World Association of News Publishers

European Parliament resolution of 15 September 2011 on Eritrea: the case of Dawit Isaak

European Parliament resolution of 15 September 2011 on Eritrea: the case of Dawit Isaak

Article ID:


On the 15 September 2011, the European Parliament passed a resolution on Eritrea and in particular the case of Dawit Isaak. WAN-IFRA fully backs the resolution and calls for the immediate release of Dawit Isaak and all imprisoned journalists in Eritrea.

The European Parliament,

– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

– having regard to Articles 2, 3, 6(3) and 21(2)(a) and (b) of the Treaty on European Union,

– having regard to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, to which Eritrea is a party, in particular Articles 6, 7, and 9 thereof,

– having regard to Article 9 of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement as revised 2005 (the Cotonou Agreement), of which Eritrea is a signatory,

– having regard to the declaration by the Council Presidency on political prisoners in Eritrea, of 22 September 2008; and to subsequent Council and Commission statements on Eritrea and the human rights situation since then,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on Eritrea and in particular those concerning human rights and the case of Dawit Isaak,

– having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,


A. deeply concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in Eritrea and manifest lack of cooperation from the Eritrean authorities, despite repeated appeals by the European Union and international human rights organisations;

B. whereas the EU is strongly and clearly committed to the protection of human rights as a fundamental value, and whereas press freedom and freedom of speech are among those universal and vital rights;

C. whereas the rule of law is a principle which must never be compromised;

D. whereas thousands of Eritreans, among them former high-ranking members of the ruling party, have been incarcerated, without charge, without a fair trial, and without access to their lawyers or families, since their public criticism of President Isaias Afewerki in 2001;

E. whereas, since September 2001, 10 independent journalists have been detained in Asmara, among them a Swedish citizen, Dawit Isaak, who has not been tried for any crime and on whose fate the Eritrean authorities have refused to make any comment;

F. whereas, on 23 September 2011, Mr Isaak, a former reporter for an independent newspaper in Eritrea, will have spent 10 full years imprisoned without charges, trial or legal hearing, and whereas he is considered internationally to be a prisoner of conscience;

G. whereas a legal opinion submitted to Parliament's President in September 2010 underlines the fact that the EU has a legal and moral obligation to protect its citizens in accordance with the European Convention of Human Rights and with European Court of Justice case law;

H. shocked by the Eritrean Government's continued refusal to provide any information about the prisoners' situation, including the place of their detention and whether they are still alive;

I. whereas, according to reports from former prison guards, more than half the officials and journalists arrested in 2001 are dead;

J. whereas the EU is an important partner for Eritrea in terms of development aid and assistance;


1. Notes with great concern the continued deplorable human rights situation in Eritrea, notably the lack of freedom of expression and the continued existence of political prisoners, held in contravention of the principles of the rule of law and Eritrea's constitution;

2. Deplores the fact that Dawit Isaak has not yet regained his freedom and has had to spend 10 years as a prisoner of conscience; expresses its fears for the life of Mr Isaak under the notoriously harsh prison conditions in Eritrea and without access to necessary health care;

3. Calls on the Eritrean authorities to release Dawit Isaak and former high-ranking officials immediately, in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

4. Calls on the Eritrean authorities to lift the ban on the country's independent press and immediately to release the independent journalists and all others who have been jailed simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression;

5. Reiterates its calls to the State of Eritrea immediately to release all political prisoners including Dawit Isaak; demands that, if they cannot be released at once, the State of Eritrea extend medical and legal assistance to these and other prisoners; demands furthermore that EU and EU Member States' representatives be given access to Mr Isaak in order to establish his needs in terms of health care and other support;

6. Calls on the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to step up efforts by the EU and its Member States to secure Dawit Isaak's release;

7. Calls on the Council to make more active use of the dialogue mechanisms associated with the EU development assistance programme for Eritrea, in order urgently to find solutions that will lead to the liberation of political prisoners and to improved democratic governance in the country; calls on the Council, in this context, to ensure that EU development assistance does not benefit the Government of Eritrea but is targeted strictly at the needs of the Eritrean people;

8. Appeals to the African Union, as a partner to the EU with an explicit commitment to the universal values of democracy and human rights, to step up its activity in relation to the regrettable situation in Eritrea and to work together with the EU to secure the release of Dawit Isaak and other political prisoners;

9. Follows with interest the judicial process of a habeas corpus appeal in the case of Mr Isaak, lodged in the Eritrean Supreme Court in July 2011 by European lawyers;

10. Reiterates its demand for an intra-Eritrean national conference to be held, bringing together the various political party leaders and representatives of civil society with a view to finding a solution to the current crisis and setting the country on the path to democracy, political pluralism and sustainable development;

11. Underscores, with the strongest possible emphasis, the seriousness and urgency of the matters outlined above;

12. Expresses its heartfelt support and sympathy to the families of these political prisoners;

13. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, the Parliament and Government of Eritrea, the Pan-African Parliament, COMESA, IGAD, the co-presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the African Union.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2011-09-23 14:08

Contact information

Related nodes

A journalist with dual Eritrean-Swedish citizenship, Dawit Isaak is one of the founders of Eritrea's first independent newspaper, Setit, and is currently one member of a group of reformist political prisoners who have been detained without charge or trial for the past nine years.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2011-01-13 18:04


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2011-01-13 18:20

The Golden Pen of Freedom is WAN-IFRA's annual award recognising individuals or organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom. Read more ...

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...