Human rights experts worry that Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist who was detained during the purge in September 2001, may no longer be alive.

UN human rights experts demanded that Asmara immediately release a Swedish-Eritrean journalist who was detained for 20 years without being charged and largely isolated from the outside world, expressing concerns that he may no longer be alive.

Dawit Isaak was one of about two dozen senior cabinet ministers, members of parliament and independent journalists arrested in the so-called severe purge in September 2001.

The government of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki stated that the arrested pose a threat to national security.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said in a statement on Wednesday: “Until today, Davit Isaac has never been charged with a crime and has never been in court for a day. And never talked to his lawyer.”

“The extent to which the Eritrean government ignores Mr. Isaac’s basic human rights is shocking. He must be released immediately.”

The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that he and his colleagues who were detained at the same time are now the longest detained journalists in the world.

“We are worried about his life”

Lawlor pointed out that in the first few years of Isaak’s detention, there was news that he was often taken to the hospital.

“Now we have not received any news, and the situation is worse. We are worried about his life,” she said.

“At least, Eritrea must immediately provide evidence that he is alive and healthy.”

The highest expert on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Mohamed Abdul Salam Babic, also stated in the joint statement that “Mr. Isaac’s enforced disappearance in the past two decades is extremely worrying.”

He said that Asmara “has not confirmed his whereabouts for many years, nor has it provided any conclusive evidence about his health. It denied the allegations of torture, but did not allow anyone to visit Mr. Isaak”.

Experts appointed by the United Nations but not speaking on behalf of the United Nations said that reliable sources indicate that Isaac was still alive in September 2020, the first sign of life in seven years.

According to the statement of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the UN Experts on the Right to Health and Involuntary Disappearances, the 56-year-old dual nationality man was reportedly detained in the notorious Eiraeiro prison, where torture is said to be common . Regarding extrajudicial executions.

Isaac fled to Sweden in 1987 during the struggle between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which eventually led to independence in 1993. He returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape.

But he was arrested on September 23 of the same year, shortly after his Eritrean newspaper Setit published an article calling for political reform.

Lawler has documented cases of long-term detention of human rights activists around the world. She said that she “rarely witnessed this kind of disregard for human lives”.

She said: “The long-term detention of human rights defenders may feel like a guarantee against internal scrutiny.” “But we have not forgotten.”


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