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Will the Dutch close the Eritrean embassy?

Dutch Protest 5

Martin Plaut

There is mounting concern in the Netherland about the behaviour of the Eritrean embassy and its staff. Last Friday’s abortive conference, held by the Eritrean regime in the Dutch town of Veldhoven, may prove to be the final straw.

The four-day conference was abandoned after a Dutch court backed the mayor of the town in closing the gathering, arguing that it was detrimental to safety and security of local residents.

Spokesmen for the majority of Dutch political parties had called for action even before the conference opened.

News of the event, to be attended by President Isaias Afwerki’s senior adviser, Yemane Gebreab was broken last Tuesday by the Dutch website, One World.

On hearing the news of his imminent arrival Dutch MPs reacted with dismay.

“When the Turkish minister wanted to come here, public order was at stake,” said Attje Kuiken of the Dutch Labour Party. “The question is: what will the speaker (Yemane Gebreab) do at this congress? And will it be within our law?”

The Dutch cabinet also expressed its reservations about the gathering.

A statement was issued declaring that the government was “uneasy” about the conference going ahead, but could not prevent Yemane Gebreab from attending since he had an EU-wide Schengen visa.

Kubrom Dafla Hosabay, a former deputy minister of finance in Eritrea, now resident in the Netherlands, warned what would take place if the meeting took place.

He accused members of Eritrea’s ruling party of threatening anyone who refused to cooperate. “This is the message that will come from the conference,” he said. [See full statement below]

At previous European-wide conferences of the Eritrean ruling party Yemane had called for the opposition to be “destroyed.”

Fearing a repetition, members of the Eritrean community opposed to the regime protested outside the hotel in Veldhoven at which the conference was being held.

Dutch protest 1There followed a confrontation with the police and running clashes, with a number of protesters being arrested.

The mayor of Veldhoven – hearing that a further 2,500 protesters would arrive from across Europe to oppose the event, decided that it should be canceled.

The youth wing of the ruling party (the YPFDJ) which had organized the event, challenged the ruling in court  but lost, and on Friday the four-day conference was abandoned.

Dutch politicians demand action

A number of political parties in the Netherlands had previously expressed their concern about the activities of the Eritrean government in their country and its extortion of funds from the refugee community. They had called for action against the Embassy unless it was halted. Last June the question was debated in Parliament.

A resolution was adopted suggesting that the Embassy should be closed if it continued to use threats and pressure to extract taxes and financial contributions from the Eritrean diaspora.

It soon became clear that the warning had not been heeded. Evidence of what was taking place was gathered by journalists Huub Jaspers and Sanne Terlingen for a radio programme – ‘The long arm of Eritrea’, produced for One World and Argos.

The journalists had gathered testimonies and documentation showing how Eritrean Embassy staff went around the Eritrean community in Rotterdam, and several other cities.  Since last December they had been going door to door among the diaspora collecting funds.

The approach of the Embassy was anything but friendly.

They demanded EU50 per person as a donation to fund the conference. Anyone who refused was warned that they would have a cross placed after their names – a clear sign of intimidation by representatives of Eritrea’s brutal regime.

Receipts for the funds were signed by Isaac Menassi – the Embassy Finance officer, using a commercial receipt book. But his signature was clear.

A handwriting expert testified that having examined the receipts, and comparing them with official Embassy receipts, he was confident that they had been signed by the same person.

When the One World journalists broke the story Dutch politicians were furious, declaring that such behaviour was completely unacceptable.

Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, from Democrats 66 said: “We no longer accept this tax collection.” “The parliament was very clear about this, after pressure from our parties. If Eritrea doesn’t listen, this could lead to the closure of the Embassy.”

These views were echoed by Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party. “This means that once again we will have to open a debate with the government on how to stop these kind of practices. We will do this unanimously: with all members of parliament.”

A year in the planning

YPFJD busses leaveThe abandoned conference was the 13th in a series of meetings held to bolster support for the Eritrean regime across Europe. Around 500 YPFDJ supporters had come to hear their leader’s message.

It had been – the organizers claimed – a year in the planning. But members of the Eritrean opposition were determined that a regime which tolerates no free speech at home should not be given a platform from which to put forward its propaganda.

When an Eritrean diplomatic car drew up the protesters staged a sit-down demonstration, preventing its progress. There were clashes with the Dutch police and over 100 protesters were briefly arrested.

Opponents of the Eritrean government informed the authorities that up to 2,500 demonstrators would arrive on Saturday, as members of the diaspora mobilised across Europe. In the light of this, the mayor ordered the conference to be halted.

His decision was upheld by a court, which ordered supporters of the YPFDJ – to leave the hotel by 8.00 pm that evening.

This took place, with busses removing them from the venue. The YPFDJ put out a statement attacking those who had prevented the gathering from taking place.


An Appeal to The Dutch-Eritrean Community

Action to Foil the YPFDJ European Conference in Holland

From next Thu, 13/4 to Sun 17/.4/17, the Isaias regime has organized a European wide conference for Youth-Pfdj, its daughter organization. The Dutch authorities, including the media, are wary of this conference because it has elements inviting antagonism, that pose danger to peace and order of the Dutch public.
This is a call to all Dutch-Eritreans, whether or not, we are citizens, residents, and refugees, to use our rights, to formally register, with the police, a declaration (‘aangifte’) that the Ypfdj, poses danger to our personal safety. Because what should worry us, also worries Dutch authorities, including several parliament members (2de Kamer), and the security. Issues about the Ypfdj may cause harm to Eritreans and the Dutch.
1. That Ypfdj thugs are going door-to-door, forcing Eritreans to pay money for this conference and for 2%.
2. That they are issuing false “receipts” without legal details, means they are hiding their actions from public.
3. That they are putting on a black list and intimidating those Eritreans that refuse to pay;
4. That the infamous “Eri-Blood” gang, which is feared to be armed, is capable of physically harming anyone;
5. That a Dutch court, established last year, that Ypfdj, as a possible ‘intelligence arm” of Isaias; the public speech of Yemane G/Ab, at Ypfdj conference in Germany, being the major evidence of it.
6. That all of this has been organized, in December 2016, by high ranking officials of the regime. Etc., etc., because of all the above, is this Ypfdj conference, is a threat to, us, Dutch-Eritreans. That is why, we should, go and declare this facts to the police. We are being threatened by phone and in person as “traitors”. The reasons are laid down above. Let us exercise this right of ours immediately, but in any case, before the conference commences. Let us support the effort of the Dutch authorities by coming out to register officially our fear of the situation.
Your brother, Kubrom Dafla Hosabay,

THE GREAT VICTORY OF THE JUSTICE SEEKER IN HOLLAND

Mayor bans Eritrean political meeting after protestors are arrested

still from the conference promotional video The mayor of Veldhoven has banned a controversial meeting of Eritrean nationalists, saying it could be a threat to public order. Police arrested ‘several dozen’ people who were protesting about the meeting on Thursday night. Following consultations with police, mayor Jack Mikkers decided to cancel the meeting altogether, news agency ANP said. The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, the only political party permitted in Eritrea, had planned to hold its annual youth European conference in the Netherlands this weekend. Some 650 supporters of the dictatorship were expected to attend the meeting and there are indications that the right-hand man of president Isaias Afewerki would also be there. Many Eritrean refugees in the Netherlands regard the conference as an act of provocation, Tilburg University professor Mirjam van Reisen told NOS earlier this week. ‘The government wants to show the Eritrean community that it still rules in the Netherlands,’ she said. Eritrea has been condemned by the UN for crimes against humanity and the UN estimates hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have fled the country in recent years. Dutch government ministers said earlier this week they were unhappy about the meeting being held on Dutch soil but that there were no grounds to ban it in advance. The protest was organized by Kubrom Dafla Hosabay, a former Eritrean government minister who fled to the Netherlands in 2010.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Mayor bans Eritrean political meeting after protestors are arrested http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/04/mayor-bans-eritrean-political-meeting-after-protestors-are-arrested/

STOP THE DICTATOR PUPPETS

Eri bloodThe YPFDJ – the youth wing of Eritrea’s ruling party – is planning to hold a European wide conference in the Netherlands from the 13th to 17th of April.

The local Eritrean community is worried – previous YPFDJ rallies have been marked by violence and intimidation.

The regime has deployed thugs from ‘Eri-blood’ to attack dissenters in the past.

An appeal has been launched to appeal for the Dutch authorities to halt the gathering [see below]

Martin


An Appeal to The Dutch-Eritrean Community
Action to Foil the YPFDJ European Conference in Holland

From next Thu, 13/4 to Sun 17/.4/17, the Isaias regime has organized a European wide conference for Youth-Pfdj, its daughter organization. The Dutch authorities, including the media, are wary of this conference because it has elements inviting antagonism, that pose danger to peace and order of the Dutch public.
This is a call to all Dutch-Eritreans, whether or not, we are citizens, residents, and refugees, to use our rights, to formally register, with the police, a declaration (‘aangifte’) that the Ypfdj, poses danger to our personal safety. Because what should worry us, also worries Dutch authorities, including several parliament members (2de Kamer), and the security. Issues about the Ypfdj may cause harm to Eritreans and the Dutch.
1. That Ypfdj thugs are going door-to-door, forcing Eritreans to pay money for this conference and for 2%.
2. That they are issuing false “receipts” without legal details, means they are hiding their actions from the public.
3. That they are putting on a black list and intimidating those Eritreans that refuse to pay;
4. That the infamous “Eri-Blood” gang, which is feared to be armed, is capable of physically harming anyone;
5. That a Dutch court, established last year, that Ypfdj, as a possible ‘intelligence arm” of Isaias; the public speech of Yemane G/Ab, at Ypfdj conference in Germany, being the major evidence of it.
6. That all of this has been organized, in December 2016, by high ranking officials of the regime.
Etc., etc., because of all the above, is this Ypfdj conference, is a threat to, us, Dutch-Eritreans.
That is why, we should, go and declare this facts to the police. We are being threatened by phone and in person as “traitors”. The reasons are laid down above. Let us exercise this right of ours immediately, but in any case, before the conference commences. Let us support the effort of the Dutch authorities by coming out to register officially our fear of the situation.
Your brother, Kubrom Dafla Hosabay,
Nb. if for any reason, the police refuse to receive your declaration (“aangifte”), please let us know as we have, legal help by our side. Contact: +31-6-8534-1768, email: kubromdafla@yahoo.com

Eritrea: U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Eritrea’s Navy Over North Korea Links

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Eritrea has once again found itself on the wrong side of international norms as a U.N. report accused the East African country of violating an arms embargo by buying military communications equipment from North Korea.

This marks the third consecutive year that Eritrea has been named by the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on North Korea, said Hugh Griffiths, coordinator of the panel.

In response, the United States moved to ban all equipment sales or interactions with Eritrea’s navy, under nonproliferation legislation that targets Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Eritrea was one of seven African countries listed as arms-embargo violators for buying weapons, military material or receiving training from North Korea.

In Eritrea’s case, the U.N. panel found that in July 2016 Eritrea imported 45 boxes of encrypted military radios and accessories, including GPS antennas, microphones and clone cables. The equipment was intercepted before reaching its destination.

The U.N. said the equipment was sold by Glocom, which is said to be a Malaysian front company selling North Korean goods in an attempt to avoid detection. A previous report found evidence that an Eritrean government department had received “military and technical support” from a North Korean company named Green Pine.

Marketing to Africa

Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) arms and military expenditure program, said North Korea aggressively markets its military goods and services to African countries.

“North Korea, first of all, wants to export arms because it’s one of the things which they can make and for which at least there is some demand,” Wezeman told VOA. “But it is not surprising that the demand is concentrated in countries with very limited economic resources, because what North Korea is supplying generally is not of high quality.”

Wezeman said most of what North Korea sells is out-of-date or refurbished Soviet-era equipment.

“It’s not the kind of equipment which [buyers] are going to pay a lot of money for,” he said. “So they cannot market this stuff to anyone else except to African states and a few others. Myanmar is a country which in the past was also known to have North Korean equipment. Cuba is also one of those, but generally, these are countries which simply cannot afford too much better than that.”

A history of sanctions

Eritrea’s Ministry of Information denounced the new U.S. sanctions as “inexplicable and unwarranted,” and said they followed a pattern established years ago.

“The pattern is sadly the same,” a ministry statement said. “Fallacious reports are first floated and illicit measures subsequently announced by the same architects who act as the plaintiff, prosecutor, and judge.”

Eritrea was previously accused of aiding the Somali extremist group al-Shabaab in 2009. As a result, the U.N. ordered an arms embargo, travel restrictions and a freeze on assets of military and political leaders.

Another U.N. report five years later found no evidence that the Eritrean government continued to support al-Shabaab but declined to lift sanctions.

“The Monitoring Group does not, however, rule out the possibility that Eritrea may be providing some assistance to elements within al-Shabaab without detection, but it is the overall assessment of the Monitoring Group that Eritrea is a marginal actor in Somalia,” the U.N. group found.

Matthew Bryden, chairman of Sahan Research, a Nairobi-based think tank focusing on peace and security issues in the Horn of Africa, told VOA in 2016 that the sanctions include a two-way arms embargo prohibiting Eritrea from importing or exporting weapons and supporting armed groups in the region. “Although the focus was initially on al-Shabaab in Somalia, the wording of the resolution appears to have a wider significance,” he said.

Bryden believes that the sanctions regime has been effective “to the degree that Eritrea has opened its stance, has ceased supplying al-Shabaab, has started cooperating on the issue of prisoners of war and is showing a new openness to the U.N., to the sanctions committee, and to others. So there’s clearly some progress,” he said.

for more information  http://allafrica.com/stories/201704090248.html

Paulos Yacob

free all political prisoners in Eritrea

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails UNESCO’s decision, announced today, to award its Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Dawit Isaak, a journalist with Swedish and Eritrean dual nationality who has been imprisoned in Eritrea for 15 years without every talking to a lawyer or seeing a judge.

The prize will be formally awarded at a ceremony on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.

“The decision to award Dawit Isaak this year’s prize is an encouraging signal,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “It sends a strong message of denunciation of regimes that obliterate the media and journalism because they communicate democratic values. We reiterate our call to the Eritrean government to free all the journalists it has arbitrarily imprisoned for so many years.”

Isaak moved to Sweden in 1987. In 1993, two years after Eritrea finally obtained its independence from Ethiopia, he returned to the country of his birth to open Eritrea’s first independent newspaper, Setit, in the capital, Asmara.

In 2001, his newspaper published an open letter calling for elections and the implementation of the promised constitution. The ensuing crackdown was terrible. Isaak and ten other journalists were arrested in September of that year and have remained in prison ever since.

RSF has received information that seven of these eleven journalists have died in detention. The fate of Isaak and the other three – Emanuel Asrat, Temesgen Gebreyesus and Seyoum Tsehaye – is unclear.

Tsehaye’s two daughters, who live in France, have had no news of him since his arrest. When, aged 12 and 14, they tried to see the Eritrean ambassador in Paris, he called the police in order to have them removed from the embassy. In June 2015. RSF filed a complaint against persons unknown on their behalf with the French judicial authorities but it was deemed inadmissible.

Isaak’s younger brother, Essayas Isaak, and three lawyers backed by RSF wrote to the Eritrean supreme court in Asmara in 2011 seeking a writ of habeas corpus for Isaak. They requested information about the place where he was being held and his conditions of imprisonment. The supreme court never responded, claiming it did not receive the letter.

In the absence of any response from the Eritrean supreme court, the lawyers turned to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in 2013, when Isaak was 48 and had just completed his 12th year in prison. In Communication 428/12 of February 2016, the ACHPR called on Eritrea to set up a mechanism for effectively locating missing persons and for passing the information to their families.

The ACHPR also stressed the importance of taking immediate measures to allow independent media to operate, to bring relevant laws into line with international standards and to protect journalists from arrest and arbitrary treatment. Eritrea has still not complied with these obligations.

RSF also made a written submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2015 about Isaak’s fate.

According to RSF’s tally, at least 15 journalists are currently detained in Eritrea, which means that Isaias Afewerki’s dictatorship is Africa’s biggest prison for media personnel.

Thousands of Eritreans, including dozens of journalists, have had no choice but to flee the country to escape the indiscriminate repression. RSF tries to follow as many of the cases of Eritrean exile journalists as possible. RSF also supports Radio Erena, an independent Eritrean radio station based in Paris that broadcasts to Eritreans in Eritrea and the diaspora.

Eritrea is ranked last, 180th out of 180 countries, in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was created in 1997 by UNESCO’s executive council to honor a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defense and/or promotion of media freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

The Oxford Times

Journalist who fled Eritrea fearing for life, awarded with national accolade for helping other refugees in Oxford

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SIXTEEN years ago a journalist fled her home in Eritrea, Africa with her two-year-old daughter, fearing for her life.

She hoped to find safety in America. But Eden Habtemichael never made it to the US and instead found herself coming to the UK in 2001.  Completely isolated and unable to speak English, the now 39-year-old found herself crying every day for three months.

Her luck changed when she saw a sign for Asylum Welcome, based in Magdalen Road, and went in to see if she could be helped by the charity.

She has been awarded the Women on the Move Woman of the Year accolade for 2017.

The Rose Hill resident said: “You do not do this for the awards, so I was very surprised to have won this.

“You do it to help the people that are where you were, in this hole where you do not know what you are going to do next.

“Some of the women now call me mom or sister and that is because they do not have any family here.

“You have to help them rebuild a family.”

The national awards are organized by Migrant Organise and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to recognize and celebrate inspirational leadership and contribution from migrant and refugee women to UK society.

As a former client herself Miss Habtemichael understand the needs and difficulties many of the women face when they come to Oxford.

She added: “When I came here I did not know anything, where to go, what to do and I want to make sure no one else feels like that when they come here.

“I remember bringing my daughter to the playground and just sitting there thinking about how we were going to survive.”

As Woman Service Coordinator Miss Habtemichael runs the charity’s Women’s Group which grew from a monthly group to one that meets several times a week.

Currently, 52 women take part in the program which includes English classes, vocational skills, Zumba and music classes and CV workshops.

Kate Hood, director of Refugee Resource, said: “We are extremely proud of Eden, this award recognizes the outstanding leadership she has provided and the progress that she and the members of the women’s group at Refugee Resource have made.”

In her free time, Miss Habtemichael is also co-chairwoman of the Oxford City of Sanctuary, a trustee of East Oxford Community Centre and is one of the directors at Sanctuary Housing, which helps provide temporary accommodation to vulnerable refugees and migrants.

She has also established a friendship group between the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in Oxford.

In the future, Miss Habtemichael hopes to be able to resume her career as a journalist after she spent seven years reporting on stories in Eritrea.

Her daughter, Segen, now 18, is hoping to study psychology at university in September.

She added: “I am very proud of everything she has achieved.

“That is why I did what I did, so I could have a better life for us both.

“It makes me very sad that she has not grown up in the motherland but my dream is that for one day we will be able to go back home.”

For more information visit: refugeeresource.org.uk