Skip to main content
Human rights cases

Aster Fissehatsion, Eritrea

Aster Fissehatsion is believed to have died in custody in 2003. Picture used with permission.

Eritrean MP Aster Fissehatsion has been held incommunicado without trial since 2001, one of a group of 11 seized after criticizing the country’s president, Isaias Afwerki.

Aster Fissehatsion is the only woman in a group of 11 MPs detained in Eritrea in 2001 after signing an open letter criticizing the president.

None of the group has ever been charged or put on trial, and no word of them has been received since their detention. She is among those reported to have died in detention, but the authorities have not confirmed this.

Aster Fissehatsion, born in 1951, had previously been married to another of the detainees, Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo.  

After Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, she worked in various government ministries, including as minister of labour and social affairs. She was elected to the central committee of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).

In 1996 she was dismissed from her job for criticizing the government of President Isaias Afwerki, before being reinstated in 1999.

But in May 2001 she and other government critics signed the open letter, calling for justice and the rule of law to be established by legal and peaceful means. Four months later, she and 10 other MPs were arrested on treason charges, and have never been seen since.

Suffering from stomach ulcers, Aster Fissehatsion is believed to have died as a result of intolerable prison conditions in a heatwave in 2003.