Rocco and the ghosts of Eritreia

In 2004 Rocco Buttiglione was Silvio Berlusconi’s surprise choice for EU Commissioner.  Jose’ Manuel Barroso identified him as suitable for the post of Commissioner designate for Justice, Freedom and Security.

When grilled by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee  Rocco Buttiglione stated that he viewed homosexuality as a sin.  I do not think that Tonio Borg will use the same fundamentalist vocabulary of Rocco Buttiglione. He is however on record during the parliamentary debate on rent reform as being one of those opposing tenancy rights for same sex couples on a level identical to those of heterosexual couples.

A substantial number of MEPs will certainly not be amused. One Rocco is more than enough.

If this was not enough Tonio Borg will have to give account of decisions taken in 2002 on the repatriation of Eritrean asyslum-seekers. They were sent back to be tortured in Eritreia.

A 2009 report published by Amnesty International is entitled “Eritreia: sent home to detention and torture.”

The following extract from page 7 of the said report does not require any comment:

“Malta forcibly returned 230 Eritrean nationals to Eritrea in 2002. They were detained on arrival in Asmara at the Adi Abeto detention centre, accused of betraying their country, and tortured as punishment. With the exception of children, some women, and those over the age of 40, those returned from Malta are believed to remain in incommunicado detention. About 30 of them were able to escape and they fled to Sudan in 2003. Amnesty International was able to collect their testimonies about detention conditions and torture. One escaped detainee said: “There were interrogation rooms and we were being called one at a time, with two guards, one asking the questions, the other doing the beating.” The Government of Malta stated that they had not received “any evidence that any ill-treatment was afforded to the Eritreans repatriated from Malta.” However, by February 2004 they had released all remaining Eritreans to non-custodial hostels to wait for resettlement. In December 2008, Malta and Eritrea agreed to “establish diplomatic relations” with a view to increasing co-operation between the two countries. This has raised concerns that Malta might again consider forcibly returning failed or non-assessed Eritrean asylum seekers.”

Tonio Borg has a lot of explaining to do.

originally published on, Friday 26 October, 2012