To: Conference of Cantonal Directors for Justice and Police (KKJPD) Haus der Kantone
Speichergasse 6, P.O. Box CH-3001 Berne
Bern, 22 August 2022
Subject: Planned propaganda event of the Eritrean regime in Switzerland Honourable members of the Conference of Directors for Justice and Police
Honourable members of the Conference of Directors for Justice and Police.
By this letter, we would like to draw your attention to the so-called “Eritrea Festival”, which is being organised every summer under the guise of a “cultural event” at the behest of the Eritrean regime not only in Switzerland, but in numerous other European countries as well.
By organising concerts with musicians who enjoy a certain degree of fame among the Eritrean public, the regime of President Isaias Afewerki manages to attract the members of the diaspora; the main aim is, however, to be able to spread its political messages of war and hatred. Anti-Western and, more recently, pro-Russian propaganda are also part of the repertoire of the various speakers, who include not only high-ranking representatives of the YPFDJ, but also members of President Isaias Afewerki’s cabinet. In 2018, for example, Foreign Minister Osman Saleh incited government supporters with anti-Western propaganda.
It is well known that the regime in Eritrea is involved in the current war in northern Ethiopia. Thus, this year’s festivals serve mainly to glorify the war, to justify it and also to support it financially. Hate speeches, war slogans and racist songs against the people of Tigray thus form the main programme of this year’s events. This was clearly heard at a YPFDJ event in Sion on 23.07.2022, which was also attended by children and minors. The “main attraction” this summer is a music group of the Eritrean Defence Force, consisting of musicians, poets and political cadres. They not only boast about their victory over the arch-enemy Tigray, but also sow hatred against Eritrean opposition members as well as members of the Tigrayan ethnic group during their performances.
Another event in Switzerland is now planned for 27 August 2022, but the venue is being kept secret until now.
For years now, the organisation of such propaganda events has been heavily criticised by the Eritrean opposition, but also by informed politicians in the host countries; this year, this could be observed in Sweden. In the Netherlands, the planned festival in Reijkswijk was banned altogether after the Foundation for Human Rights for Eritreans successfully sued against it.
In the afternoon and evening of 20 August 2022, massive riots broke out between angry regime opponents and government supporters in the German city of Giessen. The violent protests eventually led to the event being cancelled after a complaint against it had previously been dismissed. 
The anger and frustration of the regime opponents is all too understandable. Many Eritreans living in Switzerland today as recognised refugees or asylum seekers fled their country of origin due to massive human rights violations and repressive state measures. The regime and its agents in the diaspora regularly try to defame these political refugees as economic migrants, ridicule the families of those who have died during the perilious flight, and downplay the true motives of people fleeing Eritrea (first and foremost, the unlimited military and national service, which violates basic human rights).
Since November 2020, the Eritrean Defence Force (EDF) has been involved in a cruel war against insurgents in northern Ethiopia alongside the Ethiopian federal government; as is so often the case, the victims are civilians, including the elderly, women and children, but also numerous Eritrean refugees who had sought shelter in UNHCR camps. To date, the hostilities have not been resolved, and the Tigray region has been cut off from urgently needed financial, medical and humanitarian aid for months now, leading to famine. The abuses perpetrated against civilians during the fighting, involving Eritrean troops at the order of the government in Asmara, are so atrocious that the UN and the EU are calling them war crimes, ethnically motivated displacements, women-related violence on an unimaginable scale, and potentially crimes against humanity. Several Eritrean army generals, including EDF leader Filippos, were sanctioned by the US in August 2021 as a result of these human rights’ violations. A UN resolution of 17 December 2021 accuses “all parties” in the war – i.e. also the Eritrean Defence Force – of the most serious crimes.
But also the people of Eritrea are suffering heavily under the war in Tigray. Many young men and women (including many minors) are being forcibly recruited for the war during raids, overpriced food is becoming unaffordable, there is a lack of electricity and water in every household. Yet the regime presents itself as the winner of the war and deceives people through propaganda and incitement against the West.
We representatives of the Eritrean community in Switzerland fear violent clashes in the wake of these propaganda events, even more so in light of the problems described above, remembering that violent clashes in Schwarzenburg could only be prevented narrowly in 2017. Switzerland has offered protection from persecution to many Eritrean refugees; we therefore consider it our responsibility to draw your attention to the anti-constitutional activities of PFDJ-associated organisations. The dictatorship’s long arm reaches into Europe and thus also into Switzerland. These who refuse to be loyal to this regime must expect that family members still living in the country of origin will be subjected to reprisals by the regime (threats, expropriation of land, withholding of food coupons that are essential for survival, etc.).
These so-called “festivals”, organised by the regime every summer in the various countries with a large diaspora, aim at marking presence and thus at silencing dissenting voices.
We have had enough of this now! We demand that Eritrean refugees can live a free and safe life here in the host country without being intimidated and blackmailed by the agents of the regime they fled from.
We therefore appeal to you,
- to ban this year’s festival by the Eritrean regime planned for 27 August; if members of the current Eritrean government or military, who are presently under sanctions, attempt to enter the country, this must be prevented under all circumstances.
- In addition, we want the Swiss authorities to finally take adequate measures to put a ban on the other activities of the Eritrean YPFDJ groups once and for good.
- Finally, we want all activities that favour the collection of the so-called diaspora tax, namely the provision of consular services only against the 2% tax, the signing of the so-called “repentance form” and the disclosure of the whereabouts of all family members, to finally be effectively stopped.
It cannot be the case that constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms such as the right to freedom of assembly and expression are abused by a dictatorial regime in Switzerland; Switzerland should neither serve as a propaganda target nor a collection point for illegal taxes to the Eritrean regime!
The Eritrean government is not only disregarding the basic human rights of its own population, but it is also overrunning the civilian population of a neighbouring country with a genocidal war that is in violation of international law. This war has already claimed thousands of lives and has displaced millions more.
We thank you in advance and we count on you to take the necessary measures. Should you require further information and evidence, please do not hesitate to contact us.
On behalf of the network of eritrean “Justice Seekers” in Switzerland
Copies will be sent to
- the State Secretary for Migration
- the Minister of Justice
There is a petition appealing for support for this action: See here: https://act.campax.org/petitions/keine-feier-fur-eritreisches-unrechts-regime-in-der-schweiz
  https://www.hessenschau.de/panorama/angriffe-mit-messern-und-eisenstangen-demo-gegen-eritrea-festival-eskaliert,verletzte-auseinandersetzung-eritrea-festival-giessen-100.html