Eritrea: Professor wins Court appeal on statement about Eritrean youth organisation YPFDJ in radio programme

Image by Shirley de Jong – Flickr

(translated from Dutch, please find the original here)

For the full verdict (unofficial translation) click here

In 2015, Dutch Professor Mirjam van Reisen (Tilburg University, Leiden University) was interviewed by Dutch radio station BNR nieuwsradio about people with ties to the Eritrean regime being employed as interpreters at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). In response to her statements in this interview, the (now former) chair of the YPFDJ in the Netherlands, the youth department of the Eritrean regime in the Netherlands, started legal proceedings (interim injunction proceedings) against Van Reisen. The court ruled in Van Reisen’s favour, upon which Mr. Bahlbi appealed against the decision. The appeal court has now ruled that the judgement of the interim injunction proceedings had been correct in dismissing all claims against Van Reisen.

The court case was about the following. Van Reisen commented in the interview about two interpreters, the brother and sister, of the then-chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands, Mr. Bahlbi stating that “they are people who have been in the Netherlands for a long time, of whom the brother of the two concerned is the center of the Eritrean intelligence of which the heart is in the Netherlands, and that is known information and a fact.

The Court investigated whether there was enough factual support for this statement and concluded that this is the case:

The Court is of the opinion that the assertions of Van Reisen are supported to such an extent that the facts presented contain the necessary indications that the YPFDJ functions in part as a component in the intelligence network of the government of Eritrea (…)

Bahlbi [has been] chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands for several years and still [was] at the time of the interview. As chair, he can be considered as the center of the YPFDJ in the Netherlands in any case, while furthermore, concrete indications exist that this organisation plays a role in the intelligence network of Eritrea. Bahlbi has therefore made himself vulnerable to accusations of involvement with the intelligence network, by becoming chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands and by his presence at yearly conferences and other meetings of the YPFDJ, whereby in addition it can be assumed that he was in touch with representatives of the government of Eritrea.

Besides this, the Court also takes into account that the statements of Van Reisen came as a response to an article on about the interpreters. The Court is of the opinion that in this article, an “important wrongdoing that affects society is coveredand because of this, Van Reisen has the right to “a large freedom to express herself about this in the interview in response to the article.

Another complaint was issued with regard to a lack of right of defence (audi alteram partem). On this subject, the Court rules that Van Reisen “cannot be blamed for violating the principle of right of defence because it was BNR Nieuwsradio that chose to not let Bahlbi speak as well.

Van Reisen was supported in the appeal by lawyers Christien Wildeman and Emiel Jurjens.

Article by Martin Plaut: read by clicking here

For the full verdict (unofficial translation) click here