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Human rights cases

Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo, Eritrea

Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo and his former wife Aster Fissehatsion are feared to have died in custody. Photo courtesy of Fissehatsion/Sheriffo family

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

Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo was a founding member of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) with future Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

After independence from Ethiopia in 1993, he took a leading part in public life, becoming foreign minister and even briefly representing the president as head of state during his absence. 

He was serving as local government minister until he was sacked at the beginning of 2001 for trying to draft a law which would have allowed political parties other than the ruling PFJD to take part in elections.

In an interview with a local newspaper, he openly criticized the government, even though politicians dared not speak out against the president.

He and 10 other MPs were detained in 2001 on unfounded treason charges and have never been heard of again. Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo is believed to have died in December 2003 of complications related to his diabetes, for which he was not receiving medical attention. This has never been confirmed.

Born in 1948, he was the ex-husband of another of the detainees, Aster Fissehatsion, the only woman in the group of 11.