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Sweden 'legally bound' to seek Dawit Isaak release

Sweden 'legally bound' to seek Dawit Isaak release

Published: 19 Oct 2010 08:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Oct 2010 08:43 GMT+02:00

Lawyers and activists argued on Monday that Sweden and the EU are legally bound to work harder to secure the release of Dawit Isaak, an Eritrean-Swedish journalist who has been held in Asmara for nearly a decade without trial.

"In our opinion, Sweden and the EU have not lived up to their obligation to use all possible legal and diplomatic means to protect the basic human rights of Swedish citizen and EU citizen Dawit Isaak," Percy Bratt of Swedish law firm Bratt & Feinsilber told reporters in Stockholm.

Along with the jailed Swedish-Eritrean journalist's brother, Esayas Isaak, and the Swedish chapter of Reporters without Borders, the law firm on Monday presented a legal motion and a letter to the Swedish foreign ministry stressing its legal obligations in the case.

They were scheduled to present a similar petition to the European Union parliament in Brussels on Tuesday.

Isaak was arrested in September 2001 along with a dozen newspaper owners,

editors and journalists accused of being Ethiopian spies.

Eritrea fought a 30-year independence war with Ethiopia that ended in 1991 although tensions erupted into a two-and-a-half year border conflict in 1998.

Isaak's friends and family have had no contact with him for years and it remains unclear where he is being held, although Swedish media quoted a former guard earlier this year saying the journalist was at the high-security Eraeiro secret prison near Asmara and appeared to be in poor health.

Media and activists in Sweden and abroad have long demanded Isaak's release, with several leading dailies in the Scandinavian country listing a daily count of how long Isaak has spent in captivity.

Sweden's foreign ministry meanwhile has been trying to secure his freedom through diplomatic channels, with so-called "silent diplomacy," but to no avail.

The legal motion filed Monday stresses that the European Convention not only makes it illegal for a state to violate its citizens' human rights, but also entails an obligation to ensure that the human rights of its citizens are not violated.

This obligation even stretches to citizens living abroad in countries that are not signatory to the convention, according to the motion, referring to prior rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

Isaak's brother Esayas told AFP Monday he hoped the legal motion would help bring about a turning-point in the case.

"I obviously would like to see Sweden put its foot down and find an alternative to this silent diplomacy, because it has not given any results yet, and I don't know if it ever will," he said.

Björn Tunbäck with Reporters Without Borders agreed.

"There is nothing wrong with silent diplomacy, but one needs to acknowledge when one reaches the end of the road," he told AFP.

Sweden and the EU "do not just have a moral but also a legal responsibility. They can't just keep saying that they're trying through silent diplomacy. They have an obligation to show that they are trying everything possible," he said.

Lawyer Bratt pointed out that the EU pays a significant amount of aid money to Eritrea, with no conditions attached regarding Dawit Isaak, which could be used as leverage, while Tunbaeck suggested among other actions that Eritrean leaders' assets in Europe could be seized and they could be barred from visiting the continent.

Esayas Isaak agreed. "I think money talks in this situation," he said.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

08:10 October 19, 2010 by star10
How can the EU give millions of Euros for a regime that keeps its citizen imprisoned? The EU has been pouring out millions of dollars that gives neither to EU citizens nor to ordinary people in the receiving countries. Only the despot dictators benefit. Time for EU to withdraw all its aid to Eritrean dispot/gangster unless he releases all political prisoners. At least we should get some humaniterian goal for the money we pour into the dispot's pocket.
08:59 October 19, 2010 by Rishonim
Sweden tend to have a screwed up agenda. Had Dawit Isaak been a terrorist, the Swedes diplomacy would have been in full force paying ransom and lobbying for his release. (Mehdi Ghezali and the rest of the local swedish fedayeens).
10:59 October 19, 2010 by Strongbow
Why doesn't the Swedish people besides journalists care about him? Because he was a dual citizen and traveled to Eritrea on his Eritrean passport. Citizenship is not some free get out of jail-card.
10:59 October 19, 2010 by asian369
ok.. yes.. we know that... BUT.. He is.....
11:27 October 19, 2010 by free_in_sweden
I am an Eritrean refugee here in Sweden and what is going on in Eritrea is unbelievable and beyond imagination. The regime in Eritrea doesn't believe in 'diplomacy' as a concept let alone 'silent diplomacy'.

I have been in Eritrean jails and some of my family members and many friends and colleagues are there in prisons for long years without trials, no proper medication and even no one know where or if they are even alive.

I only read news about detainee being dead and to be honest with you it is very inhuman the conditions of prison there. Just imagine being in prison in a metal shipping container where temperature is over 45 degree C.

Swedish diplomacy attempts to contain the situation silently and solve it but the DIA (Dictator Isias Afwerki) is more of a gangster than a president.

Dawit Isaac symbolizes all the family members friends and colleagues who are died in prison or while attempting to escape from Eritrea and shot by the regime's soldiers or died of thirst in the deserts or sank in the Red or Mediterranean Sea to escape the hell DIA has created in Eritrea.

So if Dawit Isaak is released it seems according to the basic mathematics of DIA that all the relatives of other detainees would claim the same right and that is what he doesn't want.

All I hope that he stay alive.
12:15 October 19, 2010 by RobinHood
Thanks Free in Sweden for the usueful information.

Eritrea's disfunctional condition is difficult for a westerner to understand. Poor Percy Bratt seems to have no idea how bad things are down there. The usual tools of diplomacy are useless, simply moving an embassador between the airport to his/her embassy is a feat. The rule of law has collapsed, militiamen toting AK47's set the rules.

The locals live in fear, and people (not only locals) who annoy what little government there is, tend to "disappear". Swedish diplomacy has at least kept Davit Isaak alive in jail since 2001; an unusually long life span for Eritrea' penal system.

The decision makers in Eritrae have no need for diplomacy or law, and find other country's opinions irrelevant to their own needs (those are the only needs that matter to them). They can put anyone they want in jail, without fair trial, and the rest of the world can go hang itself.
12:19 October 19, 2010 by Swedesmith
I'm gonna cross Eritrae off my list of "places I'd like to visit" list right now. I'm also praying for Mr. Isaak's release.
14:51 October 19, 2010 by Kevtravels
He is a Swedish citizen and needs to be rescued ASAP by his govt. Maybe this is crazy to say but why doesn't the govt send in SSG to rescue him? It's clear diplomacy won't work with the Eritrean regime. Or are they hoping to exchange millions for his release? A dozen special forces could do the trick.
15:29 October 19, 2010 by Syftfel
This is yet another example of an issue concerning "dual citizenship". (see also the Geert Wilders story). When a citizen of a country (Eritrea) violates the laws of that country, diplomatic decorum dictates that he subject to he laws of such country, regardless of any other citizenship (Sweden) he may hold. This is true here and true everywhere else in the world. Dawit is considered a citizen of Eritrea for the purpose its law enforcement. We may not like the laws of the "other" country, but that's a different topic. Hence it would be totally inappropriate for Sweden to excert any form of pressure on Eritrea other than to write a "letter of concern" to the Eritrean government. The story might have been different had Dawit abandoned his Eritrean passport when he became a citizen of Sweden, as then Sweden could excert diplomatic pressure. Sweden should stay out of this one according to all known international agreements in the matter. This story should also serve as a lesson to other immigrants in Sweden who think that it may be "convenient" with two passports. Think of the potential consequences when you visit your previous homeland!
18:31 October 19, 2010 by tesfaldetabraha
ilike the word diplomacy thats the eritrean president was talking some one have to take the risponsiplty for dawit isack so intemidation or ather talke is not goint to work let his lowyers put the evidence talke nicely insted of bulliying then we will see what hapen awet nihafash
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