Open Letter | Proof of Life for Dawit Isaak

Open Letter | Proof of Life for Dawit Isaak
12 October 2023
Subject: Dawit Isaak’s Proof of Life

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, are writing to request your urgent attention and response regarding the Swedish-Eritrean citizen Dawit Isaak and his colleagues who are the longest-imprisoned journalists in the world. In 2001, the Eritrean authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained Mr. Isaak, along with twenty-one of his fellow journalists.

Just last month, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued a sharply-worded conclusive opinion, stating its “utmost concern regarding the […] unrebutted allegation that Mr. Isaak has been in pre-trial detention for twenty-two years without being charged and without any prospect of trial.”

The WGAD not only called for Mr. Isaak’s immediate, “unconditional release” but also took the notable step of referring his case to the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, among others.

Since 1991, the Afwerki regime has detained thousands of Eritreans, including Mr. Isaak, arbitrarily and in standing breach of international human rights law and the Eritrean Constitution. For eighteen years, Eritrean authorities have failed to provide information about Mr. Isaak’s whereabouts or his physical condition. Since 2005, Mr. Isaak has not had any contact with the outside world.

On May 3, 2023, Sofia Berhane, Mr. Isaak’s wife, appealed to President Afwerki for her husband’s release and to allow the family to establish direct contact with him or – at the very least – to hear his voice. Thus far, the Eritrean authorities have not responded to Berhane’s appeal. We therefore strongly urge the Swedish government to urgently take the following actions:

  • Request that Eritrean authorities provide unambiguous and verifiable proof that Mr. Isaak is alive;
  • Request that Eritrean authorities reveal Mr. Isaak’s current location and his state of physical and mental health;
  • Insist that Eritrean authorities allow him access to Swedish consular personnel; and
  • Amplify your efforts to secure Isaak’s immediate and unconditional release

Thank you for your attention in this urgent matter.



The Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR)

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)

PEN Canada

Reporters Without Borders/Sweden (RSF)

International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute

PEN International

Free Dawit

Swedish PEN

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