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EU resolution urges Eritrea to free long-jailed journalists

From left, European Parliament members Judith Sargentini, Charles Tannock, Ana Gomes, and Olle Schmidt call for the release of Eritrean political prisoners. (European Parliament)

Eritrea was on the hot seat Thursday in Strasbourg and Brussels. Ten years after a massive crackdown on dissent in Asmara that included the arrests of 11 independent journalists, European institutions have signalled that they are weary of President Isaias Afeworki's repression. 

Meeting in Strasbourg for its monthly plenary session, the European Parliament adopted a strongly worded resolution urging Eritrea to "lift the ban on the country's independent press and to immediately release independent journalists and all others who have been jailed simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

The most important political groups--the European People's Party, the Socialists and Democrats, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, the Greens, the Conservatives and Reformists and the United Left--had cosponsored the resolution, a clear sign of their exasperation at being constantly rebuffed by the Eritrean regime. The resolution denounces the "manifest lack of cooperation from the Eritrean authorities, despite repeated appeals by the European Union and international human rights organizations."

This initiative has been given more clout thanks to the statement published on the same day by the usually very diplomatic Catherine Ashton, vice president of the European Commission and the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy. "The EU," she said, "remains deeply concerned that the government of the state of Eritrea continues to violate its human rights obligations. The EU urges the government of the state of Eritrea to release these prisoners unconditionally and make public all information on the whereabouts of these prisoners."

The EU minister and members of the European Parliament highlighted the case of Dawit Isaac. This journalist, who holds dual Swedish and Eritrean citizenship, has been detained since September 23, 2001, and the Asmara authorities have stubbornly refused to provide information on his whereabouts.

In a speech devoted to the situation in Eritrea, the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek of Poland, expressed his hope "that Dawit Isaak is alive. That he will be free. That he will rejoin his family. That we will not have to observe another anniversary as this one." His declaration is all the more significant since Poland is currently assuming the rotating Presidency of the European Union.

Will these resolutions and statements achieve their objectives? The EU is a major donor to Eritrea and, as it states in its official documents, it has been holding "political dialogue with its government on issues of common interest." This provides Brussels with some substantive leverage.

Referring to the Cotonou Agreement, which bases EU trade relations with its African partners on a human rights clause, the resolution calls on the Council of the European Union, the center of power in Brussels, "to more actively use the dialogue mechanisms in order to urgently find solutions that will lead to the liberation of political prisoners."

To sharpen its message and show that it is determined to bring changes, it also called on the council to "ensure that EU development assistance does not benefit the government of Eritrea but is targeted strictly at the needs of the Eritrean people."

(Reporting from Brussels)

 

September 16, 2011 5:51 PM ET | | Comments (5)

Comments

The political dialogue meetings have been going on for years. Ask anyone who attends and they will tell you they go nowhere. Diplomats in Asmara are unanimous (privately) that there will be no progress on the political front. The annual statement by the EU on the 'G15' political detainees has become a sad ritual, and a joke among the small expat community in Asmara. Particularly so, given the 122 million in aid recently approved by the EU, which goes direct to the government. When does a failure to act resolutely become complicity? I think the EU have crossed the line.

The dictator in Eritrea is killer and abuser of his oun people by far worse than Libyan dictator Muamar Gadafi. The difference is Eritrea doesn't have enough oil that will draw the attention of the superpowers to the killing and slaughter of thousands of Eriotreans. EU Parliament please act by your concience and pressure the paranoid dictator in Eritrea to comply in rspecting basic human rights.

Thank you.

The EU resolution is part of the coordinated political and diplomatic conspiracy against Eritrea that has been going on for some time now. The US lead western countries seem to be in high gear to defame and weaken Eritrea to advance their recolenzation agenda of Africa using their slaves like Meles Zenawi who are ready to serve them so that he can stay in power for longer time with their help. First you started attacking Eritrea by passing sanction based on pure lies -this did not work, then you sent mercenaries disguised as tourists and pirate hunters to commit crime against the state of Eritrea which also failed, then recently you sent Amenity international coordinated criminal group with the mission to cause chaos in Eritrea to create similar situation like what is in Somalia which ended up in failure and exposure of Amenity international’s true color. It is absurd the EU passes resolution to condemn Eritrea because of one person‘s imprisonment when they did not bother to condemn Ethiopia for violating the Eritrean sovereignty and for refusing to accept the EEBC ruling which was final and binding. You need to know that the entire population of Eritrea is suffering because of your inaction to force the Ethiopian regime to follow international law. You have encouraged the Ethiopian regime to continuously harass and terrorize the Eritrean people by threatening to start another war and economic sabotage using sanctions blessed by the US and EU. This resolution is laughable and cheap resolution when the EU cannot even respect its own signature as the guarantor of the Algeres agreements between Eritrea and Ethiopia. You need to stop playing childish games and focus on serious matters to be trusty worthy

My brother Zeroem is right

Learn from him

First of all i want to start with accepting that what the Eu parliament is saying is partially true. Yes there are many eritreans who are imprisoned with out any trial for what they are accused of. But i would not say that is the big ISSUE that the EU parliament should focus more. The EU as one of the guaranteers of the Algeries agreement is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the final and bindding decision given by the international border commisssion. This border confilct with Ethiopia costs more that 70,000 lives ( based on international media.... we eritreans and ethiopians knows how much actual lives were lost during this war), but how can they ask about these few people who are imprisoned when there is a big issue like the border that took that many amount of lives is still pending.


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