RE: Eritrean journalists who have been languishing in an unknown Ethiopian prison
His Excellency Mr. Hailemaraim Desalegn
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Office of the Prime Minster
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
6 January 2017
Open letter to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn
I am writing to you on behalf of Tesfaledet Kidane Tesfazghi and his colleague, Saleh Idris Gama, Eritrean nationals who have been languishing in an unknown Ethiopian prison since the beginning of 2007.
Eritrean journalists Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi and Saleh Idris Gama have been held in custody without charge since they were captured in Kenya in December 2006, and transferred to Ethiopia from Somalia at the beginning of 2007. These men are professional journalists sent to Somalia for routine TV reporting by Eritrean Television (Eri-TV). They were not combatants or involved in any espionage or illegal activities.
I am aware that your country is proud of its concern for human rights and its record in such matters, which it confirmed by signing and ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1993. As you are aware, Article 9 of this Covenant guarantees that no one should be arrested or deprived of their liberty except in accordance with legally established procedures; and that those arrested must be brought before a judge and are “entitled to a legal trial within a reasonable time, or otherwise to be released”.
In September 2011, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi promised that the journalists would be freed if the investigation determined they had not been involved in any acts of espionage. Five years have elapsed since this announcement. I am sure you will agree that more than “a reasonable time” has passed without such a trial. But the two Eritrean detainees have neither had their cases heard in court, nor have they been released or repatriated.
The only occasions on which we have heard any news about these individuals were in April 2007 from the Ethiopian mass media and in September 2011, from the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in a press conference with exiled Eritrean journalists in Addis Ababa (interview video timeline 40:26 – 43:37). The present conditions, location and legal status of these journalists are not known to their immediate families and relatives, who are exceptionally concerned about their wellbeing. In addition to this very real concern, may I mention that the families of the two detainees have had no contact with them for a decade.
Tesfalidet’s family miss him very much, but they have recently sustained the shock of several deaths within their close family circle: both his parents and his sister have died whilst he has been in detention. Saleh has 3 sons and a daughter who have not seen their father for 10 years. It would be particularly welcome for them to receive the good news of the release of Tesfaledet and Saleh at this time. Is it possible that you personally could take the initiative to make this good news happen?
In view of your country’s concern for justice, as witnessed by the ratification of the ICCPR, may I request most fervently that you undertake an urgent review of the cases of the two detainees mentioned above and make every possible effort to secure their immediate release?
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)