UN experts have demanded the release of journalist and human rights defender Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned without trial in Eritrea since 2001.
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor expressed dismay about the appalling level to which the Eritrean Government is ignoring Mr. Isaak’s basic, fundamental human rights.
“To this day, Dawit Isaak has never been charged with a crime, spent a day in court or spoken to his lawyer.
“He must be released at once,” she said. Lawlor said she had rarely witnessed such disregard for human life as she documents cases of human rights defenders in long-term detention around the world.
Dawit Isaak, 56, a dual Swedish-Eritrean national, established one of Eritrea’s first independent media outlets in the 1990s, the Setit newspaper.
In May 2001, it published open letters written by a group of politicians known as the G-15 urging the Government to hold open elections and implement a newly drafted Constitution.
With the world’s attention diverted by the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Isaak was arrested on 23 September 2001.
According to a credible source, Mr. Isaak was alive in September 2020, the first sign of life in seven years. He is reportedly being held in Eiraeiro prison, a detention centre infamous for its conditions, where torture is allegedly common practice and where many inmates have reportedly died in custody.
Mr. Isaak’s work has been recognised by a number of prestigious awards, including UNESCO’s Freedom of Press Award and the Sakharov Award.
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