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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Dawit Isaak


Detained Since: September 23, 2001.

Charges: No official charges.

Sentence: No official sentence.

Biography: Dawit Isaak is a writer and journalist with dual Swedish and Eritrean nationality, who was detained without formal charge in Eritrea in September 2001 and has since gone missing.  He was detained alongside ten other independent journalists and eleven politicians, ostensibly for demanding democratic reforms in a series of letters to President Isayas Afeworki.  He was the only Swedish citizen being held as a prisoner of conscience at the time.  In April 2002, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Isaak had been hospitalized after being tortured; the Eritrean government denied that he’d been tortured but refused to allow any visitors.  In 2005, he was released for two days before being re-imprisoned while on his way to hospital.  In 2009, four of Sweden’s biggest newspapers featured Isaak’s case on their front pages and launched a petition for his release but, the Eritrean president dismissed the issue during a TV interview later that year saying, “We will not have any trial and we will not free him.” 

Advocacy Partner: Reporters Without Borders


  • September 23rd marks Isaak's 15th-year anniversary of his imprisonment without trial. Without any confirmation of his whereabout or well-being, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh told journalists he is still alive, adding that he and several others will be on trial "when the government decides". The Free Dawit Campaign as well as the Swedish government have been stepping up their efforts. He is believed to be ill. (September 23, 2016, The National)  
  • Dawit Isaak was awarded the 2017 Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. His daughter, Betlehem Isaak, accepted the award on her father's behalf as his location is presently unknown. (March 30, 2017, UNESCO)
  • The European Parliament voted through a resolution calling for the immediate release of Dawit Isaak, the Eritrean-born Swedish journalist, who has been imprisoned without trial in Eritrea for more than 15 years. (August 15, 2017, Ezega)
  • The European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Europe’s most prestigious human rights award, to the democratic opposition in Venezuela. .Other finalists were Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, an activist from Guatemala who fights to protect indigenous peoples from the expansion of agro-industry on their territory; and Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist and writer who has been arbitrarily detained by the Eritrean authorities since 2001. (October 26, 2017, The New York Times)