Fikadu Debesai, a Christian woman arrested for practising her faith, has died while in custody. She
was taken to a prison near Gahtelay and Shiib along with her husband Afwerki for practising her
faith, after a round-up in May 2017, in which many people were arrested in Adi Kwala, Southern
part of Eritrea. The Government of Eritrea is infamous for detaining people in remote places like
the region near Gahtelay, often holding them incommunicado and under harsh treatment where they
suffer beatings, rape, disease-inducing unhygienic conditions, and delay or denial access to medical
Fikadu’s three younger children were left without parents when their parents were arrested, and are
now without a mother, and Human Rights Concern – Eritrea’s source from Eritrea has confirmed
that her eldest son has been held in a labour camp. She was buried on Thursday 10 August 2017,
and her husband was not even allowed to bury his wife.
The Government of Eritrea continues its practice of arbitrary persecution and detention of Eritreans
unabated. The deaths in custody continue to rise due to the inhumane conditions in which prisoners
are kept and the torture they suffer at the hands of the jailers. Prisoners of faith like Fikadu are
detained and tortured simply for not recanting their faith.
The round up was part of the continuing crackdown by the Eritrean government on any religious
groups that fall outside the four denominations it claims to tolerate. Officially the Eritrean
government allows the practice of the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran denominations
as well as Islam. Despite this, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Eritrea, Abune Antonios, has
been under house arrest for more than 11 years and, despite a bizarre attempt at feigned
reconciliation between the church and state, he remains under house arrest to this day.
It has become evident that the official stance of tolerating some denominations like the Orthodox
one is a lie. There might be a misconception that the prisoners of faith are only those of Pentecostal
or Jehovah’s Witnesses denominations. However, the Government of Eritrea has persecuted and
continues to persecute anyone who is ‘spiritual’, and the term really means anyone who is dedicated
to their faith (a synonym might be a ‘religious’ person), irrespective or their denomination.
The systematic inhumane treatment of prisoners which led to deaths such as that of Fikadu Debesai
are contributing factors to the crimes against humanity of which the Government of Eritrea stands
Human Rights Concern Eritrea condemns the Government of Eritrea’s continuing practice of jailing
people of faith and demands that it free all arbitrarily detained prisoners without delay.