Human Rights Concern-Eritrea rejoices at the recent news that the 19 Eritrean Prisoners of War (POWs) who were detained in Djibouti for 11 years have finally been released and resettled in Canada. This is especially good news, bearing in mind how other Eritrean refugees are being treated elsewhere, and we believe it is a cause for public celebration.
During the Djiboutian-Eritrean border conflict, which occurred between June 10th and June 13th 2008, 19 Eritrean Prisoners of War were detained in the Negad detention centre in Djibouti. The Eritrean regime did not acknowledge that Djibouti had any Eritrean POWs in custody, even though their presence there had been repeatedly brought to the notice of the Eritrean authorities by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Since 2012, Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE) has repeatedly implored the Djiboutian government to release these POWs, but the authorities in Djibouti were unwilling to do so while their own POWs were detained incommunicado in Eritrea. While the Djibouti government made every effort to ensure the return of the Djiboutian POWs, the Eritrean authorities made no such efforts to secure the release of their own POWs.
The totally unjust and indefinite detention of Eritrean POWs, for a period that eventually lasted 11 years, has finally come to an end. It is important not only to rejoice at justice finally achieved but to recognise and express gratitude to those responsible for securing this long-delayed positive outcome.
We wish to express our particular thanks to:
- the Djiboutian government for pardoning them and allowing the UNHCR to find them a third country in which to resettle;
- the International Committee of the Red Cross for visiting them in detention and caring for their welfare over many years;
- the UNHCR for finally recognising them as stateless refugees and resettling them in a third, safe country – not an easy outcome to achieve in the current circumstances;
- the Canadian government for giving these 19 Prisoners of War, abandoned by their own government, a safe home and a new start in life.
All these organizations have made vital contributions towards an outcome that, for many years, seemed almost impossible. We must pay tribute to their joint effort, which shows what can be achieved when many people work together for the good of a few victims who desperately need help -an example and a precedent for all to take note of what can be done with shared goodwill.
13 Djiboutian Prisoners of War still incommunicado detained in Eritrea
After denying detaining Djiboutian Prisoners of War (POWs), the Government of Eritrea released 4 Djiboutian POW on 18 March, 2016, following the mediation of the Government of Qatar. The Djiboutian POWs had also been captured during the Djiboutian-Eritrean border conflict of June 2008.
Contrary to the third Geneva convention in regard to the treatment of POWs, the Eritrean government had detained the four released Djiboutian POWs in a substandard prison under harsh conditions. They were treated inhumanly and all their rights and privileges that they were entitled to as POWs were violated. During their incarceration, they were denied access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and they were not allowed to contact their families and their government. We believe the remaining 13 Djiboutian POWs could be incarcerated in the same manner, and are being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
We appeal to the international community to put pressure on the Eritrean Government to release the remaining 13 Djiboutian Prisoners of War and repatriate them immediately.
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE)