Daniel R. Mekonnen is a human rights lawyer, activist and practitioner from Eritrea. He is a founding member of the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), and has published books, poetry and numerous articles on human rights issues.
Mekonnen has translated into Tigrinya, one of the two official languages of Eritrea, Gene Sharp’s book From Dictatorship to Democracy (2006). The book served as the main reference for EMDHR’s first ever Tigrinya educational manual on non-violence, Bidho Antsar Atehasasibana (Challenging Our Perceptions). His most recent book is the one co-authored with Kjetil Tronvoll, The African Garrison State: Human Rights and Political Development in Eritrea (2014).
Mekonnen obtained his primary legal education in Eritrea, where he served, among other things, as Judge of the Central Provincial Court in Asmara. His LLM in Human Rights and LLD in Public International Law are respectively from the University of Stellenbosch and the University of the Free State. He has work experience in diverse areas ranging from development cooperation to North-South relations, nonviolent action, democratisation, peace & conflict studies, transitional justice and international humanitarian law, and has taught courses on human rights and international law.
Mekonnen has received a series of scholarships and awards for his work, including the Bank of Ireland Human Rights Fellowship (2010–2011), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (2010), from the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law (2009), and Germany’s most prestigious fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
For many years, Daniel Mekonnen has received serious threats from the Eritrean Government, specifically in connection with his work on human rights, including his active involvement in support of the UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights Violations in Eritrea. Since he left South Africa in December 2008, he has been moving from one country to another by means of a variety of fellowships for several years until he was granted an ICORN residency in Lucerne. He arrived in Lucerne in November 2015 as the first ICORN writer in the city.