Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Eritrea - case of Dawit Isaak

Delivered in Plenary - 15th September 2011

Mr President

As a supporter of this Parliament's MEPs for a Democratic Eritrea Group, the continued detention of Dawit Isaak saddens me a great deal. Mr Isaak has been incarcerated incommunicado since 23 September 2001, for over ten years, and in all probability is being held in inhumane conditions without the hope of a fair trial, the requirement for which is technically enshrined in Article 17 of the Eritrean Constitution. President Afewerki has stated publicly and disgracefully on national television that there will be no formal charges brought against him, nor will there be any prospect of release for Mr Isaak. This demonstrates Asmara’s fundamental lack of respect for due legal process and the rule of law.

Regrettably, Isaak is not the only political prisoner in Eritrea. Afewerki’s authoritarian rule has seen journalists, opposition politicians and Christian groups imprisoned or tortured, and all on trumped-up charges. There have been no elections in Eritrea since its independence in 1993, and all political parties save the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice are banned; rather curious the word ‘justice’ in that case, is it not? The Eritrean Government should release or bring to a fair trial all of its prisoners held on political grounds, including Mr Isaak.

The Cotonou ACP agreement requires respect for fundamental human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law. Eritrea does not measure up to these basic standards. I have long called for Eritrea's suspension from the Cotonou agreement under Article 96, which stipulates that a signatory state should no longer be party to the significant economic benefits from the EU which that agreement confers if it abuses with impunity the fundamental values of the European Union – which clearly Eritrea is doing – and, most importantly, fundamental human rights.

So my question to Commissioner Malmström is: why do we not suspend the ACP agreement with Eritrea, as has been done in the past in the cases of Fiji and Zimbabwe, which also abused human rights?