Places of detention in Eritrea

By: Abdelaziz Yassin

Aderser, near Sawa. Underground cells used. (USSD report for 2005) [4f] (p2, section 1c)

Adi Abeto army prison near Asmara. Incident of 4 November 2004, where prisoners were killed trying to escape after a wall was pushed over. (AI 2005) [5a]; (USSD report for 2004) [4e] (p1-2) AI reported that Adi Abeto was the initial detention facility for the Maltese returns of 2002: women, children and those over the military service age of 40 were detained for several weeks, but the military deserters were held incommunicado and tortured, before being transferred to Dahlek Kebir. [5c] (p23) Shipping containers reported as being used as punishment blocks in this facility. (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16)

Adi Keih town prison. AI has reported this prison was used as an initial detention facility for draft evaders. (AI 28 July 2005) [5h]

Agip, Asmara. The location, according to Reporters Without Borders, of eight of the nine state media journalists arrested in November 2006. (Awate, 3 December 2006) [50s] "Located behind the 'Capitol' cinema and opposite the presidential palace, this complex is 'where the police take detainess to torture them before transferring them to their final destination,' a former detainee told Reporters Without Borders." [50s] (p2)

Alla, Decamhare town. Shipping containers reported as being used as punishment blocks in this facility. (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16)

Assab military prison, near the port of Assab. Human Rights Without Frontiers reported on 7 May 2003 that 74 soldiers were detained in Assab prison. [68a] The initial query claimed that the prison was known to house up to 5000 prisoners and that it held soldiers that "ran afoul of their government". [68a]

Dahlek Kebir, Dahlak islands. Detention and prison facilities built on the main Dahlek island in the Red Sea, with a capacity for 800 prisoners, and comprising of eight large sheetmetal buildings. (AI May 2004). [5c] (p16) It is where many of the detainees from the returns by Malta and Libya are thought to be imprisoned (HRW 2005) [29c] AI reported that in December 2002, 95 civilians and 85 conscript deserters of the Maltese returns arrived in Dahlek Kebir, with the civilians transferred back to the mainland in July 2003. [5c] (p23)

Eiraeiro, Filfil-Selomuna area north of the Asmara-Massawa road. A 'secret' prison for political prisoners (, 31 August 2006) [50m]. It was purpose built in 2003, receiving the G15/G11 political prisoners from Embatkala in June 2003. It is reported to be comprised of 5 main blocks, with 2 main cell blocks, and 62 rooms used as cells; the standard cell size is 3 x 3 meters. [50m] (p2) The article claims there are 36 political prisoners, and names most of them, giving their cell numbers. [50m] (p2,3) Conditions are basic, and prisoners are chained and in solitary confinement. [50m] (p3-4) One hundred and fifty guards and staff operate the prison; the guards are heavily vetted and monitored. [50m] (p4-5) Reporters Without Borders, as reported in an IRIN news article of 16 November 2006, adds: that "at least 62 political prisoners" are held at Eiraeiro; that nine detainees had died as a "result of 'various illnesses, psychological pressure or suicide'." and that three of the deaths were of journalists detained since September 2001. [19a]

Gahteley military camp, reception centre for new recruits. (Awate article, 26 November 2004) [50e ]

Galaalo military camp, Red Sea coast. Deaths of conscripted students reported in August 2001 while performing forced labour. (AI May 2004) [5c] (p20)

Gedem prison, 40 km south of Massawa. It is alleged to be the site of forced labour in 2004, with the construction of a naval base, numbering 400 prisoners who received minimal food and water, no medical attention after injury and the use of confinement in shipping containers in excessive temperatures as punishment. (Ehrag section,, 16 June 2006) [50 h]

Haddis Ma'askar. An army prison equipped with underground cells (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16)

Mai Edaga, Decamhare town. Shipping containers reported as being used as punishment blocks in this facility. (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16)

Mai Serwa military camp near Asmara. The camp is used for the detention of draft evaders, and uses metal shipping containers and underground cells. (AI 28 July 2005) [5h] Human Rights Without Frontiers locates Mai Serwa as near Keren, with the initial query stating that it is three storeys high with the main prison built underground. (Canadian IRB 14 July 2003) [68a] AI reported in December 2005 that Helen Berhane, the Rema church gospel singer, "… is held at Mai Serwa military camp near Asmara, in a metal shipping container with little ventilation that alternates between hot and cold temperature extremes and has no washing or toilet facilities." A Release Eritrea briefing, posted 25 June 2006, adds that Helen Berhane had been caught listening to a radio and "As punishment she was transferred to an underground cell, where she was kept chained for two weeks." [31e] Helen Berhane was relea sed from prison in October 2006 (Release-Eritrea, 2 November 2006) [31h] (AI, 3 November 2006) [5o] ( CSW, 3 November 2006) [67c] The AI report of 3 November 2006 notes that initially, Ms Berhane was hospitalised in Asmara, where she was confined to a wheelchair "due to the injuries she sustained to her feet and legs". [5o]

Mai Temenei. An army prison equipped with underground cells (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16)

Sawa Military Training Camp, near the Sudan border. The complex includes the prison camp of Brigade Six, comprising of temporary barracks built on a hilltop to the right of the main camp. According to the testimony of an ex-prisoner reproduced by, "Sawa prison is made entirely of tin material" and thus insufferably hot in the day and cold at night. It comprises of twelve tin barrack blocks. Malnutrition, poor hygiene and lack of medical attention reported, with high levels of infections and diseases associated with poor living conditions. (Ehrag section,, 25 April 2006) [50 h] Photos of Sawa in 2000 and 2004 are to found in slide shows on the website of the National Union of Eritrean Youth Students (NUEYS) The USSD report for 2005 notes there were alleged cases of the rape and sexual abuse of female recruits by Sawa instructors. [4f] (p2, section 1c)

Sembel prison, Asmara. An officially-designated prison for political prisoners. (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16)

Tehadasso army prison. Shipping containers reported as being used as punishment blocks in this facility. (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16)

Tessenei military prison, classed as 'rehabilitation centre'. Allegations of torture, beatings and general abuse reported in this facility. (AI May 2004) [5c] (p18)

"Tract B" military prison, Asmara. It comprises of a former US storage facility near Asmara airport. (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16) In late 2002, some EPLF veterans among the Maltese returnees were separated out at Adi Abeto and then sent to Tract B prison. [5c] (p23)

Tsererat prison, Asmara. "Mainly for EPLF veterans, held in underground cells." (AI May 2004) [5c] (p16)

Wengel Mermera (Wenjel Mirmera) investigation centre. Sources refer to this centre as being where most of the detainees of Asmara mass arrests are held, such as, according to Release Eritrea "… the dungeon-like inner prison in Asmara where many of Eritrea's prominent political prisoners are also believed to be incarcerated." [31] The AI May 2004 report adds that it is a special security section in the 2nd police station, Asmara. [5c] (p16) Compass Direct, April 2006, maintains that the 70 muslims arrested for protesting about the Government's imposition of a new chief mufti were detained in Wengel Mermera in one cell.

Wi'a/Wea detention centre. A desert detention camp built on the Red Sea coast. Temperatures in this area are often over 40 degrees centigrade. 121 men, arrested during the mass arrests on 28 May 2005 at the Meserete/Full Gospel wedding, are still reported as being in detention in Wi'a. [46b] (p2) The camp mainly processes youths detained in roundups; the reports of the February 2006 giffa indicate that the Anseba region high school students were sent to Wi'a. [50j] On 10 June 2005, a mass escape was attempted, and the authorities shot and killed 161 youths. [4f] (p1, section 1a) (USSD report for 2005)

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