Deaths in custody
Survivors told Human Rights Watch that many people died in custody from sickness, heat stroke, or from beatings. According to Reporters sans frontières, three of the journalists arrested in the crackdown in 2001 died in custody between 2005 and 2006, a fourth died in January 2007.
The survivors of Dahlak consider themselves to be lucky. As one former inmate said, “In Dahlak, every day someone died. The food was very little and there was no medical attention. No one cares for prisoners. While I was there about 25 percent died from lack of medication and the bad conditions.”
Another man imprisoned in Dahlak said, “People were dying and getting sick and crazy. My group was detained the longest but there were others there who had been returned from Malta, Libya. In 2005 many prisoners were dying because of the heat and overcrowding, so they transferred some of us to Gedem. It was the hot season and we were dying of hunger, plus the brutal beating of the guards was causing many people to die. There were 10 dead in my block.”
In Addenafas prison, near Assab, one witness told of two inmates who died in a cell holding 13 Christians. Two of them became ill but “there were no medical facilities and the nutrition was bad. This was 2006, the deaths.”
At the military camp in Me’eter, “the sleeping was better but there was another problem because we were forced to urinate in corner of the cell, where we were sleeping. Many people got cholera, two in my cell died.” And in the container in Sawa camp, “there are 20 people in a container, it is very hot. One died of heat, one died of sickness in my container.”
In one military camp, Prima, an inmate was detained alongside three people accused of co-operating with the Democracy Movement of Eritrea (DemHaE )who he described as dying as a result of torture in custody: Asmourom Kifle, Tama Kefelay, and Awat Habtezgee. He described seeing Awat, “bleeding from the nose and mouth. Every time they were being hit and finally they died. I was listening to the sound but I didn’t see it... It was hard hitting with a stick or wire on the head and everywhere. They sent Awat to the hospital and he died there.”
A sergeant who had fled to Djibouti and formerly had responsibility for supervising a prison, told Human Rights Watch, “They don’t inform families directly or indirectly if a soldier dies in prison. It doesn’t matter if the death is from disease or hitting, [the soldier is] still a “martyr.” No investigation is made, or questions asked.”