Dehai News

Messe Gießen no longer wants to rent to the Eritrea Festival

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Friday, 25 August 2023

After riots in Gießen 

Messe Gießen no longer wants to rent to the Eritrea Festival

  • UPDATED ON 08/25/2023-12:53
Riots broke out at the Eritrea Festival in Gießen in early July.
The annual Eritrea Festival in Giessen loses its venue after regime opponents rioted again on the fringes of the festival in July. However, the landlord sees legal risks.

After the violent riots on the fringes of the controversial Eritrea Festival, Messe Gießen does not want to rent the site to the organizers in the coming year. "Since we support the interests of the city, we have informed the Central Council of Eritreans that we will not issue a rental contract due to the current situation," said MAT Objekt GmbH on Friday. Several media had previously reported on the decision.

At the same time , the managing director of Messe Gießen GmbH, Roland Zwerenz, reiterated the legal concerns that had already been expressed. As a landlord, you are “in a dilemma situation” , he explained in a statement. They want “no violence in the city”, but are bound by the law and committed to “non-discriminatory renting”. The violence came from the counter-demonstration, "but it seems easier to ban the festival," said Zwerenz. If the company should not conclude a rental agreement, this must also be legally secure. "We don't see that at the moment. Therefore, a court decision will probably have to be made so that there is legal clarity.”

After the festival, the fair was criticized from several quarters for having rented it again to Eritreans who are close to the government of the East African country, despite the riots in the summer of 2022. Criticism also came from the business world. The trade fair initially rejected demands not to rent to this clientele again.

125 ads against demonstrators

The city of Gießen "obviously sees no legal means to prevent the festival, and now we as landlords are supposed to take over that," says Zwerenz. This would burden the company with “considerable legal risks and the danger of high claims for damages”.

26 police officers were injured in riots on the fringes of the controversial festival in Giessen in July. Opponents of the event threw stones and bottles at officials, detonated smoke bombs and breached barriers in an attempt to enter the festival site. The police investigations continue. In a preliminary balance sheet, 125 criminal charges had been reported, almost exclusively for breach of the peace.

The organizer was the Central Council of Eritreans in Germany, which is considered controversial because of its proximity to the regime of the country on the Horn of Africa. Human rights organizations accuse the Eritrean government of violating fundamental rights. The disrupters were attributed to the opponents of the regime.

The city of Gießen had initially banned the festival due to security concerns, which was overturned by the Gießen administrative court. The Hessian Administrative Court then confirmed the first-instance decision. There had already been violent protests in connection with a similar event last year.

Police vehicles are parked on the access roads to the exhibition grounds. Photo: Arne Dedert/dpa/Archive image (Photo: dpa)

Concerns of the Gießen trade fair

"We have made our legal position clear and asked the city for help in justifying the rejection, as our legal opinion contradicts a rejection. This would be discrimination against a clearly defined ethnic group," said Pascale Watermann, authorized signatory at the trade fair. A reason was not given in the rejection. Watermann therefore expects a legal dispute to arise and fears claims for damages that Messe Gießen alone would have to bear.