)
Report (May 18, 2004): "You have no right to ask"
Report (Sep 17, 2002) Arbitrary Detentions
AIUSA Eritrea Country Page

Links (non-AI)

CIA Factbook for Eritrea
US State Dept Report (2008) Human RIghts, Eritrea
Human Rights Watch (16 April 2009) Eritrea: Repression Creating Human Rights Crisis
Wiki ProjectEritrea
Travel Article about Asmara (posted on

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