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US Voices Concern About Human Right Violations in Eritrea - 2002-10-18

The State Department reiterated U.S. concern Thursday about human rights violations in Eritrea. It also urged the government of African state to either release or give a fair trial to two Eritrean employees of the U.S. embassy in Asmara, who have been held without charge by authorities for a year now.

In a statement volunteered to reporters here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher lamented the one-year anniversary of the detention of the two embassy employees, which he said came in the context of a "troubling" crackdown on democracy and human rights in Eritrea.

Eritrean nationals Ali Alamin, who worked in the U.S. embassy's economic affairs office, and Kiflom Gebremichael, of its political office, were arrested last October 11 and have been held without charge since then.

Mr. Boucher urged that the two embassy workers either be freed, or at least granted the opportunity to defend themselves in an open or fair trial.

He said their situation is not dissimilar from that of 11 prominent Eritreans arrested and held incommunicado since last fall after calling for greater democracy in the country. "We also note that last fall the government of Eritrea arrested and began holding incommunicado and without charge prominent Eritreans who had called for greater democracy in Eritrea," he said. "And so we've called upon the government of Eritrea to respect fundamental human rights enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights."

Mr. Boucher said that since late last year, the Eritrean government has shut down independent media, detained journalists and implemented new restrictions on the freedom of religion, while refusing to implement a constitution and postponing national assembly elections that were to have been held last December.

He called on the government of President Isaias Afworki to return to the basic values of democracy and human rights as, he said, "it has repeatedly committed itself to do."