Eritrea: Ten years on, Ciham Ali’s ongoing enforced disappearance ‘a disgrace’

Responding to the Eritrean government’s ten-year silence on the whereabouts of Ciham Ali, an Eritrean American who was arrested on 8 December 2012 when she was just 15 years old and held in secret detention ever after, Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Research and Campaigns in East Africa, the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa, said:

“It is disgraceful that Ciham Ali, who was just 15 years old at the time of her detention, has been forcibly disappeared for a decade. The last years of her childhood and early adult life have been stolen from her, while her family faces the agonizing despair of not knowing where she is.” 

The last years of her childhood and early adult life have been stolen from her.

Flavia Mwangovya, Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes Region

“Ciham Ali continues to be secretly detained without trial. Her family has heard nothing from her, despite concerns over her wellbeing. Her arrest and detention by the Eritrean authorities’ amounts to enforced disappearance, which is a crime under international law. She should be immediately and unconditionally released. All those responsible for her enforced disappearance should be held criminally accountable and all victims, including her family members, should have access to justice and full reparations.”

“The US government has also failed to intervene in Ciham’s case. Amnesty International is calling on the US State Department to urgently act, as the status quo of refusing to speak up amounts to a failure to protect one of its own citizens.”

The US State Department should urgently act to protect one of its own citizens.

Flavia Mwangovya


Ciham, who is now 25 years old, has been secretly detained for ten years in an unknown location. She was arrested in December 2012 at the Sudan border as she was attempting to flee Eritrea. Ciham was born in Los Angeles but raised in Eritrea.

Prior to her arrest, Ciham’s father, Ali Abdu, who was Minister of Information at the time, had fled into exile following an attempted military coup against the government. Her enforced disappearance appears to be in retaliation against her father’s suspected involvement in the coup.

In 2021, Amnesty International launched a petition calling on the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to intervene in Ciham’s case and demand her immediate and unconditional release.