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Latest Publication

Eritrea: Von der Befreiung zur Unterdruckung

Eritrea: Von der Befreiung zur Unterdrückung
Editors: Katja Buck, Mirjam van Reisen
Publisher: EMW - Evangelisches Missionswerk in Deutschland

Screenshot 2015-03-19 13.22.06
Decentralised Rural Energy to Meet Energy Needs of Rural Communities and Farmers: Simple, Accessible, Affordable and Sustainable
Editor: Mirjam van Reisen
Publisher: Hivos

Women Leadership Cover-10-7-14
Women's Leadership in Peace Building
Conflict, Community and Care
Editor: Mirjam van Reisen
Publisher: Africa World Press

The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond
Authors: Mirjam van Reisen, Meron Estefanos & Conny Rijken
Publisher: Wolf legal publishers
For full list of publications

Dutch court rules in favour of Mirjam van Reisen

Mirjam van reisen 400x250A Court in Amsterdam struck down Meseret Bahlbi lawsuit against Mirjam van Reisen. The judge found that she was not guilty of libel and slander and that the youth party of the Eritrean regime can be seen as a means of collecting intelligence abroad. The decision comes as a huge relief not only for the Dutch professor, but also for the Eritrean diaspora across Europe.

Full article available here.

The court room was packed to overflowing for the hearing on 27 January 2016. The majority of those present, most of which were from the Eritrean diaspora, came to support Mirjam van Reisen. She was being sued for libel and slander by Bahlbi, an Eritrean residing in the Netherlands.

On May 21, 2015 van Reisen expressed concern that two interpreters for the Dutch Immigration Office were siblings of the “centre of the Eritrean intelligence in the Netherlands”. Bahlbi’s name was not mentioned during the interview for BNR Nieuwsradio, but he felt it was clear that the statemented referred to him. This is because Bahlbi is the former head of the Young People's Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ) in the Netherlands, a nationalist Eritrean Diaspora youth organisation connected to the Eritrean ruling party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).

Although the legal action centred on these remarks, it quickly became apparent that this case was about more. On February 10, 2016, the judge ruled that van Reisen had no case to answer and awarded damages against Bahlbi in her favour, claiming that Van Reisen “remained within the restrictions of the right of freedom of expression and that her interests carry more weight than those of Bahlbi”. The ruling ensured that opinions based on research and evidence would not be muted.

In the Amsterdam court room, Van Reisen’s lawyer strove to show that the YPFDJ was the “eyes and ears” of the Eritrean regime. The court’s decision accepts this to be the reality:

“…through the structural methods described by Van Reisen in a number of West-European countries with regard to the gathering of intelligence, supported by a number of (UN) reports and statements, it follows that the YPFDJ, as considered above, is to be characterised as the extended arm of a dictatorial regime and that through this organisation intelligence is being passed to the regime.”

A common headline across Dutch newspapers was De lange arm van Eritrea, or the ‘long arm of Eritrea’. The arm not only refers to intelligence gathering, but also to intimidation.

Interpreters are a crucial part of the Dutch immigration service, and yet their direct access to political refugees makes them a valuable asset for a repressive and secretive Eritrean state. Information given to interpreters during the asylum process can prove costly for relatives and friends back home. According to the judgment, “this may be regarded as a serious evil that causes great distress particularly with the Eritrean asylum seekers and with asylum-law attorneys.”

The court’s decision sends a strong message – the Netherlands is an open democracy where evidence based criticism is legitimate. The rule of law, democracy and freedom of speech, values that the EU and the Netherlands stand for, have been defended. Values which Eritreans do not enjoy in their own country.

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