Case of Aster Fissehatsion raised in European Parliament

This question was tabled by Charles Tannock MEP back in April.  (I’m sorry that we didn’t pick it up earlier.)


The Commission may be aware of the case of Aster Fissehatsion, the former director of the Eritrean Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Ms Fissehatsion is a member of a group named the ‘G15’, an organisation of political dissidents opposed to the isolationist, authoritarian and repressive nature of the Afewerki administration. Little is known about this high ranking group of incarcerated political dissidents; but it is rumoured that several may have died in prison or been executed. Detained without charge or trial since 2001 for signing an open letter calling for transparency in government and democratic and judicial reform, Ms Fissehatsion has reportedly been denied basic rights, including access to medical treatment and communication with relatives.

Will the Commission urgently mandate the High Representative of the Union to raise these concerns over the case of Ms Fissehatsion and the ‘G15’ in its dialogue with Eritrea, given that in the period 2009‑13 Eritrea will receive approximately EUR 122 million of EU funds? Has the Commission considered suspending EU aid under the ACP agreement, given the egregious human rights abuses in that country?

Answer from the Commission:

The European Union is well aware of the case of Aster Fissehatsion. The EU remains preoccupied with her fate. The EU has continuously called on the Eritrean authorities to unconditionally release all political prisoners, including Ms Aster Fissehatsion. One example of the Union’s engagement is the HR/VP’s Declaration on behalf of the European Union on political prisoners in Eritrea adopted on 17 September 2010.

The EU raises the matter of political prisoners in the framework of the political dialogue with the Eritrean government. The Eritrean side is fully aware of its international obligations, of the EU’s expectations as well as of the European citizens’ concerns over respect of human rights in Eritrea. The EU will continue to appeal to the Eritrean authorities to abide by its commitments to respect and enforce human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The EU is deeply concerned with the poor human rights record of Eritrea, especially the fate of detained persons, among them prisoners of conscience, dissidents and journalists. The decision to continue the development cooperation in these circumstances has been based on a careful assessment, agreed by Member States, and is reviewed on a regular basis. The amount of EU aid remains limited given the needs of the population, especially in the area of food security. At the moment, the EU judges that, despite the challenges and risks, the primary concern should be for the people of Eritrea. Through development cooperation projects, the EU can also exert influence in sensitive areas such as rights of workers and access to justice.

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