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AMSTERDAM (IDN) - A Court in Amsterdam struck down Meseret Bahlbi lawsuit against Mirjam van Reisen, Dutch professor and human rights advocate. The judge found that she was not guilty of libel and slander and

AMSTERDAM (IDN) – A Court in Amsterdam struck down Meseret Bahlbi lawsuit against Mirjam van Reisen, Dutch professor and human rights advocate. 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.

When the case was heard on January 27, 2016 in Amsterdam the focus was more about the nature of the regime in Eritrea, and the role played by its supporters in Europe. The court room was packed to overflowing, mostly by Eritreans from the diaspora in Europe. The majority came to support Mirjam van Reisen. She was being sued for libel and slander by Bahlbi, an Eritrean residing in the Netherlands.

Although the legal action centred on remarks made by the professor on Dutch radio, it quickly became apparent that this case was about more than the comments. On February 10, 2016, the judge ruled that van Reisen had no case to answer and awarded damages against Bahlbi in her favour. The ruling ensured that opinions based on research and evidence would not be muted, and should not be silenced by those who disagree.

Although certainly not the crux of the matter, it is important to understand the background of the case. 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).

Following van Reisen’s comments, Bahlbi filed a legal action for libel and slander. In the judgement, the judge declared that van Reisen’s statements were warranted and that she had provided sufficient evidence of the facts.

In the Amsterdam court room, both the prosecution and the defence spent little time debating the facts of what was said. Instead, arguments centred on the relationship between the YPFDJ and the PFDJ, conditions in Eritrea, why so many Eritreans were fleeing their country and the existence of the Eritrean secret services in the Netherlands.

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. 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. UN personnel, journalists and van Reisen herself have all been subjected to intimidation from members of the YPFDJ because they have drawn attention to the human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime and its supporters.

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. Such interpreters are also in a position to twist the meaning of what is being said. Regulations are in place to ensure that the integrity of interpreters is beyond doubt. They are screened to check that they and their family members are not connected to the Eritrean regime. Questions remain regarding how interpreters with clear connections to the Eritrean regime were employed in the first place.

Professor van Reisen has expressed her relief that the judge ruled in her favour, but also expressed concern and continued to advocate for those fleeing from and suffering in Eritrea. She told the Dutch press “I now know what it feels like to be Eritrean” having witnessed the legal and less than legal attempts to silence her. Overjoyed with the news of her judgement, van Reisen posted on Facebook: “victory to all justice seekers. Together we will continue to pursue the truth.”

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. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 February 2016]

IDN is flagship of the International Press Syndicate.

Review overview
  • Semere Gaim February 11, 2016

    Congratulations Mrs. Van Reisen. Please feel proud of yourself knowing that you become a voice to the voiceless and triumphed to the end of the tunnel. Please continue doing what you are doing now that “You know how to be Eritrean”. Do whatever you can to convince the immigration authorities in your country and the whole Europe to not only stop them access to the victims of the regime but also to deport these thugs to the “government they love and gladly serve”. They have abused the system for years, now that should stop. Please let me thank you for what you have done on behalf of all Eritrean victims of the most brutal and dictatorial regime of PFDJ.

  • gdus February 11, 2016


    Thanks for the indepth presentation of the court proceedings and its outcome. I hope you guys pursue this further. Since his brothers have done the interpretation for the Eritrean immigrants, you should request the documents interpreted by these guys to see if they misrepresented the immigrants position. If they did, it would amount to a crime punishable by law. I know it is a little too much to ask of you guys but, if you can, please do so.

  • Hag February 11, 2016

    Congratulations for prof, and hell for puppets tyrany.the good thing is the awarnes of the dictators supporters.

  • theLand February 11, 2016

    ባህልቢ ኮይኑ ተሪፉ ሕሩር-ልቢ እንታይ ሞ ይገበር ዘይውዳእ ዕሽነት ሂብዎ፥፥ ስይጣን ይሓግዞ

  • Michael Tesfamariam February 11, 2016

    Why the “opposition” has failed to track down those few poverty driven scumbag Eritreans, who came to the west pretending as asylum seekers, now serving the regime in Eritrea and get them exposed and deported back to the regime who sent them?
    Emma, has this ever crossed your mind before? I mean, what is the role of journalism? Isn’t noble idea to round up and divulge those absolutely disgusting handful louses , who have now become staunch supporters of the callous clique of HGDEF?

  • eriman February 11, 2016

    I’m thrilled on the court outcome and appreciate all the Eritrean who stood by her including Mr. Kubruom. EPLF has been shamed. Eritrean have started to display their real metals like in the erea of liberation struggle.

  • AHMED SALEH February 11, 2016

    YPFDJ used to believe their organization rule couldn’t be bent but poor
    Meseret Bahlibi arrogance worked to break it down in pieces .
    He lost the case against an angel in court of law but if Yemane monkey
    took him to face HGDF’S Kangaroo court evil system , he will taste the
    bitter truth of betrayal to remember those victims in dungeons .
    Better think twice if he has intention to visit Eritrea because he might end up a target for escape goat excuses .

    • Genet-orginal February 14, 2016

      Dear Ahmed Saleh
      The brainwashed YPFDJ dogs are noting, but void without soul and spirit. DIA and PFDJ’s operatives are brainwashing kids to do their dirty jobs. what the idiot did in Holland, can’t be done by any one who has a normal brain and who never stop thinking. Meseret Bahlibi’s action conforms DIA and PFDJ system are turning Eritrean children to brainless idiots. What are their parents doing about this?

  • Selam February 11, 2016

    Congratulations to all justice seekers in Eritrea. Prof. Van Reisen thank you for being YOU! This is a real example of humanitarian value at work.

  • Berhe Tensea February 12, 2016

    This good news. Ignorant people such as Meseret by now must know their limit.
    I hope and wish that Prof. Miriam to counter sue this hopeless individual for defamation and or for the time and effort wasted on defending here good name.
    Ignorant people like Meseret must be punished and learn their lesson.
    I hope also the other Zombies with small brain to realize that PFDJ could be defeated in democratic countries where the law is supreme and it can also rule.

  • Tewolde T. February 12, 2016

    Meseret’s siblings (Abraham and Nazreth) have followed his suits to sue a Dutch authority and demanded 80,000 euro in total in compensation.(source: Radio SBS Australia, it also posted on

    • Genet-orginal February 14, 2016

      Tewolde T,
      I think this stupid family should be deported back to Eritrea under the care of DIA.