Mr. Isaak was arrested in 2001 when the Eritrean regime banned all independent media in the country. He and his colleagues have never been given a trial. He is kept in isolation at an undisclosed location, denied his right to visits by family, lawyers, Swedish diplomats and even the International Red Cross.
In reply to the complaint to the Police the Swedish Office of Prosecution decided not to investigate Mr. Isaak’s case. According to the Prosecution it is “obvious that the crimes could not be investigated”. In the decision the Prosecutor explains that an investigation would need cooperation from Eritrea. The Prosecution presumes that such assistance will not be given and that an investigation therefore would not be feasible.
The complaint sent in by jurists Mr. Jesús Alcalá, Mr. Percy Bratt and Ms. Prisca Orsonneau (legal coordinator for Reporters without Borders in Paris) contains a broad background. It includes both UN reports about the Human Rights situation in Eritrea and contact details to witnesses such as Mr Isaak’s editor in 2001. The heads of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Security Council Monitoring Group on Eritrea also volunteer to help Swedish investigators. The Commission is presently investigating a case related to Mr. Isaak.
The decision by the Swedish Prosecution is now being appealed by the three jurists asking the Prosecutor General, Sweden’s highest Prosecutor, to look into the case.
In May 2014 Sweden adopted a new Law on Crimes against Humanity which underlines that crimes of this type can be tried in Sweden no matter where or by whom they have been committed. Global jurisdiction over such crimes applied in Sweden before too, but it was made clearer still by the Parliament’s decision.
Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Canton commend the Parliament’s decision and writes:
“To close this case ex ante based on conjecture of how the investigation may proceed, without ever taking a single concrete step toward initiating that investigation, would defeat the purpose of Sweden’s robust universal jurisdiction law and denies Mr. Isaak the chance at justice he so deserves.”
They explain that they understand there are many factors involved in a decision to start an investigation and go on to quote Robert F. Kennedy: “moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.”
International support for a Swedish investigation has also been given by Article 19 in Nairobi, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders in Kampala and Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa in Banjul.
Read the letter from the Kennedy Center in its entirety.