Complaint filed with the UN working group against Dawit Isaak, journalist detained in Eritrea
“Dawit Isaak and his colleagues who, like him, were arrested in 2001 are now the longest detained journalists in the world, while Eritrea has been at the bottom of our world press freedom rankings for two decades,” said Antoine Bernard, RSF’s director for advocacy and assistance. “Through this complaint, we are counting on the UN to put pressure on the Eritrean government to provide information on the state of health and whereabouts of this journalist, and to finally agree to free him.
Filed with the UNWGAD July 21 by RSF and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights Canada, the complaint calls on the Eritrean government to account for the detention
Isaak without trial since his arrest in September 2001, and for his other flagrant violations of his rights. According to RSF, at least ten other colleagues of Isaak are also arbitrarily detained in Eritrea.
In addition to calling for Isaak’s immediate and unconditional release, RSF and the other signatories to the complaint – including PEN International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Defense of Defenders – urge the government to reveal where the detained journalists and to provide information on their state of health.
The UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Mohamed Babiker, said: “This is an emblematic case, which not only reflects the situation of Dawit Isaak and his fellow journalists , who have been subjected to arbitrary detention since 2001, but also that of hundreds of prisoners in Eritrea languishing in prisons without due process for their real or perceived criticism of the government.
Co-founder of Eritrea’s first independent newspaper, Isaak was arrested at his home in the capital, Asmara, on September 23, 2001, during a roundup of government opponents and critics of its evolution into a dictatorship. The whereabouts and conditions of detention of Isaak and the other detained journalists have remained secret ever since.
In the summer of 2021, the United Nations reported obtaining evidence dating back to September 2020 that Isaak was still alive and being held in Eiraeiro prison. It was the first sign of life in seven years.
Over the past two decades, RSF has consistently called for the release of Isaak and his colleagues. In 2020, RSF filed a complaint with the Swedish courts to request an investigation into the “crimes against humanity” inflicted on Isaak, including acts of torture, kidnappings and enforced disappearances, and to name eight suspects, including Isaias Afwerki , president of Eritrea since 1993. The Swedish prosecutor’s office ultimately refused to open such an investigation on the grounds that it would be impossible to conduct. The case has also been referred to other courts and bodies, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The signatories of the complaint:
- Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights (RWCHR)
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
- Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
- International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
- Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)
- PEN International
- Defend the defenders
- Mr. Jesús Alcalá (Swedish lawyer)
- Mr. Percy Bratt (Swedish lawyer)