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New revelations about Eiraeiro prison camp; journalist Seyoum Tsehaye held in hellish conditions

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of a 30 January 2008 RSF report:

New revelations about Eiraeiro prison camp - "Journalist Seyoum Tsehaye is in cell No. 10 of block A01"

Reporters Without Borders urges countries attending this week's three-day African Union summit to intercede with Eritrea. It also calls on the European Union to adopt targeted sanctions against those responsible for the prison.

Independent journalist Seyoum Tsehaye, the most recent winner of the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France press freedom prize, is still alive and is being held in a secret prison camp called "Eiraeiro," located near the village of Gahtelay in a mountainous desert region north of the Asmara-Massawa road. Seyoum is in cell No. 10 of block A01, which is reserved for the most sensitive political prisoners.

Reporters Without Borders learned these and other details this month from an Eritrean who has had access to the prison, where many political leaders are held. The source must remain anonymous for his protection.

According to this source, Seyoum was transferred to Eiraeiro in about 2003. He was seen being beaten by guards a year or two after arriving in the camp. Very agitated, with his head shaved and a long beard, he rebelled several times against the guards in charge of him, refusing the prison food and repeating: "I did my duty," "it is my responsibility" and "I don't care if I die here."

(. . . )

An African gulag

Barefoot, under escort and strictly forbidden to talk to, or even look at, the other detainees or guards they pass on the way, the prisoners enter the camp proper, which is surrounded by a four-metre-high wall and are taken to one of the three buildings that hold the cells.

(. . . )


The prison camp known as Eiraeiro is a disgrace for Eritrea and Africa. The leaders attending the three-day African Union summit that begins on 31 January must not turn a blind eye to the fact that the Eritrean government acts with extraordinary cruelty towards all those it regards as a potential threat to its survival.

In the light of this information, Reporters Without Borders recommends that:

- The governments of the African Union member states and the leading democratic nations summon the Eritrean ambassador in each of their capitals to express their revulsion at the inhuman treatment of political prisoners and to request their release. The foreign ministries should also demand an end to the extortion practised by Eritrean embassies to supplement Asmara's finances. All Eritreans living abroad are forced to hand over at least 2 per cent of their income to their embassy in the country where they reside, under pain of being forbidden to return home, own any property in Eritrea or send packages to their families.

- The European Union should adopt targeted sanctions against the officials responsible for repression and prison camps. The following persons, in particular, should at the very least be banned from visiting EU countries: presidential chief of staff and spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel; special presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab, whose presence in Eiraeiro and other camps has been reliably reported; defence minister Gen. Sebhat Ephrem; camp administrator Isaac "Wedi Hakim" Araia; local government and information minister Naizghi Kiflu, who was responsible for the 2001 round-ups; acting information minister Ali Abdu, who is in charge of propaganda; camp doctor Haile Mihtsun; Col. Michael Hans, also known as "Wedi Hans," commander of the 32nd division, which is in charge of the area where Eiraeiro is located; Col. "Wedi Welela," head of intelligence in Administrative Zone No. 5; and former camp administrator Maj. Gen. Gerezghiher "Wuchu" Andemariam.

To read the full report, see:

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