Country of Origin: Eritrea
Occupation: Playwright and journalist
Detained: September 2001
Status: Held without formal charges or trial at an unknown location
Dawit Isaak emigrated in 1978, to escape Eritrea’s war of independence from Ethiopia, and obtained dual Swedish- Eritrean citizenship. In 1991, after Eritrea gained de facto independence, Dawit returned home.
Isaak co-founded the country’s first independent newspaper Setit and worked as a reporter. In 1998, after a border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia sparked a fresh round of violence, he returned to Sweden to settle his family there.
The conflict with Ethiopia provoked a great deal of criticism of the Afeworki government. In 2001, 15 government ministers wrote an open letter calling for democratic reforms. The letter was delivered to the government and covered in the independent Eritrean media including Setit.
In September 2001, Isaak and many of the country’s leading journalists were imprisoned without charge in a government crackdown on the independent media. The journalists were subjected to harsh treatment including torture. Four of Isaak’s colleagues later died in prison.
In February 2009, it was reported that he was “seriously ill.” In June of that year President Afeworki was asked about Isaak and reportedly responded: “No, we don’t release him. We don’t take [him] to trial. We know how to deal with him and others like him and we have our own ways of dealing with that.” Ten years after their arrest and detention without charges or trials, Dawit and at least five other independent Eritrean journalists remain in prison.
Send appeals for the immediate and unconditional release of Dawit and his colleagues to:
H.E. Ahferom Berhane Ghebremedhin
Ambassador, Embassy of Eritrea
75 Albert St., Ste. 610
Ottawa, ON K1P 5E7
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Hon. John Baird
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Mr. Ben Kioko
Legal Counsel, Office of the Legal Counsel African
P.O. Box 3243, Roosevelt Street
W21K19 Addis Ababa
H.E. Araya Desta
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of
Eritrea to the United Nations
800 Second Avenue
18th Floor New York, NY 10017