Christian Solidarity Worldwide
For Immediate Release
30 October 2008
ERITREAN GOVERNMENT SUPPORTERS ASSAULT ITALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS AT MEETING OPENED BY ERITREAN DEFENCE MINISTER
Eritrean government supporters in Rome have assaulted eight human rights protestors, seriously injuring an Italian woman, who was taken to hospital by ambulance.
The incident, caught on video camera, took place on 26 October during an event opened by the Eritrean Minister of Defence and allegedly sponsored by the Eritrean government.
A bus from Milan carrying around fifty government supporters arrived at the venue just as Dania Avallone, head of the Italian human rights NGO ASPER, was speaking into a microphone. As they left the bus some began hurling abuse at the activists and pushed past two Italian policemen. They then pelted the protestors with bottles, stones and cans and also assaulted them physically. The attack ended when police reinforcements arrived at the scene.
Ms. Avallone lost consciousness during the assault when a stone struck her in the kidneys. She was kept in hospital overnight for observation, but is now recovering at home and considering her legal options.
Ms. Avallone told Christian Solidarity Worldwide: “This is what they do in Eritrea – they forcibly repress everyone and everything. But we are in Europe, and we have the right to speak out. They can’t stop us or persuade the police to move us, so in their frustration they assault us”.
She added; “This is the fourth time my friends and I have been assaulted by supporters of the Eritrean ruling party, but the first time that we have been able to obtain evidence of the assault. I am Italian living in my own country, yet they assault me without fear. Can you imagine what they will do to an Eritrean refugee? They can kill them at any time and no one will know or take action”.
The Eritrean government is one of the most repressive in Africa. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and belief are detained arbitrarily and indefinitely in prisons, open air facilities, police cells, metal containers and other makeshift prisons where conditions are life threatening and torture is rife. Each year hundreds of citizens risk their lives attempting to escape repressive government policies, which include an obligatory but open-ended military service regime where conscripts are used as labourers on government farms and construction projects.
Tina Lambert, Advocacy Director at CSW, said: “CSW condemns this unwarranted attack on people who were merely exercising their legitimate right to protest peacefully. We call on the Italian authorities to fully investigate this assault and to speedily bring those responsible to justice. A swift outcome will not only end the harassment of European human rights defenders, but will also encourage the many vulnerable Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Europe who continue to feel insecure due to the intimidating actions of Eritrean government supporters.”
For further information or to arrange an interview please contact Theresa Malinowska, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8329 0045, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
Notes to Editors:
1) ASPER (Associazione per la Tutela dei Diritti Umani del Popolo Eritreo) stands for Association for the Defence of the Human Rights of the People of Eritrea.
2) A number of people were injured when a meeting in London, organised in September 2001 by Eritreans concerned at political developments in their country, was violently disrupted by government supporters. Similar tactics have reportedly been used to disrupt meetings in New York and Stockholm.
3) For ASPER’S report and photographs of the protest and assault, please click here: (Warning: images may shock)
4) For CSW’s press releases on Eritrea please click here: