ERITREA: HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, TYPICAL OF THOUSANDS OF CASES
THAT CONTINUE TO BE COMMITTED BY THE REGIME IN ERITREA
(Updated in December 2000)
Having gone through a century-long saga of oppression, humiliation, plunder and decimation under one colonial rule after another, the Eritrean people had hoped that with the attainment of national sovereignty, human and democratic rights as well would be safeguarded and that peace, justice and stability would take root. Given the egalitarian nature of the communal socio-economic basis of Eritrean society, the long political experience acquired during anti-colonial struggle, including the thirty years of non-stop liberation war that culminated in victory, one would tend to believe this should in itself warrant the institutionalisation of the political, social and legal guarantees that could ensure respect of basic human rights. However, local power mongering and illegitimate external interests, have compounded to stifle the voice of the people and abort the evolution of those institutions. In fact, the gloomy political and human rights situation in post-independence Eritrea is typically symptomatic of such an abortion that has become characteristic of regimes led by dictators recently prematurely baptised as ‘a new generation of leaders’. The right of our people to self-determination, in the sense of forming a system of governance of one's own free choice, remains denied and the prospects for democracy and the rule of law have been rendered as distant as ever. Eritrea is ruled by decree under a one-man dictatorship. Even a constitution written by the regime and designed to give it the semblance of legitimacy, has never been implemented, and has since its adoption been gathering dust in PFDJ stores. Political allies of the regime, though, have chosen to shut their eyes away from the hard reality lived by the people under despotism, and in what could be seen as attempts at providing a cover up for the criminal practices of the regime, they have preferred to toy about with provisions of a dead document forgotten by its very author.
CONTRARY TO THE ASPIRATIONS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE PROMISES OF THE REVOLUTION, A FUL-FLEDGED DICTATORSHIP WAS INSTALLED IN ERITREA, AND STIFLED POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL LIFE.
This created a situation whereby all the institutions of oppression established by foreign occupiers remained in place. In fact, they have been strengthened further by the regime. All national political organisations were banned and their members warned to renounce their political conviction and organisational affiliations and hand themselves over to the ruling party. A reign of terror was imposed, as the people's basic liberties were crashed and citizens became victims of mass arrests and sweeping measures of repression aimed at silencing all voices of dissent, reform or opposition. Freedom of thought, expression, and assembly were denied; the press was firmly and exclusively taken control of by the ruling party and used as an instrument serving unholy purposes: to slander the opposition, serve open warnings to potential demonstrators and protesters, spread lies and launch hate campaigns against real and imagined enemies of the regime's making. Indeed, Eritrea has come to the forefront of a number of countries where fundamental human rights remain systematically violated and openly ridiculed with all the arrogance and callousness that a typically tyrannical regime as the one established by Mr. Isayas could summon. As if this did not suffice, still more crimes have all along been perpetrated by the regime to stem the leakage of information about those violations to the outside world.
We have always called for the attention of all concerned to the gross human rights violations that have become the regime's trademark and the order of the day in Eritrea, violations systematically perpetrated and taken up as instruments of governance and ways and means of eliminating the opposition and terrorising the people into absolute submission. Most of what the regime runs as secret sites of detention for important opponents are for the most part underground buildings in remote corners of the country, including islets in the Red Sea. These are secret sites where access to the public and other "intruders" is prohibited. Detention institutions have recently expanded and every locality has had its share of prisons before it ever has access to educational or medical centres. Arrests have always taken a Mafia-style of surprise nightly abduction operations by undercover police agents who roam the streets and act on direct order from the self-styled president. In doing so, the regime has, in most cases, flatly denied ever knowing of any arrests whenever approached by relatives inquiring about the whereabouts of their loved ones. Moreover, relatives and parents have always been served with stern warnings that they would be dealt with mercilessly if and when they raised such questions or suspicions again. Under the circumstances, the possibility of visits to political prisoners by family members or human rights groups has become unthinkable.
ATTEMPTS AT FORMING HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS TO MONITOR VIOLATIONS HAVE THEMSELVES BEEN DEALT WITH MERCILESSLY.
The first moves in that direction, made by ex-EPLF officials, were countered by the regime in 1991 and led to the exile of those concerned. A London-based Eritrean human rights group also headed by an ex-EPLF functionary was denied entry and room of legal operation in the country. That is why similar groups have had to crop up here and there among exiled Eritrean intellectuals in London, Sweden, the US and elsewhere. Human rights as well as other humanitarian organisations have time and again been denied entry to Eritrea or access to the notorious detention sites. These and other measures have virtually closed off the country and blocked the leakage of information about the human rights situation to the outside world for a considerable period of time. In the meantime, thousands of citizens suspected of supporting the opposition as well as members of the popular army who staged protests against the establishment of a one-man dictatorship in the country, were arrested and made to disappear. Arrest and disappearance of opponents in Eritrea is virtually one and the same thing.
FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, EXPRESSION, ASSOCIATION AND PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY BECAME THE FIRST VICTIMS AT THE HANDS OF THE DICTATORSHIP WHICH WAS IMPOSED IN THE WAKE OF THE LIBERATION OF ERITREAN NATIONAL TERRITORY IN 1991.
new rulers took control of all media and prohibited all alternative pens or
voices. The press law arbitrarily put in place by the regime was more a ban on
freedom of press than a regulatory code. Clerical writings of the Catholic
orders were long strictly controlled and some that dared to allude to problems
in the system's stance on human rights were banned. Editors of the private
papers patronised by the regime have all along been subjected to pressures and
threats whenever articles moderately critical of the government happen to be
a flagrant and sweeping crackdown on freedom of expression and the media, the
regime in Eritrea, on 14 October 2000, arrested the editors and journalists of
five private papers in Eritrea. The detained persons were not officially charged
of any crime. Sources close to the ruling PFDJ confirmed the move was intended
to curb the manifest boldness of journalists to report on events and human
rights cases, as well as political issues considered as taboos by the
dictatorship that held the nation hostage to terror since the independence of
the country. It was evident that the private papers had recently become
increasingly critical of the overall autocratic stance and policies of the
regime. A number of articles published in several papers had challenged the
human rights record of the regime and disclosed the weaknesses and erroneous
policies that led to the tragic political, social and economic situation in the
country. Calls for a change of system of governance and the democratisation of
the political life in the country have been gathering momentum among Eritreans
inside and outside the country. No doubt, the private papers have in a
self-censored manner reflected this tendency on their columns.
Among the victims of the recent crackdown were: 1. Melkias Mehreteab, Chief Editor of the weekly "Qeste Debena" (The Rainbow)2. Yousuf Mohamed Ali, Chief Editor of the weekly "Tseghenay" 3. Selam Mengis, journalist 4. Matewos Habteab, Chief Editor of Meqaleh 5. Dawit Habtemichael, member of the editorial board of the weekly "Meqaleh"(Echo,) 6. Ye'byo Ghebremedhin, member of the Editorial board of the weekly, "Meqaleh"7. Semret Seyoum, member of the Editorial board of the weekly Setit. Some of the journalists were released following wide-spread protests by Eritrean circles and journalist and human rights organisations but only after being served wth stern warning while two, considered by the regime as less malleable are to this day languishing in labour camps. Likewise, questions raised and dissident opinions aired in meetings were never tolerated; accounts have always had to be settled with concerned persons after the conclusion of meetings. Persons most often ended up behind the bars or simply disappeared.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION HAS BEEN ABUSED. FOLLOWERS OF CERTAIN RELIGIONS DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, ALIENATED AND PERSECUTED. OTHER RELIGIONS' ACTIVITIES AS WELL FALL UNDER THE REALM OF SURVEILLANCE OF THE SECURITY.
Among these are the Jehovah Witnesses and Moslems. The Witnesses were stripped of their rights as citizens and denied all job opportunities, work licenses, travel documents, and declared non-citizens by a presidential decree. Many have been thrown in prison for declining to respond to what the regime likes to call "national service", a forced military service programme designed to provide the adventures of the dictator and his war machinery with the necessary cannon-fodder. A very big number of these have been forced to flee such persecution and seek refuge in neighbouring Sudan, Ethiopia, the Middle East and elsewhere. Moslems in general, and those who teach in religious schools or attend them in particular, are viewed as sympathisers of the Jihad movement and more often than not treated as such. This attitude that has become the trademark of the present regime is behind the abuse of the rights of entire sections of the nation and alienating more and more Eritreans to promote the divide-and-rule policy that is threatening the long-standing social harmony within the people. Other religions, too, are under the surveillance of the interior ministry, lest they launch human rights movements. A presidential decree has provided highly intrusive, restrictive and in many instances repressive laws that required religions and religious institutions to come under the firm control of the security and to cease functioning in almost all areas without assignment from the government organs. In a Stasi-style of under cover work, the dictatorship has embarked on a programme of spying on the entire nation, spreading its secret police network into what we have known and respected as the foundation of society, the family, thus endangering the integrity and holiness of the very fabric of social life by demanding of family members to spy on one another!
THE ERITREAN PEOPLES' RIGHT TO OWNERSHIP OF PROPERTY AND TO ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY REMAINS SYSTEMATICALLY VIOLATED.
The ruling party has virtually dispossessed citizens of almost everything. Land has been declared as state land, to be disposed of according to the ruling party's policies and economic interests. Already, thousands of poor peasants whose land was sold to expatriates in hard currency, have been forsaken to their fate, exile. The drawn-out resisitance of villages to against moves by the regime to disrupt and unmake them as entities has left its mark on the regime's already dwindling social base. The regime has as well made it impossible for citizens to embark on any lucrative ventures or transactions, as almost all sectors of the country's economy have been brought under the firm control of the ruling party. This has become the exclusive owner and dealer, leaving no room for private entrepreneurs. All offers of privatisation and investment have so far remained as special deals between specifically selected companies and the ruling party, or front-men of the party paraded as „private“ investors, to the exclusion of other foreign and national private investors, thus denying the nation the opportunities to economic development and aggravating the already miserable life in the country.
In flagrant violation of equal civil rights, the ruling party has made party membership, military service and the payment of imposed debts to the party, as the inescapable preconditions of eligibility to jobs, the allotment of land and the entitlement to licenses, travel documents, and citizenship rights.
THE RIGHTS OF ERITREAN WOMEN AND WORKERES TO FORM THEIR OWN INDEPENDENT ASSOCIATIONS, AND THEIR RIGHT TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING REMAIN DENIED AND VIOLATED.
Women and workers are forced and blackmailed into joining the unions established by the ruling party, unions that are more a part of the secret police than anything else. The right of workers to association and collective bargaining in all its forms is non-existent. In a practice that amounts to slave trade, women workers, ex-women fighters in particular, have been traded in the labour black market of certain Middle Eastern countries, Lebanon in particular. Inside-out stories have emerged about institutions in the EPLF under-world that have been dealing in women "domestic workers" who were forced through blackmail to surrender a big percentage of their "salaries" to the government, with their share of the salary being withheld to keep the enslaved women pinned down on agreement between the EPLF regime's agencies and the local "traders." The emergence of such stories has shown other more atrocious faces of cold-blooded evil practices of the regime's under-world. A number of women who fell victims to such atrocities and were pushed to the extremes are reported to have committed suicide.
THE RULING PARTY HAS SPREAD ITS TENTACLES INTO ALL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS TO MUZZLE ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND SCHOLARLY VENTURES.
The schools, including Asmara University, live under the shadow of the government's under-cover agents already in place in the administration and the faculties, following sweeping purges undertaken in 1993. Freedom of thought and expression thus remain the main targets of government crackdown. The elementary school curricula in place have become integral instruments of the regime's hate campaign to slander the record of other national forces in the arena, and to inculcate submissiveness to the ruling party and its leader. Such a move amounts to fascist-like mode of upbringing a young generation subservient to the imposed leader and his whims. Demonstrations have been banned and attempts made to stage some have all along been mercilessly crashed since as early as 1991, including protests by members of the Popular Army in 1993 and those by disabled ex-fighters in 1994, as well as those organised by civil servants and protests by mothers of forcibly recruited children, etc. are typical of mass protests crashed immediately and mercilessly by army commando units before they could even take shape. Such measures were meant to set warning precedence and scare possible protesters in the future. Scores of protesters were reported killed at the time and a number remain handicapped as a result of bullet wounds and beatings. Parents were given warning not to say a word about the fate of their loved ones.
All political organisations, including the ELF-RC were banned and had since to lead a clandestine life inside Eritrea. Hundreds of persons suspected of harbouring sympathy for the opposition were rounded up from villages and towns and made to disappear; it has become very difficult to trace their whereabouts or confirm their fate.
Having arrogantly rejected all voices of reason and all calls for the initiation of national dialogue and a process of national reconciliation for a smooth transition to multi-party democratic system of governance, it is to be remembered, the regime in Eritrea launched surprise military offensives in January 1992 against the units of all other national organisations which, with the liberation of the country, had suspended all military activity and had stationed themselves in transitional camps awaiting the outcome of the expected reconciliation talks proposed by the ELF-RC. Many patriots were then killed and a number arrested. Among the senior ELF-RC members who were arrested then and remained in detention without charge or due process of law included:
Habtemichael Berbe _arrested in 15.01.1992, Hamid M.Seid (Remde)_ arrested in 15.01.1992
Ghebreleul Amdetsion (14.01.1992), Andeberhan Kidane (12.01.1992). Having been left to rot for nine years, they were released without any explanation whatsoever. Instead they were served with a stern warning never to get involved in politics.
IN A FAR-FETCHED TERRORIST MOVE TO ELIMINATE EXILED OPPOSITION ELEMENTS, THE RULING PARTY HAS SENT ABDUCTING AND KILLING SQUADS FAR AND WIDE INTO THE NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES AND ELSEWHERE.
Aborted assassination and abduction operations have been many. Nonetheless, a number of senior and ordinary ELF-RC elements have fallen victims to such barbarous acts of terror. Among the scores of such victims, the following are the most outstanding:
Mr.Weldemariam Bahlebi and Mr.Tekleberhan Ghebretsadek (alias Wad-Bashay), both members of the Executive Committee of the ELF-RC were trapped and kidnapped from the Sudanese border town of Kassala on April 26 1992 with the collaboration of elements in the Sudanese intelligence and led across the border into Eritrea. We have had information that the regime has been switching them from prison to prison presumably to avoid their being traced by concerned circles, including the ELF-RC. They, too, have never been charged or brought before a court of law. They are in detention to this day. Approached by Amnesty Intenational, the regime denied ever having kidnapped them. Mr. Isayas himself has in an interview he gave to VOA in the mid nineties flatly denied this.
Mr.Tunga Chachue Weldeselassie, former member of the leadership of the ELF-affiliated General Union Of Eritrean Peasants, and later an independent activist among the Eritrean Bazas in the Gash region, was on 28.04.1996 kidnapped by Eritrean government agents from Wad Sherifay, a refugee camp in the Sudan bordering Eritrea. It is reported he was shot at and wounded by his abductors while he was being led into Eritrea. He, too, was never heard of since.
Mr. Ghebreberhan Zere, chairman of the Eritrean Democratic Movement (EDLM), an opposition organisation that used to operate from bases in Ethiopia, was at the beginning of March 1997 abducted and led into Eritrea by EPLF thugs during his trip to Humara, in the northwestern region of Ethiopia. He was never heard of since.
Mr. Ghebrehiwet Keleta, a leader in another ELF faction (commonly known as Abdalla Idris Group), was similarly abducted from the Sudanese border town of Kassala in 1991. He was taken into Eritrea, and has since been held in custody without charge or due process of law until the year 2000, when he is reported to have been released, without explanation.
Mr. Seiday Ghebre, Mr.Beyeue Fares, Mr.Saidna Natti, Mr.Mohamed Osman were in November 1996 abducted from Kuweita and Regbet (Eritrea) by an armed unit of the security organ and taken away; their whereabouts are not known. Weldeab Paulos, a senior cadre of another opposition group, the ELF-CL (or Sagem) was likewise abducted in 1992 from Kassala, Sudan. Information about his fate is not available.
Hamid Port Sudan, abducted in 8.01.1992 by EPLF government from the Sudanese border town Kassala. Mrs. Ruth Simon, a correspondent of Agence France was in April 1997 arrested and remained in detention without charge or due process of law, until her release in January 1999. She had reported Mr- Isayas' statement regarding the involvement of the Eritrean army alongside the rebels in the war against the Sudan.
A squad of killers has recently been arrested by the police and brought to court for having killed number of citizens from the Baza area of Eritrea. The PFDJ regime caught red-handed unawares later ordered their release after officially admitting before the court that they were assigned for the operation by the regime's secret police. This had created a row at the courts, and of course hushed up.
A BIG NUMBER OF FREEDOM FIGHTERS WHO BELONG TO THE NATIONAL FORCES THAT MAKE THE ALLIANCE REMAIN LOCKED BEHIND THE BARS FOR YEARS WITHOUT CHARGES OR DUE PROCESS OF LAW.
Among them are Eritreans accused of participation in the Eritrean Islamic movements: Ahmed Mohamed Abdella(arrested in1993), Mohamed Mohamed Nur(1993), Ismail Mohamed Nur(1991), Mensur Mohamed Nur(1994), Ibrahim Mohamed Nur(1994), Ibrahim Mohamed Nur(1994), Omar Mohamed Ali(1994), Mohamed Ali Suleiman(1994), Mohamed Ali Seid(1994), Mohamed Ali Adem(1993), Yassin Musa(1994), Ha;mid Mohamed Idris(1994), Mohamed Mahmud Ali Shenein(1994), Mohamed Ferej Haj(1994), Ibrahim Jeme' Mohamed(19994), Ramadan Idris(1994), Mohamed Ramadan(1994), Abdelgadir Ali(1994), Osman Mohamed Seid(1994), Osman Ali Hamid(1994), Mohamed Saleh(1994), Mohamed Seid Medin(1994), Ibrahim Osman Ferej(1994), Hassan Mohamed Omar(Abu Teyara)(1993), Hussein Mohamed Omar(1994), Hussein Mohamed Adem(1994), Alamin Adem Salem(1994).
Also languishing in Eritrean prisons without due process of law since February 1998 are many members of the ex-ELF-CL(Sagem). Among them are Asefaw Asres, Teklia Habteab Ghebrehiwet, Tekleweini Zeray Ghebremedhin, Beyene Ghebremedhin Kahsay, Haile Asmalash, Abrehaley Ghebremichael, Tesfay Lemlem.
THE REGIME IN ERITREA MISCHIEVOUSLY USED THE AMNESTY IT DECLARED IN 1991 TO INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF CERATAIN ORGANISATIONS AS A PLOY TO TRAP, ABDUCT AND KILL MANY, IN WHAT COULD BE VIEWED AS COWARD ACTS OF SETTLING OLD ACCOUNTS WITH OPPOSITION ELEMENTS.
The following are some among many who, with the dissolution of their groups, the United Organisation (ELF-UO) and the National Council (ELF-NC) in 1992-1993, had joined the EPLF regime. Allegedly suspected of involvement in clandestine resumption of their political movement, they were subsequently surprised by sweeping abductions. Among the victims of such a trap have been,
1. Mr. Mahmud Dinai, who was of late Chairman of the EPLF instituted Barka Assembly and formerly commander of the First Division of the Eritrean Liberation Army, was arrested in November 1995 in Agordat. Despite the regime's blackout on information about his fate, it was subsequently confirmed that Mr. Dinai has died in prison under mysterious circumstances. 2. Saleh Mohamed Idris (Abu Ajaj), ex-member of the ELF-NC and formerly assistant commander of the First Division of the ELA, also arrested in Oct. 1995. 3. Mohamed Khier Musa, head of the Labour Office in Keren (ex-member of the Ex.Cmttee of the NC). 4. Mahmud Khalid, also former NC member, at the time of his arrest responsible for the Public Relations Department in the Barka region, 5. Ibrahim Mohamed Ibrahim, a judge in Agordat Court of Law; (he, too, is an ex- member of the NC)
6. Mohamed Ali Ibrahim and Mohamed Osman Arey, formerly functionaries in governmental departments in Asmara; (both are ex-members of the United Organisation) 7. Mohamed Osman Dayer, 8. Saleh Ismail Bekhit, all ex-members of the United Organisation who had entered Eritrea in response to EPLF trap calls were among the earliest victims at the hands of the abduction squads launched by the ruling party. 9. Suleiman Zacharia, in Asmara in 1995, 10. Mohamed Saleh Mahmud (ex-NC member) also arrested in 1995, 11. Ibrahim Mohamed Mahmud (ex-UO member) arrested in 1995. On 24.12.1996 the following persons, allegedly involved in the opposition movements, were arrested. They were 1. Abdalla Ali Nasser (from Adi Kaieh) 2. Youssuf Abubakar Fora (from Senafe) and his wife, Mrs. Fatma Mohamed was killed on the 24th of December for having cried on behalf of her husband during his arrest. 3. Ibrahim Omer Ahmedin (from Adi Kaieh), 4. Mohamed Adem Bani (Senafe), 5. Yassin Hussein ( Adi Kaieh) 6. Omer Ahmed ( Adi Kaieh). 7. Ahmed Lamba( Adi Kaieh), 5. Abdalla Almaday, member of United Organisation was in 1996arrested in a ship bound to Saudi Arabia and taken to custody. His whereabouts remains unknown.
TORTURE AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLING HAVE BEEN CHARACTERISTIC OF THE WAY THE RULING PARTY HAS DEALT WITH MANY ARRESTED POLITICAL OPPONENTS, DISSIDENTS AND SUSPECTED MEMBERS OF OPPOSITION ORGANISATIONS. To mention only a few cases:
· Helpless handicapped war veterans of the Popular Army, who staged a peaceful demonstration were on the 11th of August in 1995 mercilessly crashed in May Habar; 20 were summarily machine-gunned at the spot and an unspecified number were wounded, while 25
others were reportedly arrested and are believed to be in detention to this day. Another unspecified number fled and disappeared.
· Mr. Hailemichael Hailesellasie (alias, Lungo), a well known activist in the former cultural troupe of the EPLF, and who is said to have had a prominent role in the uprising staged by the Popular Army in the wake of the arbitrary formation and imposition in April 1993 of the so-called Transitional Government by Mr. Isayas , was in detention ever since. Sources within the EPLF confirm that he has subjected to continued torture and maltreatment before his belated release.
· Out of the 3205 elements of the Popular Army who were arrested in April 1993, following the army protests on the eve of Independence Day, an unspecified number have since disappeared.
According to some of their colleagues who could make it, mass extra-judicial measures were taken against many considered as ringleaders and dedicated activists within the movement. Recent reports confirmed that some of those soldiers are still in detention in the notorious colonial prison of Adi Quala
· Lej Abraba Debremela, district administrator (or Meslene), Ato Tesfamariam Hagos also district administrator in Zere'-muse, as well as Seltan Berhe and Abubeker Mohamed (both government employees) were among many who, suspected of continued membership in the ELF-RC, were abducted by the secret police; they were never heard of since. Persons who were in custody with them have later confirmed that they were beaten up to death while in custody. Assassination of opponents or suspects in ambushes layed in the towns and in the countryside and abroad have also become daily acts of crime perpetrated by the regime. As a result, an increasing number of persons known to have differed with Mr. Isayas on a number of issues have from time to time been found killed under mysterious circumstances. Sources inside the regime confirm that those are part of the waves of purges underway within the system aimed at strengthening the hand of Mr. Isayas and his hold on dictatorial power. The following are believed to be victims of such a campaign.
· Mr. Tesfamichael Giorgio, former member of the ELF-RC (a man who, before he joined the ELF, had earlier been involved in the early contacts between Isayas Afeworki and the CIA authorities inside the US base in Asmara in the early 70's, when an understanding was reached to help protect american installations and other vital interests inside Eritrea and to subvert the Eritrean revolution as led by the ELF, in return for CIA support to Isayas’ group), was assassinated by EPLF undercover agents in front of his house in Addis Ababa. According to sources in Asmara
· and Addis Ababa, the operation was presumably carried out to bury secrets relating the strategy that charted Mr. Isayas’ accession to power.
· Mr. Abdalla Daud, a fomer prominent member of EPLF Central Committee, was, shortly after liberation, found killed in Asmara and under mysterious circumstances. At the time, the regime's authorities dismissed all rumours about the government’s hand in his death and chose to attribute his fate to alcohol abuse. Sources in the ruling party, however, confirmed that he was never known to have had alcohol problems during his long service in the EPLF.
· Ammar Alsheik, a journalist in the government-controlled radio, Demtsi Hafash, was in 1992 found killed in front of his house. His death, too, was ignored and hastily buried with no inquiry or explanation. Inside sources claim, however, that he met his death at the hands of the government's thugs as part of the never-ending purges within the ruling clique.
· Mohamed Ali Said, assistant editor of the government daily, Haddas Ertra, was likewise found killed in Afa’abet under suspicious circumstances. He had served as a functionary in the foreign relations department of the EPLF in Paris, Beirut and Asmara; Following differences of opinion
with the authorities in the 1994 party congress, he was suspended from his post till his turn came; he was another victim of the regime's house-cleaning campaign.
· Higo Ismail and Saleh Ismail were killed by death squads of the ruling party in Senafe, Akeleguzay and their bodies thrown to a place 2 km outside the town.
· Mohamed Muftah, former ELF-RC member and veteran freedom fighter, went back to his hometown, Addi Kaieh, to lead a peaceful life, following the liberation of the country; he was killed in 13. 01.1996; and it is believed he fell victim to EPLF terrorism unleashed against ELF members in the area.
· Zekarias Neguse, vice-chairman of the EDLM, an opposition group based in Ethiopia, was killed on 31 August 1996 in the Ethiopian town of Dessie. His organisation accused the EPLF government of responsibility for his death. The regime's death quads, roaming freely in Ethiopia, have reportedly carried out the assassination.
Colonel Teklezghi Gulbot, who was in charge of the investigation of suspected corruption cases, was killed in Dec.1996. It is widely believed he was silenced by the secret police as his inquiries started to point to stinking heads high up in the top leadership of the party itself. Government thugs in 04.08.1997 inside his house in Asmara killed Tekle Tesfazghi. Government security agents killed Saleh Fre, a teacher in Mensura School, in July 1995 in Mensura itself. Redo Ali Hamdo was on 10.05.1996 killed in Mak’ak by EPLF thugs who suspected he was involved in the opposition movements. Berhane Haile was killed in 1996 after he was arrested for having allegedly taken part in the well-known corruption scandal within the ruling party’s institutions. Abubakar Alhusein, an ELF-RC veteran member was killed in Agordat. Omar Mohamed Tedros, member of the EJM, was killed in 19.12.1996 in Kassala. Mrs. Zubeida Mohamed Nur Hizam was in 19.12.1996 killed along with Omar (above). Karrar Ahmed Alnur, ex-member of the UO, killed in 12.03.1997 in Barentu Omar Ahmedin Suleiman, a cadre of the ruling EPLF was killed by the Party secret police in June 1996 in Shambuko. Atfe’a Omar, ELF member, was in 28.09.95 killed in Shegherab Refugee Camp in the Sudan by EPLF cross-border terrorists. Musa Hajaj, ELF member, killed in 29 July 1995 in Wad-Sherifay also by EPLF cross-border terrorists. Mrs. Jum’a Sa’ad, ELF-RC member, killed by the Eritrean Government secret police on the 28th of Feb. 1996 in Tebeldia Returnees camp in the Gash area. Saleh Huruy, one of the senior military leaders of the Eritrean Popular Army was also in a previous report recorded as killed in 1999. Our department has soon later certified that information then circulated about his death proved a false ploy. Saleh Hurruy is indeed alive and still in detention. Mr. Fekadu Teklu, a retired worker, Mrs. Guoy, owner of Seghen Bar, all three Ethiopian nationals residing in Eritrea were in September 1999 arrested by the Eritrean security. They were never heard of since.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY THE GOVERNMENT OF ERITREA HAVE, DURING THE CURRENT CONFLICT WITH ETHIOPIA, CONTINUED AND EVEN WORSENED.
As popular opposition to the on going war mounted, and rejection of the government’s call for military service grew more and more vocal, the authorities have escalated their crackdown on all dissent. This has led to sweeping arrests and disappearances. Many who tried to cross the borders or the seas for safety were hunted out, killed or arrested.
Ordinary citizens, soldiers and government functionaries have arbitrarily been rounded up and arrested from the war fronts, offices and streets and from their homes; they subsequently disappeared. No explanations were given for such sweeping measures, and the detainees have never been brought before the law. Even their families do not know the whereabouts of most. The victims of such violations count in the thousands. We have repeatedly sought to bring their plight to the attention of human rights organisations, hoping they would help enquire about their fate and ensure their safety and freedom. Some of the detainees have been rotting in prison for years now; many are reportedly suffering from illness and lack of medical attention. The following are only a few of the ever-increasing number of persons who have disappeared following their arrest.
· Mr. Zer’eghaber Ghebrehiwet is one such typical victim. An owner of a construction materials store in the environs of Mercato, Asmara, a member of the police force who is commonly known by the name "Ajip" arrested him on December 2, 1996 at 9:00 a.m. local time in Asmara. Zer’eghaber was born in 1947 in Kushet; he is married and father of seven;. He has not been charged of any offence; nonetheless he has been left to rot in prison. Sources close to the prison where he remains in detention confirm his health has deteriorated seriously, and his condition rendered helpless for lack of medical attention.
· Mr. Abdulrahim Ahmed, a former ELF-RC pilot, and who, defecting after the liberation of the country, went back home and made part of the founding group of the Eritrean Air Force was, in the
beginning of January 1999, arrested by the Eritrean authorities. His detention remains unexplained; he was not brought before any court of justice. According to sources close to the Air Force, though, he was apparently suspected of having had reservations about the war and, given his ELF-RC background, was suspected of harbouring reservations about the overall policies of the EPLF. Observers think the same fate could be awaiting the rest of his colleagues who were former ELF-RC pilots and who currently make up the core of the fledgling Eritrean Air Force.
· Mr. Suleiman Musa Haj, former member of the RC and later the UO of the ELF, was arrested on 22 May 1999 in his hometown Keren, where he lived since the independence of the country in 1991. The reason behind his arrest, as rumoured by the Eritrean authorities themselves, is related to his alleged co-operation with Mrs. Lettebrehan, an Ethiopian of Tigrean origin, during the year long campaign launched by the police aimed at dispossessing Ethiopian residents and evicting them from jobs they held. They accused him of keeping in his custody money that was entrusted to him by Mrs. Lettebrhan to evade confiscation by the authorities. Mr. Suleiman was subsequently released on bail. Mrs. Lettebrhan herself, an Ethiopian of Tigrean origin living in Keren, was arrested by the Eritrean authorities shortly before Mr. Suleiman’s arrest (above), on the ground she was an Ethiopian, and also for entrusting her property to Mr. Suleiman with the intention of concealing it from the authorities. She was interrogated and tortured to admit that. Mrs.Lettebrhan remained in detention without due process of law for a long time before she too was released without legal explanation.
IN A SWEEPING MEASURE, THE AUTHORITIES IN ERITREA HAVE SINCE MID-JUNE 1999 ARRESTED OVER 240 ERITREANS IN THE PORT CITY OF ASSAB; MANY OF THESE ARE SUSPECTED KILLED.
Among the detainees are members of Zobawi Baito (regional assembly); some are tribal chieftains and also well-known dignitaries of the Eritrean coastal region of Dankalia. The number of detainees kept rising, as arrests have continued unabated. It is reported the number of the detained has so far risen to 240. The Regional Administrator had at the time of their arrest been urgently summoned to the capital Asmara. The following are among the victims of this latest crackdown:
1. Ali Issa, vice mayor of the seaport of Assab. 2. Ahaw Ali, President of the Local Assembly. 3. Ali Nur Mohammed, vice president of the Local Assembly.4. Ali Yousuf Ali, member of the Local Assembly 5.Mohammed Abdalla Adem, among the leading elders of the Al'aito clan 6. Halim Burhan, among the leading elders of the Al'aito clan. 7. Issa Ahmed, among leading members of the Hissamale clan. 8. Issa Ibrahim, among leading members of the Al'aito clan. 9. Ahmed Yousuf, among the leading members of the Hissamale clan. 10. Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed, religious leader, 11. Musa Ali Yousuf, 12. Omer Ahmed Ali, 13. Issa Ateile. 14. Abdalla Ali. 15. Musa Humed Halim. 16. Habib Mohammed Abubeker. 17. Mohammed Ahmed Ali. 18. Burhan Ahmed Ali. 19.Mohammed Ali Mohammed, 20. Omer Mohammed Halim, 21. Ali Huluw.
MR. MOHAMMED OMAR AKITO, One of the fathers of the Eritrean Independence movement, is since July 1999 in detention at the hands of the regime in Eritrea. Mr. Akito was born in 1919. He was one of the nationalists who campaigned for Eritrea's full right to self-determination and independence. Delegated by our people in the Dankalia region of Eritrea, Mr.Akito is among the few national figures who dealt with the United Nations Commission for Eritrea that worked in the country between February 14 and April 8, 1950. In March 1952 he was elected member of the Eritrean Parliament and served his people with sincerity and integrity. He is nationally known for his exemplary dedication to the cause of the nation. Mr. Akito has not been charged of any offence. The ELF-RC is particularly concerned about the condition of Mr. Akito. Given his age (he is almost ninety) the state of his heath and EPLF cruel prison conditions, his very life hangs in the balance. Among the persons who have been detained with Mr. Akito are Mr. Osman Buluh, mayor of the seaport of Assab, Mr. Ali
Ballu'ah, a former ELF-RC fighter, later appointed by the Eritrean regime as Administrator of the district of Iddi and its environs, as well as Saleh Ramadan from the EPLF military.
On returning to the towns it had left during the May-June 2000 war, the regime in Eritrea summarily labelled all Eritreans who did not leave their homes during the Ethiopian advance, as collaborators of the Ethiopian forces; many were rounded up and taken away; they have never since returned to their homes. The following are among many who met such a fate.
Keshi Yared Dawit, Ali Adem, Ghebriel Gashay, Hagay Efrem, Saleh Musa, Haile Ghebriel, Dina Shengray, Hana Menase, Nur Ali Hassan, Ali Hassan, all arrested from Barentu in June 2000.
Also after the withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces, hundreds of Eritreans were targetted by the security for having talked about the futility of the war in the first place, the defeat that followed, and the tragic consequences. To mention only a few, Kafel Adem Kafel from Agordat, Mahmud Leman, and Mahmud Ali from Agordat in August 2000; Abdella Admay, Embaye Hedru, Adem Mahmud, and Abdella Idris from Gogni; Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim from Senafe; Meriem Shekait, Jaber Ismail Mahmud, and Idris Sa'adella from Hagaz in June 2000; Abdella Ramadan, Mohamed Nur Fayed, Hassan Heyabu, Idris Shubak,and Mohamed Seid Hakin from Keren in June 2000.
During the advance of the Ethiopian forces in May-June 2000, entire towns and villages were on purpose ordered out of their homes and forced to leave their property behind. Of course most of them did, but not all. A few remaind and watched Eritrean army units looting residents' houses and shops and leaving with convoys of truckloads of looted private property. When the army returned after the evacuation of the Ethiopians, the residents who had had the misfortune of witnessing the scandalous looting of Eritrean property by the Eritrean army were immediately arrested and made to disappear, presumably to block inside out stories from filtering out into the population and the outside world. Mohamed Fayed Tunga, Hashem Gayo tunga, Khedidja Gayo Tunga, Sherif Ketur Derfu, Wanin Jakoma, Samuel Adem, Hagay Omos, Dina Khamis, Marco Duba, Agad Idris, Shabi Bashay, Ale Osman, Abdella Marco are among hundreds of innocent Eritreans who also allegedly labelled as dangerous elements siding with the opposition were made to disappear in such circumstances.
These are only a few of the numerous people victimised by the oppressive and repressive policies of the Eritrean dictatorship. No mention has been made here of the atrocious terrorist record of the same organisation, especially the liquidation of intellectuals who joined its ranks and and the continued disappearance of hundreds of ELF-RC followers from among the peasantry, and the assassination of leading elements of the ELF as well as EPLF dissidents, As far as the regime in Eritrea is concerned this has become a pattern and routine practice. The ELF-RC had repeatedly issued statements and appealed to humanitarian organisations to take note of the plight of the detainees and help insure their safety and freedom and stop further abuses. These policies were not stopped inside Eritrea; they have manifested themselves on regional level as well.
UNPROVOKED USE OF FORCE AND INITIATION OF HOSTILITIES, WHICH CHARACTERISES THE ERITREAN DICTATORSHIP'S BEHAVIOUR TOWARDS THE NEIGHBOURING PEOPLES, IS THE GRAVEST VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IMAGINABLE.
Having disappointed the country and failed to bring about any positive change or improvement in the affairs of the nation, in terms of political reforms or economic development or social stability, the tyrannical regime in Eritrea has embarked on more dangerous adventures. It has triggered conflicts and military confrontations against one neighbouring country after another and set the entire region on fire. Beginning with Djibouti, and continuing with the Sudan and Yemen, it has ended up submerging the entire population in a long and tragic bloodbath with neighbouring Ethiopia. In doing so, the Eritrean dictator wanted to realise two things. On the one hand, he wanted to divert Eritrean and world public opinion away from his internal failures and the systematic human rights abuses he has all along been committing to hold on to power; and on the other, he is set on experimenting his outgrown dreams of dominance in the region. He is literally and callously gambling with the already exhausted human and material resources of the nation, exposing prospects of peace and stability in the region to inestimable dangers. Indeed, the regime has disrupted the course of development in Eritrea and the neighbouring peoples. Aptly seen as the scourge of the entire region, the Eritrean dictator has literally isolated the people of Eritrea from their neighbours and precipitated the deterioration of all aspects of life in the country. Tens of thousands of citizens have been perishing in the unjustified war against Ethiopia that Mr. Isayas decided to continue, in total affront to international law and human values. Thousands more, who have condemned the war itself and declined to take orders to go to the fronts, have disappeared in the hands of the security. The Eritrean Dictator is, indeed, committing crimes against humanity!
The state of war, more than anything else, generates a situation whereby a variety of the most painful of abuses are committed on the rights of human beings to life, security and prosperity; that is when thousands or even millions of lives and inestimable property go unaccounted for. That is why the Geneva conventions had to come to reflect and enshrine the noble values and positive aspects of mankind's civilisation in the treatment of humans also in war situations. Unfortunately, in the course of the current conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, both the warring sides have committed serious violation of human rights. Mass arrests, harassment, maltreatment, displacement and deportation of each other's civilian nationals have been made part of the war situation. We hold the Eritrean dictator particularly responsible for the tragic fate which thousands of Eritrean nationals residing particularly in Ethiopia had to meet as a consequence of the hostilities he initiated. We abhor as well the irresponsible practices he adopted and the hate campaign he launched throughout the conflict. We have in a series of statements condemned the cruelty and insensitivity with which the legal and human rights of each other's communities were handled in both Eritrea and Ethiopia. Basing on our conviction that victimisation of civilians constitutes the most lingering and painful of wounds on the victims as well as on the long-term relations of peoples, and cognisant of the inestimable social, psychological and human cost it would entail, we believe much effort needs to be made in the way of creating a wholesome understanding of the problems involved and in putting the human and legal rights of civilians residing in each other's countries in proper perspective.
THE ERITREAN REGIME, WHICH IS NO MORE THAN AN INSTRUMENT OF THE OUTGROWN POWER AMBITIONS OF THE SELF-APPOINTED HEAD OF STATE, HAS SINCE ITS ESTABLISHMENT IN 1991 EMBARKED ON ALL-OUT MILITARISATION OF THE ENTIRE NATION IN PREPARATION FOR ADVENTURIST DESIGNS IN THE REGION.
Forced recruitment became the order of the day when work and development should have been the motto. Citizens were herded to training camps and thence to war fronts by the hundreds of thousands. In the process, basic human rights continued to be violated. The following practices have been among the salient features of the recruitment campaign, particularly during the war.
1. Recruitment has been indiscriminate and illegal. Underage children have also been among the targets. People aged between 14-60 years were rounded up and herded to training camps and forced to carry arms; these included underage children, mothers, priests, prisoners, and the aged. Handicapped ex-freedom fighters were directly sent to the fronts for good.
2. Recruitment was carried out at gunpoint. Villages and workplaces, schools, residential areas, churches, etc. were cordoned off by the military and sweeping arrests carried out; people were bundled on to trucks and taken away. Those who resisted were beaten up, tortured or even shot down at the spot. Those who, by any chance, managed to escape were hunted out and eliminated. To cite a case in point, the Word of Life Church (Kale Heywet) Church was in 28.11.99 Sunday, cordoned off by army units; people were ordered to stop praying, herded out and bundled away for training.
3. Recruitment was also carried out by calling for meetings or by promising distribution of relief food. Meetings were announced and attendance made compulsory, serving warnings that absence would entail punishment. The crowds would then be cordoned off and bundled away without any explanation whatsoever. The fake call made to villagers in Addi Ibrihim for relief food distribution could be cited as a case in point. To cite another typical case, 60 shepherds were in the beginning of October 1999 forcibly taken away for service; the herds of cattle they tended were dispersed and lost, some falling prey to thieves, hyenas etc.
4. Recruitment has all along been effected in its most treacherously, tragic and abusive form through the promotion of the deportation of Eritreans residing in neighbouring countries. To cite a case, EPLF undercover informers were assigned in Saudi Arabia in particular to collect information about Eritreans residing there illegally, or whose residence permits or passports expired. The regime's agents were instructed to pass all information to the Saudi authorities and also level false accusations to ensure their deportation to Eritrea and into the recruitment trap. The deportation policy of the Saudis was thus sinisterly exploited in the interest of the Eritrean regime's agenda. Deportees were received in Massawa and transferred from boats to trucks heading to the training camps. Hundreds are reported to have been victimised in this manner.
5. The Deportation of Eritreans from Ethiopia was systematically and cold-bloodedly instigated and promoted by the Eritrean Government with the aim of bringing in more manpower, or rather cannonfodder, from among Eritreans residing in Ethiopia. To that end, statements were repeated made by the self-appointed president of Eritrea and others in the regime calculated to spark and feed the security concerns of the authorities in Ethiopia. Time and again, the dictator boasted he had undercover commando forces in Ethiopia capable of serious acts of sabotage in the heart of Addis Ababa. Those threats were well heard and compounded so sinisterly with Ethiopian security concerns
to keep up the arrest of Eritreans and the deportation measures. In addition, Ethiopian nationals residing in Eritrea were maltreated, dispossessed and thrown into concentration camps in malaria-infested areas of the western lowlands, where they were beaten up and tortured to deliberately force them leave the country while sinisterly refraining from announcing deportation as an official measure. This was intended to deny human rights groups the overt evidence of deportation as an official policy, thus avoiding condemnation by the international community. In addition, they have made sure that the concentration camps are not made public, a situation which would circumvent possible demands for visits by concerned human rights circles including the ICRC etc. (or "intruders" to use the language of the Eritrean Government). Leakage of information about the maltreatment and fate of many Ethiopians in Eritrea was successfully blocked, and visits by independent parties denied. Even Amnesty international which has often been most successful in the collection of inside-out stories of human rights abuses was outsmarted and securely kept in the dark by the regime, and left to report about Ethiopian deportation measures which, though declared and relatively transparent, have been fraught with abuses to the human and legal rights of thousands of Eritreans targeted by the measures.
5. As part of its total militarisation programme, the regime in Eritrea has prohibited from travelling abroad all citizens over ten and those who have not fulfilled military service, thus putting the people hostage in a tight cordon.
6. Military training is imposed under the harshest of conditions. The training camps are situated in remote malaria-infested and uninhabitable corners of the country. Recruits are not provided with adequate food and medical care. In addition they are maltreated and tortured particularly when they resist the training programme. During the 10th round of military training alone, 473 persons aged 40 years and above died in the training camps due to such causes and hardships.
The fate of thousands of citizens who were forcibly recruited and sent to the war fronts is reminiscent of and far surpasses the fascist practices in the annals of recent and ancient history.
1. Reports have emerged that hundereds of forcibly recruited soldiers were summarily executed for leaving their trenches during the May-June 2000 war with Ethiopia. Retreating units of the Eritrean army were machine-gunned by special commando forces who were assigned in rear trenches for the purpose.
2. Others who had retreated to the Sudan were on their return to Eritrea after the war summarily accused of treason and sent to rot in remote Red Sea islands.
3. Thousands of forcibly recruited soldiers have up until the writing of these lines been confined in forced labour camps (in manual gold mining) in the west of the country, and particularly as punishment for what the regime called failure to fulfil national duty, a defamatory accusation normally levelled against those who are deemed dangerous to the power interests of the one-man rule in the country.
4. Over five thousand Eritrean youth who rejected military service have been detained in Dankalia, Gela'alo concentration camps to be tortured in forced labour. There, they are ordered to dig holes and then refill them, carry boulders of stones, heap them up into hills and viseversa. Those who resisted or showed incapacity to do so were beaten with cruelty, flogged and mocked on. The aim is to let them toil, get demoralised and dehumanised, rot, demaciate and collapse. Many have already died during such ordeal in those camps. Residents in the surrounding areas were "informed" that the detainees are Ethiopian prisoners of war and that escapees should be handed over to the SS units in the camps.
THE REGIME IN ERITREA COMMITTED DURNG THE MAY-JUNE 2000 WAR THE MOST SCATHING ABUSES AND OPEN MOCKERY ON THE RIGHTS OF HUMANS TO LIFE, PROTECTION AND SAFETY, IN A COUNTRY SUPPOSED TO BE MEMBER OF THE UNITED NATIONS ORGANISATION, AND AS SUCH UNDER OBLIGATION TO ABIDE BY THE PRINCIPLES AND LAWS THAT GOVERN THE BEHAVIUOR OF ALL GOVERNMENTS WITH THEIR CITIZENS, RESIDENT FOREIGNERS AND WITH OTHER GOVERNMENTS.
1.During the two-year war, most Ethiopians were rounded up and thrown in concerntration camps in remote malaria-infested locations that could rightly be termed as killing camps. Many of these were maltreated, starved and left to meet their death under the most appalling conditions. Those who survived came out or those camps crippled.
2. With the flareup of the May-June war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and in the light of the Ethiopian advance deep into Eritrea, the secret police of the regime indiscriminately arrested almost all Tigreans, and to add to its already shameful record of human rights, gave green light to acts of mobbing and lynching of innocent law-abiding longtime resident Ethiopians living scattered in the country. Being ethnically selective, that is, sinisterly targetting those of Tegrean origin, the killings amounted to acts of genocidal nature whose impact would remain indelibly engraved in the memory of coming generations. Those innocent humans all of a sudden found themselves in the midst of PFDJ gangs that stoned them to death right before the bystanding police who laughed, mocked and in many cases joined in the barbarous acts of lynching of innocent Tegreans who resided in Keren, Asmara, Massawa and elsewhere.
Those crimes were a direct affront to the ideals of the Eritrean revolution, the human values of the Eritrean society, and, by all measures, crimes committed against humanity that deseve utmost international condemnation.
THE ERITREAN REGIME CONTINUES TO EXTORT INCREASING SUMS OF MONEY FROM ERITREANS LIVING ABROAD THROUGH INTIMIDATION, BLACKMAIL AND OTHER FORMS OF PRESSURE.
War or no war, Eritreans living abroad have since 1991 been illegally taxed by the dictatorship. Now more than ever, they are being subjected to all kinds of pressure, intimidation and blackmail to surrender their income to the ruling party to presumably fund the war efforts of the regime. They are also required to express their loyalty to the dictator, albeit not convinced, by acting the role of cheer groups for his policies, regardless of whether they are positive or not. Eritreans wanting to visit their country have to buy their way at exorbitant prices. Once they are inside the country, they get routine rubber stamp service, if at all, only after they produce receipts of payments they made at their respective embassies abroad and after they undergo similar psychological torture and extortion. They have to buy their citizenship as well two or three times per year with large sums of money, and on and on. Those who, according to tradition, have to attend funerals, marriage ceremonies of family members or those who have to attend hearings of courts relating cases of inheritance they are involved in, or those who after long years in exile long to see an ailing parent, or those who, according to tradition, have to take their dead for burial at home are the likely victims of the sharks at the regime's embassies. More often than not, utmost extortion is the "sympathy or co-operation" they get from the regime.
Peace rallies, opposition festivals, meetings and cultural activities held abroad faced physical threats of violence and disruption through acts of mobbing organised by the Eritrean regime's embassies, which, far from discharging their duties according to established norms of international behaviour, have turned into caves of terrorist thugs. Attempts made in Kassel, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Frankfurt as well as Washington, San Diego in the USA are cases in point. Those were, by all measures, terrorist moves that constituted blunt affronts to the laws and norms of the states concerned. We believe that such dangerous developments should evoke serious concern in the West's democracies, as the Eritrean regime's terrorist gestures do really pose a threat to the security and liberty that characterise their institutions, as much as they infringe on the rights of refugees, residents and exiled opponents who are living under their protection.
The toll which mass and indiscriminate militarisation and the resumption of hostilities have inflicted on the nation has been inestimable; it has drained the country as a whole, and most households of all productive manpower and led to more impoverishment. The senseless war has already produced thousands of handicapped and wounded soldiers who, like disposable material, have been abandoned by the regime and now depend largely on the meagre resources of their families. In most cases, mothers had to shoulder alone all the burden of feeding their children and a handicapped husband, son or daughter. The number of those killed in the fighting count in the scores of thousands; this has turned the country into a land of the widowed and orphaned; so much so, the overwhelming majority of households have been rendered virtually destitute. With no other choice left, many had to go to the towns to beg for their daily bread. All this is happening despite the dictator's insensitive talk about "wartime economic growth and prosperity in Eritrea!"
VIOLATIONS OF RIGHTS BY THE DICTATORSHIP DURING THE ETHIO-ERITREAN WAR HAVE NOT SPARED ANIMALS EITHER.
The regime in Eritrea has repeatedly taken away thousands of cattle, donkeys and camels from their rightful owners and regularly used them to clear land mines (as landmines-fodder, so to say). With all imaginable cruelty and callousness, hundreds of cattle were herded into areas mined in the course of the war, to pave safe passage for advancing troops.
The PFDJ has turned to the exiled opposition leaders in particular, and members and supporters in general and resumed cross-border terrorist operations, following its ignominous defeat at the hands of the Ethiopian Army in May-June 2000. In a blatant affront to basic human values, the regime in Eritrea sent killing squads into the Sudan and committed atrocious crimes on the right of a number of refugees to life and safety.
The PFDJ masterminded the military assault on the bordering Sudanese town of Kassala in which also units of the SPLA got involved. Quarters that the regime considered bastions of the Eritrean opposition were the main targets of the operation. Over 72 poor innocent Eritreans were bayonetted and killed; their houses were looted in acts reminiscent of callous primitive behavour. The massacre of Kassala constitutes an affront to all human values, rights and civility and to all international norms of behaviour that deserves international condemnation.
A unit of PFDJ killers on 5 January 2001 crossed the border and entered Shegherab, a refugee camp in Eastern Sudan, and attacked with gunshots and handgrenades the family of Adem Kheir, a member of the ELF. In the attack Sabrin Adem, his six months infant and seven years old Muntasar Adem were immediatly killed, while Intisar Adem 11, Mohamed 9, and Abubaker 6, were severely wounded and survived the barbarous act. The killers were arrested before they crossed back into Eritrea; they admitted they were from the Eritrean security force and on assignment by the regime in Eritrea.
Soon after that operation, another PFDJ killing squad crossed the border and fired shots that targetted a member of the Salvation Front. By a narrow chance the operation failed and survived the attack; the perpetrators made it back into Eritrea.
PFDJ thugs are also reported to have in October abducted from the Sudan. Tekle Ghile, an Eritrean national who was formerly an employee at the Eritrean Postoffice. He was clandestinely taken into Eritrea and thrown in jail.
A student by the name of Gherghis Gulbet Mohamed was among a group of friends who were also abducted from the Sudan and taken to Gahtelay, Eritrea, and thrown in prison under cruel conditions. As a result, his health deteriorated; halfdead, he was subsequently handed over to his parents on 29 October 2000.
The regime in Eritrea stepped up its grabbing of land in the rural and urban centres, advertising in the meantime to sell it for hard currency to Eritreans in the diaspora. Already languishing in the midst of a state of displacement and famine, the targetted poor peasants stood to lose not only the present but also all hope for the future. The insensitive, cruel and illegitimate act of the regime stemmed not out of any alternative programme of development but out of sheer greed and appetite for exploitation, the gravest imaginable official corruption of a mafia-like cartel in power and constituded gross violation to he right to life and subsistence.
Such being the gloomy human rights situation in Eritrea, we repeat our appeal to the United Nations Organisationm, the OAU, the League of Arab StatesEU, concerned political forces, human rights organisations and all peace-loving peoples to condemn the systematic violations of basic human rights and the atrocities contiuously committed by the tyrannical regime in Eritrea and to condemn the abuses committed by the Eritrean regime on Eritrean citizens as well as on resident nationals of neighbouring peoples.
We call on all concerned to raise their voices on behalf of Eritrean political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and apply their pressure for their safety and freedom.
We also call on all peace, justice and democracy loving peoples, political forces and concerned governments to stand in solidarity with the democratic movement of the oppressed people of Eritrea for freedom and human dignity.
International Relations Office / Human Rights Department/ ELF-RC
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