Denmark admits ‘doubts’ about Eritrea report

The Danish Immigration Service's fact-finding report on Eritrea has been under heavy fire since its release and the agency now says that the feedback "raises doubts" and that Eritreans can expect to be "granted asylum in many cases".

Denmark admits 'doubts' about Eritrea report
Children on a hill in Eritrea. The Danish Immigration Service's report on the country has been heavily criticised. Photo: BJARKE ØRSTED/Scanpix
The Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen – DIS) said on Tuesday that it has changed its mind about the conclusions of a much-criticised report on Eritrea.
After the report was criticised by its only named source, Professor Gaim Kibreab of the London South Bank University, as well as others familiar with the situation in Eritrea, DIS now says that sending deserters of Eritrea’s compulsory military service back home does present a danger after all. 
In a press release sent late on Tuesday, DIS said that the reaction to its report “raises doubts about whether there are risks to people returning to Eritrea after illegally leaving the country and avoiding national service”. 
“DIS therefore finds that after concrete and individual assessments, there can be a basis for granting asylum to people seeking it under this motivation [avoiding compulsory national service, ed.],” the statement continued. 
Using mostly anonymous sources, DIS’s report called into question previous claims that Eritreans can face retribution or even possible death if they flee the country. The fact finding report instead says that Eritreans who have tried to avoid military service can merely sign a repentance letter and agree to pay an extra two percent ‘Diaspora tax’. 
The report thus recommended that Denmark only provide asylum to Eritreans who can show that they face a personal threat.  
But with the change in course announced on Tuesday, DIS now says that Eritreans are likely to be granted asylum in Denmark even if they aren’t personally persecuted, concluding that the agency now “expects to grant asylum in many cases”.
Although it did an about-turn on the conclusions of its report, DIS’s press release also calls into question the legitimacy of Kibreab’s complaints. 
Kibreab stepped forward shortly after the report’s publication to say that he felt “betrayed” by DIS’s “heavily edited” report that “completely ignored facts and just hand-plucked certain information.”
But DIS released a lengthy summary of the agency’s mail correspondence with Kibreab that indicates that he repeatedly failed to provide “any detailed and concrete depictions of exactly which statements in the published report”. DIS’s summary of the correspondence can be found here (in English, scroll down). 
On the same day DIS presented its about-face on the report’s conclusions, an agency employee who has taken sick leave since the report’s release called it a massive failure. 
“It is a torpedo fired directly into the work we have done over the past 20 years to build up trust and transparency,” Jens Weise Olesen told TV2 News.  

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Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for ‘torture and kidnapping’

Sweden's chapter of Reporters Without Borders has filed a complaint accusing Eritrea's regime of human rights abuses over the imprisonment of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak in 2001.

Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for 'torture and kidnapping'
A sign from a September 2011 demonstration for Dawit Isaak's release
The complaint was directed at Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and seven other high ranking political leaders, including Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed.
Handed over to Swedish police by RSF and Isaak's brother, the complaint accused them of “crimes against humanity, enforced disappearance, torture and kidnapping”.
It was also signed by human rights advocates like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
On September 23, 2001, Isaak was arrested shortly after the Eritrean newspaper he founded, Setit, published articles demanding political reforms.   
According to RSF, he and his colleagues detained at the same time are now the journalists who have been imprisoned the longest in the world.
Isaak had fled to Sweden in 1987 during Eritrea's struggle against Ethiopia which eventually led to independence in 1993. He returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape.
RSF ranks Eritrea as the world's third most repressive country when it comes to press freedom, behind North Korea and Turkmenistan.
Similar complaints have been filed before, including in 2014 when a new law took effect in Sweden enabling the prosecution for such crimes even if committed elsewhere in the world.
The prosecutor-general at the time concluded that while there were grounds to suspect a crime and open an investigation, doing so “would diminish the possibility that Dawit Isaak would be freed.”
Bjorn Tunback, coordinator for RSF Sweden's work on the Dawit Isaak case, said they hoped this time would be different after Foreign Minister Ann Linde last year said that despite repeated calls for Isaak's release “no clear changes are yet to be noted in Eritrea.”
Tunback said the minister's statements indicated that diplomatic channels had been exhausted.
“Diplomacy has its course, but when that doesn't lead anywhere, there is also the legal route,” Tunback told AFP.
“The law is there to protect individuals… and that is what we're testing now.”