Students arbitrarily detained in Eritrea

Urgent Appeal

The FIDH is strongly preoccupied by the Human rights situation in Eritrea.

According to our information, about 2000 students of Asmara University are held in detention camps for refusing to comply with the government holiday work programme. These camps are situated in the desert, in Wia, about 30 kms from Massawa, this region being known for its scorching temperatures reaching as high as 49°C. Two of the detained students have died.

The original work programme was to have entailed an AIDS awareness campaign and a statistical study of war damages in rural areas. The students had refused to participate in the campaign after their student union leader, Semere Kesete, was arrested in July 31, days after he had given a graduation speech in which he expressed student grievances about university conditions and government interference in university affairs. The students said they would comply with the holiday programme when their leader is either released or taken to court.
In spite of the protestations of the families, the Eritrean government keeps denying the situation. It recognises however that after a new working programme for students was set up, "only" 400 students were arrested by the police, on August 11th. According to the government, about 1700 students went individually and voluntary to join the new programme.

The FIDH considers that these detentions are arbitrary and demands the immediate liberation of the detained students and in particular of Semere Kesete. It also demands the opening of an independent investigation about the conditions that led to the death of two young people.

The FIDH urges the Eritrean government to take all necessary measures in order to comply with its international obligations concerning the respect of Human Rights.

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