Tell Eritrea to Release Prisoners of Conscience


Target: Isaias Afewerki, President of Eritrea

Goal: Stop allowing citizens to languish in secret prisons without formal charges

Imagine languishing in prison for ten or even twenty years–without even being charged with a crime. For too many people, this situation exists not in imagination, but in reality. Sign the petition and demand that those imprisoned in Eritrea’s secret prisons be either charged and tried or released from jail.

According to Amnesty International, Eritrea’s prisons hold scores of “journalists, politicians and members of religious groups” whose only “crimes” are expressing their own views and opinions on Eritrea’s government. Even worse, these prisoners have never been tried with any crimes, which denies them any opportunity to move forward through the justice system and eventually leave prison. They are stuck in limbo; the government refuses to even give families information about imprisoned loved ones.

Eritrea, a small nation in the Horn of Africa, has a history of human rights violations. In fact, some of the prisoners in Eritrea have been imprisoned almost as long as Eritrea has existed as an independent country–two decades. Subject to ill treatment and torture, many prisoners are thought to have died, although Eritrea has given no official confirmation to either human rights organizations or the families of the prisoners.

As Eritrea celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its independence, it should turn over a new leaf in human rights. Sign the petition and demand that Eritrea adopt a fair, humane, and transparent policy in its prison system.


Dear President Afewerki,

The year 2013 marks twenty years of independence for Eritrea. But to the thousands languishing in Eritrea’s prison system, independence means nothing. Many journalists, politicians, and religious adherents have been waiting in prison for up to two decades for a trial that may never come. None of them have never even been charged with any crime.

Furthermore, the prisoners in Eritrea’s prisons are at high risk of torture and ill-treatment. Their families remain in constant suspense as to their whereabouts and well-being, and the government has done nothing to alleviate the concerns of these citizens, people it purports to protect and serve.

Twenty years of independence means nothing if that independence does not extend to all Eritreans. Freedom is not something to be thrown around as a buzzword in the fight for independence and then abandoned once the objective is achieved. Freedom is the right of all citizens, whether they agree with the government or not.

Eritrea’s human rights record is bleak, but it is a young country and still has time to change its unsavory reputation. I urge you to immediately address the injustice inherent in Eritrea’s prison system by either charging prisoners so they can stand trial or releasing them with a government apology.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Barnellbe via Wikimedia Commons

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