Reminder to the world: Patriarch Abune Antonios, Head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, detained since January 2006

Human Rights Concern-Eritrea wishes to Remind the World of the Continued Detention of Patriarch Abune Antonios, Head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, since January 2006

26 January 2022

Since January 2006 Patriarch Antonios has endured in the Eritrean capital, Asmara. He continues to be held under duress, with state agents ensuring that he cannot leave the premises. There has never been an opportunity for him to question and challenge this illegal detention in a court of law. He is detained arbitrarily and without charge or trial, solely at the whim of the Eritrean President and ruling clique in government.  He is being held virtually incommunicado, and is deprived of all contact with clergy and friends.

His imprisonment since January 2006 makes him one of the longest serving prisoners of conscience in Eritrea. His courage in resisting calls by the regime to submit his church to total governmental control caused him to suffer prolonged persecution and enforced silencing within his own country.  His detention is neither recognised nor accepted by the legitimate church representatives and members, despite many government attempts to replace him with a more compliant priest.

The patriarch’s detention violates at least six fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, found in Articles 3(liberty of person), 8 (effective remedy), 9 (no arbitrary arrest or detention), 11 (presumed innocent until proven guilty),13 (freedom of movement), 18 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), all of which have been denied him.

It is vital that the nature of his imprisonment is recognised by the international community for what it is – arbitrary detention. And it is important to note that this form of detention is similar to that used by the apartheid regime in South Africa, which instituted “Banning” Orders. Victims of these arbitrary legal measures could not leave their houses or meet with more than one person, or communicate with the outside world. At this stage in the history of Eritrea, it may be appropriate to note the similarities in the treatment of persons disapproved of by the regime: the same human rights abuses continue to this day as occurred in under apartheid—widespread use of torture, disappearances, unexplained deaths in detention, arbitrary illegal arrests and secret detention, and systematic police brutality unchecked by the law. The world must wake up to the fact that human rights abuses as severe and longstanding as under Apartheid are occurring in East Africa to this day.

Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) appeals to the international community to stand up for this innocent and righteous religious leader on the 16th anniversary of his detention.

HRCE also calls upon all member states of the United Nations to put pressure on the government of Eritrea to release the 92-year-old Patriarch, who has been unjustly kept in isolation, away from the people and church he loves dearly.

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

+44 7958 005 637


  1. Do you the Eritrean people Know the difference between right and wrong.? . Do they know The different between fear and courage. .? Do they know The difference between leader and dictator. .?

  2. Canada can impose sanctions against Eritrea. Some of the largest mining companies operating in Eritrea e,g. Alpha Exploration Ltd, are from Canada. These companies generate huge sums of money in hard currency for the regime in Asmara to abuse its people in perpetuity and causes wars in the region e.g. the Tigray war.

    It would be very helpful if you can please write appeal letters to your MP and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding Canada imposes a sanctions programme against Eritrea.

    The regime in Asmara is terribly worried about sanctions and the more countries follow the US example the sooner we will see the desired change in the country. Isaias understands two things; guns and money.

  3. No one is above the law. He knew he crossed the religion and politics redline. Resisting the governments call to separate any religious work from the state was a risk.

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