Recently, two major but less publicized incidents had happened in Eritrea among many others. One is the alleged detention of an Albanian – American flying lobbyist and the other Amnesty’s failed ‘secret mission’ in Eritrea.
According to the Kosovar Ministry of foreign affairs, pilot James Berisha has been missing and in fact ‘detained’ in Asmara shortly after arrival while he was in his mission of lobbying Eritrea’s recognition and support to the independence of Kosovo, his native country.
Strangely though, as if he noticed something goes wrong with “his plan” on arrival, it seems he got the time to send his very last email, god knows from where, to Lumnije Gashi, his associate based in Pristina to warn him that “he may be arrested any moment”.
“In this last email, Berisha warned us that he may be arrested,” Gashi told.
However, until this day, no authority in Eritrea confirmed or denied his alleged detention.
Nonetheless, just a couple of days ago, the government of Eritrea announced that it has disrupted a grand “secret mission” financed and organised by the right group Amnesty International inside the country.
The story begins the day when the Eritrean intelligence was tipped off with what seems to be a fax letter, classified as “Urgent” and “Strictly Confidential”. It was written and signed by Ms. Catherine Price, Amnesty’s head of Africa Special Program, to Mr. Adams Subi Waitara, Amnesty’s senior researcher Tanzania Section, regarding to the latter’s appointment to lead a four man delegation to Eritrea for a “highly confidential mission”.
The letter also instructs Mr. Adams that the remaining three colleagues will meet him in Nairobi on the 1st of September 2011. After having a thorough discussion and understanding of the secret mission, they will start heading to Eritrea strictly between the dates of 6th – 16th September 2011. The names of the three colleagues that are stated on the letter as delegates are Mr. Mohammed Hassan Noor, Ms. Concepcion Empeno and Kathryn Achilles. The name James Berisha simply doesn’t exist anywhere in the letter.
(You can find the said letters and related stories HERE)
The above episode clearly shows one basic fact. Ever since the 1st of August 2011 dated Amnesty letter got in its possession, the Eritrean security organs becomes alert and watchful on the activities of every foreigner that are coming in and goes out.
It happens that James Berisha travelled from Sudan, by commercial plane, to Eritrea for his “very precious lobbying mission for the recognition of Kosovo”, according to the Kosovar foreign ministry. This same ministry, on the 5th of September 2011, has issued a statement to inform that James Berisha was indeed in detention since the 15th of August 2011.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo, following his contacts with partner states, has got information that the Albanian-American pilot, James Berisha, is currently in Eritrea, in one of the detention facilities of this state.”
The lack of confirmation or renunciation from Eritrean authorities on the matter might tell, indeed, James Berisha is under their custody. As their records on the handling of foreigners and prisoners of war are extremely praiseworthy, Berisha’s safety and wellbeing should be the last thing to worry anybody.
This reminds us of a July 29 incident of two Israeli pilots who flew to Eritrea with a package for a local Eritrean security company. However, the package was said to contain spare machine parts, but in fact contained for numerous Kalashnikov rifles and munitions. They were detained for about two weeks in their hotel before setting them free.
After their release, the Israeli foreign ministry has said:
“The Israeli authorities are investigating whether the pilots acted legally and if legal action should be taken against them.
Another similar case was that of the security firm Protection Vessel International (PVI). The government acknowledged, after some time, that it has indeed detained four British nationals who were found committing crimes and offences against Eritrean territorial waters and islands. They quietly invaded one of the 354 Eritrean islands, the “Romia” island, and start using it as their secret base and safe haven of its armed members and arms depot.
After five months of investigation and detention, they admitted their crimes before they had been pardoned. After their release PVI released this statement:
“PVI, “deeply regretted” the situation, and issued “an unreserved apology for any wrongdoing.” PVI again regrets the series of unfortunate events leading to the men’s detainment, but it would like to express thanks to the Eritrean President and his government for their release. We believe they are all in good health, stating they were well looked after by the Eritrean authorities throughout.”
The Eritrean government, as always, preferred to handle such matters with utmost prudence and patience without delving in to diplomatic, propaganda, press and PR campaigns. After quietly conducting their investigations, it is expected that they will expose Amnesty’s latest failed ploy bare.
The government has promised to come up with a detailed and conclusive investigative report on the matter with details of:
- Who are the people that “Amnesty International” tried to illegally send to Eritrea from 6th to 16th of September, 2011?
- What was their mission?
- Who is funding the mission?
- For what purpose?
- What measures did the Government of Eritrea take?
In this regard, if Berisha has a case either in relation to Amnesty International or any other, he has no option except to answer for it according to the law of the country. When this report is due, we will know if James Berisha is simply a victim of circumstances or if he is indeed part of the planed secret mission. May be it is related to another issue that we can not predict at this stage. Until then, all kinds of speculations will keep to set off and keep asking on what grounds Eritrea arrested James Berisha.