Eritrean Detainees Day The 14th of April

Written by: Aamer Saleh Hagos

Every year on the 14th of April we remember or commemorate our disappeared

or detainees in Eritrea. Do we know the difference between the words “prisoner” and “detainee”?

It is customary, in any country in the civilized world, if a person commits a crime or an infringement (violation, breach) against the law he/she is incarcerated in a prison, while on trial or serving a sentence. On the other hand, a “detainee” is held in custody or confinement. While the “prisoner” has the right to defend himself/herself, get a lawyer, get a fair trial according to the constitutional laws in the courts, his whereabouts are known, etc… the story of the “detainee” is completely different.

In Eritrea, there is a criminal totalitarian regime with the worst record on human rights issues. Since its independence in 1991, Eritrea is governed by lawless, illegal, and criminal gangs who are ruling the country with terror and the force of arms with no constitution, institutions, rule of law, and respect for basic human rights.

What happens to the “detainee” in Eritrea? The “detainee” is kidnapped by masked security agents in the middle of the night from his residence in a cruel and savage manner amid the cries and terror of his family members; or captured from streets or working places. After the disappearance, no one knows his/her whereabouts. The “detainee” just disappears without any traces… no charges, no fair trial, no lawyer, no family visits. When the ruling clichés are contacted to ask about the ‘disappeared” they simply reply that they do not know about the detainee and do not have any information. Simply, they refuse to acknowledge that they detained the disappeared and advise not to ask about him/her anymore.

Can you imagine hearing from the “government” telling you “forget” about the detainee and consider him/her as a missing person… Just like that!!!

The first detainee, the first prisoner of conscience was the judge and teacher Muhammad Meranat who was detained on the 17th of July 1991 (just only after 55 days after independence – 24 May 1991) after the nominal independence of Eritrea. After that, the process never stopped until now. Teachers, religious men, professionals, students, businessmen, politicians, etc… men, women, children (minors), elders, sick… you name it; all ages and people are detained and disappeared. Hundreds died in their detention place.
How much is the number of the “detainees”? Where they are detained? How many detention places are there in Eritrea? What are the conditions of their detentions?

No one can give the exact answers, but only tentative answers can be given based on escaped detainees or their guardians from the policemen etc… The number of “detainees” ranges from 5,000 to 15,000 and nobody knows the number of the dead from the sick and the alive ones. The detention centers are in continuous rise and they number in tens (if not more than 100). The detainees are imprisoned underground in the most inhumane conditions. Also, normal containers are used as prison cells, with no windows and normal ventilation. Of course, no medical attention or basic necessary basic food is provided.

Yearly, we remember our beloved and dear ones…. the disappeared our prisoners of conscience.
Is this enough, just to remember once in a year? I think we should remember them every day of the year and do our roles and dues diligently. We should do all we can to liberate them by all necessary means. Campaign worldwide and contact, exert pressure and advocate all world organizations, our local MPs, NGOs, etc… present petitions, rally demonstrations, create advocacy groups to exert pressure worldwide… simply, make it our daily priority and activity to demand their release by exerting pressure on world organizations and politicians.

However, the main responsibility lies in the Eritrean resistance or opposition that they should be more responsible by compromising and reconciling their differences to come together by coordinating their efforts to get rid and uproot the criminal regime from Eritrea by all necessary means. Also, the youth should play their responsibility by campaigning for the detainees in all world forums and exert pressure on the Eritrean opposition forces by being part of the struggle and lead the liberation movements to emancipate the Eritrean people (who are held hostages) from the yoke of tyranny and lawlessness and to free the Eritrean people from the grip of the brutal monster who is the source of all our sufferings, useless wars, destruction and the pitiful situation of our beloved people and country.

Yes, it is good to remember our “Detainees”, but it not enough. We should fight and find radical solutions from the source of our plight, pain, sufferings, and calamities. Let us do the right things, rearrange our priorities and fight seriously, and united our arch enemy to get peace, freedom, and stability.


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