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ERITREA

Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for ‘torture and kidnapping’

Sweden's chapter of Reporters Without Borders has filed a complaint accusing Eritrea's regime of human rights abuses over the imprisonment of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak in 2001.

Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for 'torture and kidnapping'
A sign from a September 2011 demonstration for Dawit Isaak's release
The complaint was directed at Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and seven other high ranking political leaders, including Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed.
   
Handed over to Swedish police by RSF and Isaak's brother, the complaint accused them of “crimes against humanity, enforced disappearance, torture and kidnapping”.
   
It was also signed by human rights advocates like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
   
On September 23, 2001, Isaak was arrested shortly after the Eritrean newspaper he founded, Setit, published articles demanding political reforms.   
 
According to RSF, he and his colleagues detained at the same time are now the journalists who have been imprisoned the longest in the world.
 
 
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Isaak had fled to Sweden in 1987 during Eritrea's struggle against Ethiopia which eventually led to independence in 1993. He returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape.
   
RSF ranks Eritrea as the world's third most repressive country when it comes to press freedom, behind North Korea and Turkmenistan.
   
Similar complaints have been filed before, including in 2014 when a new law took effect in Sweden enabling the prosecution for such crimes even if committed elsewhere in the world.
   
The prosecutor-general at the time concluded that while there were grounds to suspect a crime and open an investigation, doing so “would diminish the possibility that Dawit Isaak would be freed.”
   
Bjorn Tunback, coordinator for RSF Sweden's work on the Dawit Isaak case, said they hoped this time would be different after Foreign Minister Ann Linde last year said that despite repeated calls for Isaak's release “no clear changes are yet to be noted in Eritrea.”
   
Tunback said the minister's statements indicated that diplomatic channels had been exhausted.
   
“Diplomacy has its course, but when that doesn't lead anywhere, there is also the legal route,” Tunback told AFP.
   
“The law is there to protect individuals… and that is what we're testing now.”

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DAWIT ISAAK

Dawit Isaak ‘alive despite rumours’: ambassador

Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak is still alive in Eritrean jail, the country's ambassador to Israel has claimed in a conversation with a Swedish newspaper.

Dawit Isaak 'alive despite rumours': ambassador

Swedish-Eritrean Isaak has spent twelve years behind bars in his country of origin, with media campaigns in Sweden launched to highlight his plight and demand his release falling on deaf ears. Debate has long focused on whether Isaak had stayed alive, something which Eritrea's ambassador to Israel, Tesfamariam Tekeste Debbas, has now claimed is the case.

"There's talk but those are just rumours. He is OK," Debbas told the Expressen newspaper.

Pressed to confirm his statement that Isaak was alive, Debbast responded.

"Sure."

Isaak fled to Sweden in 1987 during Eritrea's war of succession from Ethiopia but returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape in his recently independent homeland.

The father of three worked as a cleaner in order to support himself and was granted Swedish citizenship in 1992.

But his life changed forever when he arrested on September 2001, not long after he published a series of articles demanding political reforms in a paper he founded in the country.

The diabetic journalist is believed to be in the infamous Eiraeiro prison near Asmara, where a number of other prisoners are known to have died of maltreatment or to have committed suicide.

The Eritriean ambassador underlined that he did not have extensive knowledge of the case, but also was quick to point out that the Eritrean authorities do not consider Isaak's Swedish nationality important.

"I don't know everything about every person in jail," he said. "But I can tell you that this guy is Eritrean, not Swedish. When he comes (to Eritrea) and does not follow the country's laws he must be punished."

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