Bitweded Abraha

Name: Bitweded Abraha

Country/Area of Origin: Eritrea

Background: Prior to his detention in 1991, Bitweded Abraha was a noteworthy leader of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, a militant organization that fought for Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia from 1970 to 1994. Abraha was a secret member of the EPLF until 1973, when he started trainings; by 1977, he was elected to a reserve membership position of the EPLF Central Committee. In 1983, Abraha was chosen as the deputy head of the Revolution School, in 1987 he was assigned to the Economy Department, and in the following years he was engaged in combat for the liberation of Eritrea.

Reason for Arrest:

In the late 1980s, Abraha acted as the commander in battles to liberate Assab, a port city on the coast of the Red Sea located in modern Eritrea. Following the city’s liberation, Abraha worked as the city’s governor and administrated the management of the city while he concurrently carried out military duties. Abraha unfortunately had started a rocky relationship with now-President Isaias Afwerki at this time in Assab while Afwerki served as the Chairman of the EPLF. At some point in October 1991, without having committed any crime, Bitweded Abraha was detained.

During his time in initial detention, Abraha wrote to Afwerki a handful of times requesting to be informed of his supposed crime or at least to have a formal trial, though he received no reply. Six years later in December 1997, Afwerki allowed Abraha to be released but quickly rearrested him in March 1998 after Abraha began speaking out in public about his unlawful detention and his fear of dictatorship under Afwerki. Since his second arrest in 1998, Abraha has not been heard of and his location and status remains undisclosed. The only known fact is that he remains in solitary confinement.

During the brief period between his first and second, prolonged detention, Abraha made the following comment:

“We should not be afraid of any one person but should be aware or afraid of breaking the law of the land and the laws of God, the creator. If we want to make social justice a reality, we need to have bravery and dedication. The Eritrean people need to shout openly and ask that these prisoners receive due process of the law and be brought before a judge. Do not be afraid! I will fight until justice is realized.”

Latest Updates:

  • 6 October 2021 is the 30th anniversary of Betweded Abrahas’ first detention in 1991. Human Rights Concern-Eritrea released the following statement:
    • ” It is high time that Eritrea takes immediate note of the clear and categorical condemnation of its illegal actions by a UN body, and frees Bitweded Abraha forthwith. Otherwise, the world can see clearly the contempt which the Eritrean government has for the very UN bodies it pretends to respect and uphold, as well as its contempt for the heroes of its own liberation movement.”
  • 10 January 2019: The Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published its Opinion No. 80/2018 concerning Bitweded Abraha (Eritrea), in which they stated the following:
    • “The deprivation of liberty of Bitweded Abraha, being in contravention of articles 9, 10, 11 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9, 14 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, II, and III.”
    • “The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Abraha immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.”
    • “The Working Group urges the Government to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Abraha and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.”