- The exiled opposition of Eritrea today welcomed the recent resolution by the European Parliament, condemning gross human rights violations in Eritrea. The European institution this weekend also demanded an investigation into the recent arrest of thousands of Eritrean dissidents.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution, saying it was "worried by the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in the country in general and by the arrest of thousands of people on suspicion of evading military conscription held at Adi Abeto army prison in particular." It was "fearing that the prisoners may risk torture and ill-treatment."
According to the European parliamentarians (MEPs), the 4 November mass arrests only added to the long list of gross human rights violations in Eritrea. Thus, the MEPs also deplored "the continued detention of Eritrean opposition leaders ... without trial since September 2001," and the "the ban on an independent press and the arrest of journalists since the government crackdown on independent media in September 2001."
The European resolution calls for "an independent inquiries on the killing of Adi Abeto prison" on 4 November. It further calls on the Eritrean government "to release all political prisoners" and to "fully respect fundamental freedoms of the population including freedom of expression, freedom of association including the formation political parties and calls to lift the ban on independent press."
The forceful protest by the MEPs was today welcomed by the exiled Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP), an opposition party demanding human rights and forced to operate abroad as all opposition parties are outlawed in Eritrea. "It is time that the regime in Asmara has to be familiar with the international norms and procedures," the EDP says in a statement.
- Atrocities, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, persecutions on political and religious groups is and will always be in contravention of the international law, the opposition recalled. The EDP in particular welcomed the call by the European Parliament for a thorough and independent investigation of the incident at the Adi Abeto military prison, where at least a dozen prisoners were reportedly shot dead.
- I personally am pleased to observe that first the Inter-Parliamentary Union on its three last sessions has looked into the case of 11 imprisoned Eritrean former MPs, says Mussie Ephrem from EDP's foreign office. At the Union's April, July and October meetings, Asmara authorities were urged to immediately "release the former members of parliament."
And now the European Parliament wants the Eritrean authorities to immediately release the 11 former members of parliament, Mr Ephrem noted. The EDP member has fought for a release for these 11 political prisoners for several years.
In Asmara, authorities as expected rejected the EU criticism of its human rights record. "This resolution is extremely inappropriate," said Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrean President Issayas Afewerki's chief of staff, in reaction to the MEPs' resolution.
- The European Parliament doesn't know the facts, but endorses all that Amnesty International, which has no presence in Eritrea, Gebremeskel told the French news agency AFP. The human rights group Amnesty has however not been allowed to operate in Eritrea by the government.
Asmara normally reacts with total rejection to foreign demands for basic human rights in Eritrea. The increasingly isolated government of President Afewerki has had diplomatic rows over human rights issues with the United States, the UN, the African Union and several former European donor countries.
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