Human Rights

Speech by Jerzy Buzek at the exhibition marking the 10th anniversary of the imprisonment of Dawit Isaak

Strasbourg -
Wednesday 14/09/2011

"Today, we come to show that we remember. It has been 10 years since Dawit Isaak was imprisoned by the Eritrean authorities. Imprisoned for hopes of democratic reforms in his country. Imprisoned for taking the fate of his country into his hands.

I come from a country where too many have been imprisoned for political reasons. I know that for them the knowledge that people outside the prison walls have not forgotten them was very important. That it helped them keep the hope.

Nearly 25 years ago, war forced Dawit to seek refuge in Europe. Sweden became his new home. Yet he went back to his country as soon as Eritrea gained independence. He went back to serve his country as he could - as an independent journalist. He went back only to be forced to return to Europe, when another deadly war broke out. Yet he never lost the hope of coming back and he paid a heavy price for that dream.

We have recognised Dawit Isaak's firm stance in defence of freedom of thought and freedom of expression. He was one of the candidates for our Sakharov Prize in 2009. My predecessor, Hans-Gert Pöttering, our Colleague, Louis Michel - still as a Commissioner and later as an MEP, as well as many others - were personally involved in trying to obtain Dawit's release. With agreement of political groups, I have written personally to President Afewerki. We have suggested sending an envoy to negotiate Dawit's release. I have met Eritrean authorities and been in contact with Madame Ashton on this matter. I am always ready to go myself if there was a chance for an opening.

The European Parliament has always been a proud defender of democratic aspirations. And as we stand by our neighbours in North Africa, we do not forget that those aspirations are shared beyond our neighbourhood - also in distant corners of the African continent.

We did not forget Dawit Isaak. And we do not lose hope. Our hope is that Dawit Isaak is alive. That he will be free. That he will rejoin his family. That we will not have to observe another anniversary as this one.

We hope that the wind of change will blow across the Sahel and across the Red Sea. That change will come to Eritrea!"

Note to editors:

TV footage of the event will be available for download in web and broadcast quality after broadcast by Europe by Satellite at 19.00 CET:


Photos of the event will be available for download (type Buzek and tick the photo icon):


Draft resolutions on Eritrea: the case of Dawit Isaak are available here:


The final resolution on Eritrea: the case of Dawit Isaak will be available here once adopted (click on 15 Sep):



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