STATE OF ERITREA
Aster Fissehatsion is the current Prisoner of Conscience case for the Worcester Group of Amnesty International. She is a native of Eritrea and her story is summarised below. For up-to-date blogs and other information about Aster please refer to the blog on the International Section website.
Aster Fissehatsion has been held incommunicado without charge or trial since September 2001. She is recognised as a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International.
Aster joined the Struggle for the Liberation of Eritrea in 1974, becoming a political commissioner and representative of its women's association. After independence in 1991, she worked in various government ministries in Asmara, and was elected to the central committee of the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice party (PFDJ). This is the only political party in Eritrea. Due to her criticism of the government she was dismissed from her government job in 1996, but was re-instated in 1999 during the war with Ethiopia.
During 2001 there was an emerging criticism within the PFDJ about the way that the President was running the country in general and the party in particular. This dissent became public in May 2001 when a group of 15 senior party officials, (who have come to be know as the G-15/Group of 15), published an open letter they had written to PFDJ members. The letter described and made proposals for solving what it called the "crisis of Eritrea", making "a call for correction, a call for peaceful and democratic dialogue, a call for strengthening and consolidation, a call for unity, a call for the rule of law and for justice, through peaceful and legal ways and means". The letter contended that the President and the PFDJ were obligated by the Constitution to call internal party meetings, follow correct parliamentary and government procedures and follow up on a number of promises the party had made, particularly in regard to judicial reform.
In August 2001, the Secretary General of PFDJ accused the G-15 of attempting to destabilize the country. The G-15 replied in a letter published in a private newspaper, calling for a free exchange of ideas and full participation of the people in discussing democratic reform.
On the night of 18 September 2001, 11 of the 15 signatories of the letter were arrested. They were all members of the central committee of the PFDJ, and had been top EPLF military and/or political leaders during the liberation struggle. Like all central committee members they automatically became members of the First National Assembly in 1997 and were still MPs at the time of their arrest. Some were co-founders of the EPLF and some had been members of the politburo at the important First Congress of 1977. After independence some became ministers then or later. By the time of their arrests all had been dismissed from their official posts. They have been held incommunicado without charge or trial since.
A simple letter writing action is a good start:
Write to President Isaias Afewerki and his ambassador in London:
President lsaias Afewerki,
Office of the President
PO Box 257
North East Africa
Ambassador Estifanos Habternariarn Ghebreyesus,
Embassy of the State of Eritrea,
96 White Lion Street,
London N1 9PF
Or, in addition you could try:
Hon. Osman Saieh,
Minister for Foreign Affairs,
PO Box 190,
Ms Fozia Hashim,
Minister of Justice,
PO Box 241
Ask the simple questions:-
For the up-to-date info please read these blogs:
Her son reflects
Bring back Ibrahim's Mother
There is also a United Nations Briefing on Human Rights Violations In Eritrea
And finally ....
Seven Facts about Eritrea
So, you see, Eritrea is land of many issues - and Aster is just one small part of the overall picture - but please don't forget her ....
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