Ethiopia’s regime must reveal fate of political prisoners


Amnesty International today called on the Ethiopian government to immediately disclose the names and fate of more than 35 people believed to be held by its security forces on political grounds since 24 April.

Additional arrests have reportedly been carried out over the past several days and sources in the country have told Amnesty International that further arrests are expected.

Many are believed to have been arrested for their alleged involvement in planning a thwarted attack on the government, but others appear to have been arrested for their own or family members’ peaceful political opposition to the government. Amongst the 35 is an 80-year-old grandfather in urgent need of medical care.

“We are very concerned about the fate of those arrested,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.

“Several may have been detained solely for their family ties to men who have expressed political opposition to the government. They should be released immediately. Any others should be charged with a recognizable criminal offense or released. All should have immediate access to their families, lawyers and any medical care they may require.”

Amnesty International said that while protection of national security is a responsibility to which governments rightfully attach high priority, it cannot be used to justify human rights violations.

The organization Amnesty International believes that several of those detained have been arrested solely on the basis of family ties with members of Ginbot 7, an opposition group established in the aftermath of the disputed 2005 elections.

In addition to General Tefera Mamo and other former military officers who have recently been detained, Amnesty International has confirmed that at least one opposition party member and family members of opposition party leaders have also been detained. These include Getu Worku, the cousin of opposition figure Berhanu Nega.

Also detained is Tsige Habte-Mariam, the 80-year-old father of another well-known opposition figure and former prisoner of conscience, now in exile, Andargachew Tsige. Tsige Habte-Mariam is diabetic and has recently had heart surgery. He is in need of urgent medical care.

Ato Melaku Teferra has also been detained. He is a former CUD (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) prisoner who served 20 months in Kaliti prison, and is currently a member of the UDJ (Unity for Democracy and Justice) party, led by Birtukan Mideksa, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.

Many or all of those recently arrested are believed to be held in Maekalawi Prison in Addis Ababa, though the government has not yet confirmed this. Amnesty International is not aware that the government has provided any specific information to family members about the whereabouts of their relatives or their conditions of detention.

Amnesty International said that due to the secret nature of their detention, they are at significant risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment.

After an initial court appearance last week, those detained were remanded into custody for 14 additional days to allow for further investigation and charges to be filed. Amnesty International expects their next court appearance to take place on or about 12 May 2009.

“Peaceful opposition to the government is not a crime – and being related to someone who opposes the government is not a crime. The Ethiopian government must not detain, harass or intimidate opposition party members or their family members in the course of ongoing security operations. This will only serve to exacerbate an already tense political climate pervading the country,” said Michelle Kagari.

Note to editors:

Ethiopia’s human rights record deteriorated after the disputed 2005 elections, when at least 187 demonstrators were killed and members of the political opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), journalists and civil society activists were arrested and tried for treason. While some of these defendants were acquitted, others were released and pardoned in 2007 and 2008, after signing a letter of apology. In December 2008, Birtukan Mideksa, leader of the UDJ Party was re-arrested and her life sentence reinstated after she discussed details of the pardon process at a meeting in Sweden.


2 comments on “Ethiopia’s regime must reveal fate of political prisoners

  1. Iyob on

    NO TERROR GROUP SHOULD BE PROTECTED

    BY THE UNITED STATES

    IN THE NAME OF POLITICAL ASYLUM

    May 04/2009

    In the history of mankind the first country that officially granted a right of asylum to the followers of Prophet Mohammed /Peace Be up On Him/, was my motherland Ethiopia (Abyssinia). The then king leader of the country examined their reason for seeking protection, and came out with a decision, to accept their claim. After their escape from Makka of the Arabia land, they were followed by their enemies (The Makkans or the Quraish), and the enemies alleged that the refuge seekers have forsaken the religion of their forefathers, violated the laws and norms of the kingdom, and insisted to take them back to Makka, to be prosecuted.

    King Armah (Negash), the wise king of Ethiopia did not simply allow them to abduct those people who were accused of violent conduct. He called both parties to his court, and begun to question them. He gave a chance to the Makkans to tell the “sins” of the asylum seekers. Additional to the above stated allegation, they said “Those people are idolaters; they are against the norms and moral values of the Kingdom. For that reason we are here to take them back to Makka, to be prosecuted for their wrong doings.” The just and fair king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) agreed in principle and addressed their request, as legitimate. However it was unfair and unjust to pass a decision based on one party’s testimony, according to the ancient law of Ethiopia.

    To fulfill the procedure of the long lived law of the country, the king gave the Muslims a chance to freely defend themselves, and he just asked them to explain the main doctrines of their faith. The cohorts of The Prophet (PBUH) told the king that their religion teaches not to worship idols, and anything else, except Allah (God), it edifies brotherhood, respect to all classes and races of people, honesty, truthfulness, being just and merciful. They added that their religion forbids saying bad words against women and orders welfare for orphans, and living in a sanctity, etc. He, the wise king of Ethiopia was impressed, by the teachings of the then new religion Islam.

    At the end of the proceeding, the king told the Muslims that he did not find any defect on their faith. He granted them an everlasting protection, the rights equal to the citizens of the land and an acquiescence to teach their belief, to any willing person. Finally, he sent the Quraish (Makkans) back to their country. That was the first formal asylum granted by Ethiopia, for religious reasons.

    Such a magnificent ruling of the ancient Ethiopian king was followed by many European, Australian and North American states. Now all refugee application forms of every country contains religion as one part of a potential cause for persecution, alongside with political opinion, social group and so on. Through those criteria millions have been saved from torture and even possible death, which could have been caused to them, by some cruel persons, groups or governments.

    To the contrary very few people used such a blessed prospect in the wrong way. Despite the poor who took advantage of the system to run away from poverty, there are also bad people, who do not deserve protection, at all. Some people have been accepted to stay in North America, Australia or Europe, mainly because of a country profile. Most of them miss-present themselves and tell a story that lead panels and judges to pass a decision, based on hear-say and circumstantial evidences, only.

    Even after protection and assimilation with the new society, those ghastly guys do not rest to remain in peace. They always should mislead fine citizens including members of the higher office, by continuously telling fabricated stories, and by organizing ostensible demonstrations against the government of their own countries. For them, it is natural to work against the stability of their country by smudging its image. Because if the world begun to have understanding with their governments, those bad guys are subject to prosecution. They know that they will be held accountable for their crimes, in relation to violation of human rights, corruption, or any act stated by the law, as an offense.

    That’s why there are thousands of demonstrations every year in developed countries, and most of them do not have relevance to the objective truth, on the ground. Nowadays conducting a demonstration is considered as typical display of desperation, than a means of conveying strong message, to those who are concerned. There are many screams and slogans; but how many of them are taken in to serious consideration? The terrible guys know very well that they organize such demonstrations at a regular basis to boost up a negative bias…. They understand more than anyone else that every demonstration doesn’t obtain a response.

    The bad guys sometimes are escorted by domestic sympathizers, and as they notice that their plot is not going well, they have to recruit mercenaries in the country where they claim are persecuted and find a way to destabilize and create a vulnerable situation. That has happened last week in Ethiopia. A terrorist group organized and armed by persons residing in the Diaspora, was busted by the country’s security forces. This group known as GINBOT 7 was established by the former vice president of CUD, Dr. Berhanu Nega, inside the United States of America. They hired x-soldiers of the former communist regime, and were ready to launch an URBAN GUERILLA, in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Thank GOD they were caught before the damage took place, with verities of automatic and semi-automatic combat machineguns and with hand thrown grenades.

    This group is defined as a terrorist organization that conspired to kill civilians and got jammed at the verge of launching in-city warfare. I did not find any terminology to label them with any “fair title”. I couldn’t find an idiom to call them any name different from terrorists. According to the consented definition of many countries any person, individual, or group that intends to destabilize any society by killing un-armed civilians is defined as terrorist. At the same time any party that helps by establishing, organizing, planning and waging such an act is equally lined up with the terrorist group.

    GINBOT 7 is a terrorist organization established by a group of power mongered individuals, who have lost the authentic support of the majority of the Ethiopians, and who have concluded to avoid the existing government, by creating terrorism and social anarchy. Those are irrational, and self centered individuals relied on a philosophy and strategy for social change by scaring the public and by igniting inter-urban clashes. They have the mentality of gangsters. In a country with 95% of its population depending on traditional farming, it is simply stupidity to dream success, in the absence of public support. If they were disciples of real change, they should have convinced the majority, and if an armed struggle was an option, they should have tried it through Agrarian Revolution.

    If this terrorist group was successful on its first plot, imagine what could happen to the country, who is consistently building its economy. It doesn’t require being an analyst to tell what could happen to the innocent and defenseless children and women of the country. America knows very well how killing innocents is painful and devastating. The United States understands the result of domestic terrorism, from the April 19, 1995 bombing, in Oklahoma City, and the recent 9/11. I strictly believe that people of the United States have NO-ROOM to tolerate, terrorists who inflict pain in to the heart of guiltless civilians. It is hard to forget what domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier did to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. At the same time it is impossible to compromise with founders of GIBOT 7, as disregarding such a felony stands in opposition to the interest of justice lovers, in both countries.

    GINBOT 7, as a terrorist group has been busted earlier than the commencement of its catastrophe. Members and ranking officers of this group are under arrest to be tried according to the Ethiopian Penal Code. However, the creators and organizers of this terrorist group are temporarily out of reach of the Ethiopian legal system. The main person who is the founder and the master mind of the terrorist plot resides in the United States, like every ordinary citizen. He openly declared war on Ethiopia, to satisfy his wild zest for power. This individual had been arrested in Ethiopia, for causing social chaos that led to the death of many Ethiopians. Later he pleaded for mercy, and was released on pardon under certain conditions. As soon as he arrived at the United States, he violated the conditions of his release and declared war on the country.

    Dr. Berhanu should not be allowed to violate the law of Ethiopia and at the same time the law of the United States, that strictly opposes any act of terrorism, domestically and internationally. The group of assassins, GINBOT 7 would contact and work with the Islamic courts of Somalia and other regional threats, if it was able to execute the first agony. That is natural for terrorists to seek support from their “sister organizations”. I, as an individual and an ADOCATE FOR ETHIOPIA, am insisting all concerned senators, officials and other individuals to critically examine the issue and come out with a legal resolution, in order to help justice being served and to discourage any other groups from forming terrorist groups, to slaughter innocent civilians.

    Now the leaders of this terrorist group are trying to confuse their followers, by telling them the non-existence of EXTRADITION TREATY, between Ethiopia and the United States. The question of extradition may come, on its own time; nevertheless absence of treaty does not in fact allow terrorists to be shielded by the country of great values. Under any circumstance, it is a definite NO for any assassin to be secluded by the United States. Because, doing so is against the fundamental principles of the country, and its great people.

    I have a justifiable reason to believe that those bud guys should be categorized under the meaning of section 802 (the amended version) of the United States Patriotic Act 2001. For clarity of my explanation I decided to copy-paste the section as is

    SEC. 802. DEFINITION OF DOMESTIC TERRORISM.

    (a) DOMESTIC TERRORISM DEFINED- Section 2331 of title 18, United States Code, is amended–

    `(5) the term `domestic terrorism’ means activities that–

    `(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

    `(B) appear to be intended–

    `(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

    `(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

    `(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

    `(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.’.

    (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Section 3077(1) of title 18, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

    `(1) `act of terrorism’ means an act of domestic or international terrorism as defined in section 2331;’.

    Section 802 ss (a) (5)(A,B,C) and section 802 (b)(1) of the Patriotic Act is applied to define and to proceed with all measures to prevent and eradicate any terrorist movement from the united states and other countries. As the disseminative nature of terrorism should be analyzed at international level, the Patriotic Act has clearly stated any act of intimidation, assassination, intending to influence the policy of a government etc as an act of terrorism. What Ginbot 7 did to Ethiopia and Ethiopians is exactly as defined by the above stated section of the Act.

    As a remedy to the wrong doings of the organizers of the terrorist group I don’t have any doubt that the government of the USA will check the relevance of the case in relation to sections 411, 412, 413 and other applicable sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act of the United States.

    Dr. Berhanu and his fellow GINBOT 7s should know that the ordinary and traditional way of acting smart has no place, in the absence of obedience to the internal and external laws and values of the United States. They need to candidly tell their throng cliques that they did wrong, for the second time.

    I finally want to pay tribute to the bravery of Ethiopian forces, who have handled the dangerous scheme of the terrorists, and I’d like to thank them for saving thousands of civilians, who are hoping to see elemental change in their lives, through the ongoing process. Poverty has punished my people for decades, and I think that is enough to suffer. My people can’t afford to pay more lives of naïve children to satisfy the bloody-spirit, of domestic terrorists.

    Copy:- 1. To The Honorable US Senator Russ Feingold

    2. To The Honorable US Senator Sam Brownback

  2. asnakech on

    who will demand the fate of tens of thousands of prisoners
    in dedessa, Birr Sheleqo, Bado sidist, Qaliti, Ziway, Shewa Robit etc..? Prisons. Mind you even the courts do not know about these prioners. They are just arrested by TPLF cadres and sent to jail! Do you really want to live in a country like ethiopia?? I rather die being a free man in a foreign land.!! They throw you to jail and forget you. It has happened to some of my friends. The weyane authorities dont even remember all whom they was jailed and where. EGZIoooo.

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