Tewelde Ghebremedhin, Minase Andezion, Habtom Weldemicael, trade union leaders

Re: Tewelde Ghebremedhin, trade union leader; Minase Andezion, trade union leader; Habtom Weldemicael, trade union leader

To: President Issayas Afewerki, President of Eritrea

From: Charles B. Davison

Date: 2005-05-16

I am writing to you at this time concerning the situation of three trade union leaders in your country – Mr. Tewelde Ghebremedhin, Mr. Minase Andezion, and Mr. Habtom Weldemicael – who have been arrested in the last six weeks, and who have been held in detention without access to legal counsel or other respect for their rights.

We understand that on March 30, 2005 Mr. Ghebremedhin and Mr. Andezion were arrested by security police. A few days later, Mr. Weldemicael was also arrested, apparently for suggesting that industrial action should be taken in protest against the worsening standard of living of workers in your country. All three of these men are well known for their leadership of their respective trade unions, and for their efforts to better the plight of their members and others in Eritrea as well. Their arrests appear to be aimed solely at preventing them from continuing to carry out their legitimate functions as trade union officials.

We respectfully suggest that the arrest and continued detention of these three men is in direct violation of the provisions of a number of international agreements and conventions concerning human rights, including the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998. This Declaration, and other instruments as well, specifically guarantees the rights of all individuals to collectively seek the protection and betterment of their own rights and interests. To arrest and detain persons who exercise these rights is in direct contravention of international law.

Accordingly, we respectfully call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Tewelde Ghebremedhin, Mr. Minase Andezion, and Mr. Habtom Weldemicael . We call upon you to ensure that the physical and psychological health and well-being of all three is protected, whether they are in or out of custody. Should valid charges of criminal or other misconduct be laid against them, we expect they will be prosecuted and dealt with fairly and in accordance with applicable international standards, including those recognizing their rights to legal advice and representation. Finally, we also ask you to ensure that all other persons who work for the recognition, protection and enforcement of the human rights of all individuals, be protected from any and all forms of persecution and harassment by government, police, security or other forces or agents in Eritrea.