Amnesty International Awards
Libby Walker Receives 4th Annual Andreas Ekholm Award
Tempe- Amnesty International Arizona has given Scottsdale resident Libby Walker one of its highest honors for her volunteer work, much of it on behalf of a former Phoenix resident "disappeared" in her native Eritrea.
Walker received the Andreas Ekholm Award at the human rights organization's biannual statewide meeting Oct. 2 at Arizona State University.
In 2003 Aster Yohannes was studying marketing in Phoenix at the University of Phoenix. On December 11 of that year, she returned to her home country to reunite with her four children whom she had not seen in four years.
As she stepped off a plane at the Asmara airport, Yohannes was abducted by Eritrean security and has not been heard from since.
Just six days later, Amnesty International declared Yohannes a prisoner of conscience, a designation for those imprisoned for nonviolent expression of their beliefs.
Since that time, Walker and the "Friends of Aster," an informal coalition of her supporters, have advocated for her release, as well as for that of her husband Petros Solomon and his colleagues, who were similarly disappeared in 2001, after calling for democratic reform in Eritrea. (See www.friendsofaster.org for more.)
Their efforts have included an alternate press release earlier this year when Eritrean ambassador Girma Asmerom spoke to the National Press Club in Washington DC.
They have also worked with Amnesty International USA to make members of the Arizona congressional delegation aware of Yohannes' plight.
This work has resulted in a "Dear Colleague" letter now being circulated in the US House of Representatives for signatures. The letter, addressed to Eritrean President Issayas Afewerki, calls for the release of Aster Yohannes and countless other prisoners of conscience who, like her, are held incommunicado, without charge, in undisclosed places. Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake is coordinating the effort in the House.
The Andreas Ekholm Award is named for a former Tucson-area Amnesty student area coordinator killed in a 2001 car accident. During his time as an Amnesty activist, Ekholm worked to abolish the death penalty and to promote women's rights.
In his honor, each year, Amnesty International Arizona presents the Andreas Ekholm Award to the volunteer activist whose work demonstrates the commitment to human rights he displayed.