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Stand for Silenced Ethiopians

Friday, November 17, 2006

Reports of torture in Ethiopia are understated: Fulbright scholar

Panelists shed light on human rights issues in Ethiopia
By Dr. Berhanu Alemayehu Novemeber 16, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC - Reports of torture are understated and more prevalent in Ethiopia than what the international community is led to believe, a Fulbright scholar who spoke as one of four panelists has told a human rights conference in Washington, DC.
Chuck Schaefer, a Valparaiso University professor who had the taught at Addis Ababa University as a Fulbright scholar in the early 1990s, said a 2005 U.S. Department of State Country Report had said up to 18,000 prisoners were held in Dedessa Camp but the figure was much lower than what was released by the state-sanctioned Inquiry Commission, which also reported that the number of civilians killed by government forces was 193, a figure three times greater than an official report.
"Evidence provided by the recently exiled Inquiry Commission members and judges only confirms Amnesty International’s allegation about the nature and scope of arbitrary killings and detentions of civilians that has taken place in the post-election period," Schaefer told the conference held November 4, 2006 at American University Washington College of Law.
The human rights activist also cited the contribution of Amnesty International toward the release of Ethiopian political prisoners such as Wasihun Melese and Anteneh Getnet of the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA), Alemayehu Fantu and Yalemzewd Bekele and the over 100 students who were detained in connection with the distribution of an opposition calendar bearing the pictures of opposition leaders jailed at Kaliti Prison. He said the government responded positively for the release of the political prisoners, and he expressed his hope that the government would abide by international human rights norms and release the prisoners at Kaliti, recognized by Amnesty as prisoners of conscience.
Prof. Schaefer said Amnesty International supports H.R. 5680 because the "bill prioritizes the necessary ingredients to ensure human rights, which, in order of importance, include establishing human and civil rights organizations, the independence of the judiciary and democratization efforts as prerequisites to economic development."
Ted Dagne, Africa specialist with the Congressional Research Service, and professional staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, on his part said Ethiopian Americans have come a long way in exerting influence on U.S. Congress toward human rights issues in Ethiopia.
Dagne, who along with Congressman Donald Payne had visited opposition leaders at Kaliti and met with government officials on pressing issues, said the Congressman had made important provisions aimed to help strengthen democracy, hold people accountable, strengthen human rights institution, offer reconciliation support for those willing to participate in this process.
Mr. Gregory Simpkins, a specialist in African policy and professional staff member of the US House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, said HR 5680 has become a central rallying point for Ethiopian Americans, and a renewed effort must be made in both the House and Senate and outlined a series of steps for next year and into the future, in an effort to respond effectively to human rights abuses in Ethiopia.
"The various Ethiopian-American organizations must work cooperatively to build on what has been achieved thus far, and this alliance should include those civil society groups and political parties on the ground in Ethiopia to be effective over the long run," Simpkins said.
He said HR 5680 has the bipartisan support and sponsorship of Reps. Chris Smith and Donald Payne, well known human rights advocates who would ensure success for the bill even during a change of party leadership in Congress.
Prof. Al Mariam of California State University, San Bernardino and a defense attorney, warned Ethiopians in the Diaspora can not be effective advocates of human rights in Ethiopia unless they share a common understanding of core human rights values.
Prof. Alemayehu explained that international human rights laws are part of the Ethiopian constitution under Article 10. He said Article 15 of the Ethiopian Constitution guarantees every person the right to life which can be taken away only for a “serious Crime."
The "extrajudicial killings" or politically motivated killings of the 193 peaceful demonstrators in June/November, 2005, or the thousands of others massacred in Gambella, Oromia, Sidama and Somali regions were not for “serious crimes” recognized by law; rather those killings were political motivated to destroy opponents of the government. Such extrajudicial killings are a gross violation of human rights, according to Al Mariam.
Concerning the "trial" of the opposition leaders at Kaliti, and if the "trial" would be free and fair, the defense attorney said it is impossible to have an independent judiciary when the judges are handpicked to deliver a pre-determined result. "The trial was a charade staged for the international community, adding that the charges would have been thrown out of court a long time ago in a real court of justice."
Al Mariam used the example of one of the charges against the defendants -- the charge of “outrage against the constitution” -- to show that such vague and hazy allegations are used to prosecute anyone the government does not like.
The presentation of Professor Alemayehu was so impressive he worked the audience like a jury panel listening to closing arguments.

(The report was extracted and formatted as news from an impressive reportage authored by Dr. Berhanu Alemayehu, who also had served the panel as Moderator and Rapporteur. To download the entire report as pdf file, click
http://www.ethiomedia.com/addfile/hr5680_final_report.pdf

Reports of torture in Ethiopia are understated: Fulbright scholar

Panelists shed light on human rights issues in Ethiopia
By Dr. Berhanu Alemayehu Novemeber 16, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC - Reports of torture are understated and more prevalent in Ethiopia than what the international community is led to believe, a Fulbright scholar who spoke as one of four panelists has told a human rights conference in Washington, DC.
Chuck Schaefer, a Valparaiso University professor who had the taught at Addis Ababa University as a Fulbright scholar in the early 1990s, said a 2005 U.S. Department of State Country Report had said up to 18,000 prisoners were held in Dedessa Camp but the figure was much lower than what was released by the state-sanctioned Inquiry Commission, which also reported that the number of civilians killed by government forces was 193, a figure three times greater than an official report.
"Evidence provided by the recently exiled Inquiry Commission members and judges only confirms Amnesty International’s allegation about the nature and scope of arbitrary killings and detentions of civilians that has taken place in the post-election period," Schaefer told the conference held November 4, 2006 at American University Washington College of Law.
The human rights activist also cited the contribution of Amnesty International toward the release of Ethiopian political prisoners such as Wasihun Melese and Anteneh Getnet of the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA), Alemayehu Fantu and Yalemzewd Bekele and the over 100 students who were detained in connection with the distribution of an opposition calendar bearing the pictures of opposition leaders jailed at Kaliti Prison. He said the government responded positively for the release of the political prisoners, and he expressed his hope that the government would abide by international human rights norms and release the prisoners at Kaliti, recognized by Amnesty as prisoners of conscience.
Prof. Schaefer said Amnesty International supports H.R. 5680 because the "bill prioritizes the necessary ingredients to ensure human rights, which, in order of importance, include establishing human and civil rights organizations, the independence of the judiciary and democratization efforts as prerequisites to economic development."
Ted Dagne, Africa specialist with the Congressional Research Service, and professional staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, on his part said Ethiopian Americans have come a long way in exerting influence on U.S. Congress toward human rights issues in Ethiopia.
Dagne, who along with Congressman Donald Payne had visited opposition leaders at Kaliti and met with government officials on pressing issues, said the Congressman had made important provisions aimed to help strengthen democracy, hold people accountable, strengthen human rights institution, offer reconciliation support for those willing to participate in this process.
Mr. Gregory Simpkins, a specialist in African policy and professional staff member of the US House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, said HR 5680 has become a central rallying point for Ethiopian Americans, and a renewed effort must be made in both the House and Senate and outlined a series of steps for next year and into the future, in an effort to respond effectively to human rights abuses in Ethiopia.
"The various Ethiopian-American organizations must work cooperatively to build on what has been achieved thus far, and this alliance should include those civil society groups and political parties on the ground in Ethiopia to be effective over the long run," Simpkins said.
He said HR 5680 has the bipartisan support and sponsorship of Reps. Chris Smith and Donald Payne, well known human rights advocates who would ensure success for the bill even during a change of party leadership in Congress.
Prof. Al Mariam of California State University, San Bernardino and a defense attorney, warned Ethiopians in the Diaspora can not be effective advocates of human rights in Ethiopia unless they share a common understanding of core human rights values.
Prof. Alemayehu explained that international human rights laws are part of the Ethiopian constitution under Article 10. He said Article 15 of the Ethiopian Constitution guarantees every person the right to life which can be taken away only for a “serious Crime."
The "extrajudicial killings" or politically motivated killings of the 193 peaceful demonstrators in June/November, 2005, or the thousands of others massacred in Gambella, Oromia, Sidama and Somali regions were not for “serious crimes” recognized by law; rather those killings were political motivated to destroy opponents of the government. Such extrajudicial killings are a gross violation of human rights, according to Al Mariam.
Concerning the "trial" of the opposition leaders at Kaliti, and if the "trial" would be free and fair, the defense attorney said it is impossible to have an independent judiciary when the judges are handpicked to deliver a pre-determined result. "The trial was a charade staged for the international community, adding that the charges would have been thrown out of court a long time ago in a real court of justice."
Al Mariam used the example of one of the charges against the defendants -- the charge of “outrage against the constitution” -- to show that such vague and hazy allegations are used to prosecute anyone the government does not like.
The presentation of Professor Alemayehu was so impressive he worked the audience like a jury panel listening to closing arguments.

EU: Human rights - Ethiopia

/noticias.info/ At the close of this week's plenary session in Strasbourg, Parliament as usual adopted three human rights resolutions: on the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia since the 2005 elections, the situation in Bangladesh ahead of the elections scheduled for early 2007 and the deterioration in human rights in Iran over the past year.Ethiopian government slammed for actions since 2005 electionsIn its resolution on Ethiopia, Parliament looks at the crisis following the 2005 elections and the serious human rights violations that have taken place in the country since then, including the reports of continuing arrests, harassment, arbitrary detention and intimidation of opposition politicians, civil society activists, students and others. In the circumstances, MEPs deplore the invitation to the Ethiopian prime minister to address the European Development Days being held this month in Brussels.Unconditional release demanded for all political prisonersAccording to the resolution, "111 opposition party leaders, journalists and human rights defenders are still in custody and are facing trial on charges including 'outrage against the Constitution', 'inciting, organising or leading armed rebellion' and 'attempted genocide'". A number of "post-election political detainees" are listed by name.Against this background, MEPs call on the Ethiopian Government "to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners, whether journalists, trade union activists, human rights defenders or ordinary citizens, and to fulfil its obligations with respect to human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law". They also call on the Government to disclose the total number of persons detained throughout the country, to allow visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross and to allow all detainees access to their families, legal counsel and any medical care that their health situation may require.MEPs also deplore the expulsion of two EU officials, Bjorn Jonsson and Enrico Sborgi, from Ethiopia "on the alleged grounds that they tried to help Ms Yalemzewd Bekele, a lawyer and women's rights campaigner, working for the European Commission in Addis Ababa, to get out of the country".Call for publication of report on killing of 193 peopleThe resolution refers to the Ethiopian government-backed Commission of Inquiry set up in November 2005 to investigate the killing of 193 citizens following demonstrations in June and November 2005. However, it points out that members of the Commission of Inquiry have been pressured by the Ethiopian Government to alter the findings and three of them have left the country after refusing government orders to do so.The European Parliament therefore "calls on the Ethiopian Government to publish unamended and in its entirety, and without any further delay, the final report of the Commission of Inquiry; calls for the relevant courts to be supplied with the report, and urges them to take due account of it so that fair trials can be conducted".EU invitation to Ethiopian prime minister criticisedIn a strong message from MEPs to a fellow EU institution, the resolution "deeply regrets the EU Commission's invitation to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to address the European Development Days" (being held from 13 to 17 November 2006 in Brussels), "especially on governance issues, a decision which sends out the wrong signal with regard to EU policy on respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance".Lastly the resolution points out that Ethiopia is a signatory to the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement, "which stipulates that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an essential element of ACP-EU cooperation". It therefore "asks the Commission and Council to closely monitor the situation in Ethiopia, and considers that development cooperation programmes under the Cotonou Agreement should be contingent on respect for human rights and good governance".
http://www.europarl.eu.int/

Sunday, November 12, 2006

U.S. Congress: Briefing on Human Rights in Ethiopia

As you are well aware, since the May 2005 elections, conditions in Ethiopia have deteriorated. Many people are incarcerated, including elected members of Parliament, political leaders, and human rights defenders.
As the Ethiopian Commission of Inquiry stated in its final report, 193 people were killed in June and November 2005, and many more were injured. Ethiopia is an important country for many of us in Congress. Our primary objective and hope is to see a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Ethiopia.
The people of Ethiopia have suffered for far too long due to abuse of power, civil war, and natural disasters. If conditions do not improve soon and Ethiopia plunges into another round of civil war, the consequences for Ethiopia and the entire region could be devastating and perhaps irreversible.
The government of Ethiopia organized and conducted perhaps the most open and competitive elections ever in May 2005. The previous elections, especially the 1995 and 2000 elections were largely boycotted and judged to be neither free nor fair. The fact that opposition parties openly participated in a hotly contested election campaign and over 90 percent of the registered voters went to the polls on Election Day demonstrated that active and peaceful engagement in the political process can bring change for the better. Unfortunately, what was seen as a positive development in the May elections was soon marred by unnecessary violence against peaceful demonstrators. The way the Government of Ethiopia handled the post-election environment contributed to the sorry state of affairs we are witnessing today.
We strongly believe that the report by the Ethiopia Commission of Inquiry must not be used for political purposes. What is important to focus on is what we can do to avoid such things from happening again. It is also pivotal that those who committed these violent acts be held accountable. Please join us as members of the Ethiopia Commission of Inquiry brief Members of Congress, staff, and the public on their findings. We hope you will be able to attend this important briefing on November 16th at 11:00 AM in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.
Sincerely,
Donald M. Payne Michael Honda Member of Congress Member of Congress

Zenawi's government survives on reign of terror: opposition MP

WASHINGTON, DC - The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is an organized criminal group that spews fear and terror for its continued survival in power, an opposition MP said in a press statement released to the media on Saturday.
Dr. Getachew Jigi, founding member of the opposition Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM), became the latest Ethiopian to join the long list of supreme court judges, army generals, diplomats and inquiry commission officials who fled Ethiopia for fear of political murders at home and for the need to voice to the outside world about the plight of the Ethiopian people under a ruling group which has no respect for the rule of law.
"The reign of terror and fear is what characterizes today's Ethiopia. EPRDF, which is a total dictatorship, violates its own constitution to reverse court rulings, harass, detain, torture and kill citizens without the need for evidence that crimes have been committed," he said.
Dr. Getachew said opposition MPs are showcased to the West as free people's representatives who hold audiences with foreign dignitaries, diplomats, or even senior government officials. But in reality, such opposition MPs have no rights to go back to their constituencies and meet the people who elected them. If they do, the locals are hunted down by the security forces, jailed and heavily fined, Getachew said.
The opposition MP said there is a widespread campaign of targetting Oromo nationalists, farmers, students and businessmen. Oromos asking for the respect of their political rights are branded as OLF members, thrown into jail where they languish for years on end without appearing in a court of law, nor knowing their charges. All said, today there is no rule of law in Ethiopia and the ruling party is committing every possible crime to stay in power.
Dr Getachew called on the Ethiopian people in general to rise up and act in unison against the looming disaster being engineered by the ruling party.
Following is the full text of the opposition MP:
United action against Zenawi regime key to forestall a looming disaster in Ethiopia
To introduce myself, I am MP of the House of People’s Representatives of Ethiopia, run and elected as candidate of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) from Mana Sibu-Kiltu Karra district of Western Wallagga, Oromia region. I am one of the founders of this organization and a member of its Executive Committee.
We, the founders of OFDM had high hopes and aspiration that by participating in the legal political forum of Ethiopia we would contribute to the democratization process and bring stability and development. It was with strong belief that the Constitution of the land will be respected and supremacy of law will prevail, that we decided to join the legal political system. It was also our firm belief that democracy and working federation would solve the problems of Ethiopia . Unfortunately all our aspirations were dashed, hopes turned sour and our morale crashed within few months after May 2005 elections. We learned in the hard way that there is no democracy or supremacy of law in Ethiopia .
In this statement, I want to give my honest and sincere testimony of the conditions currently prevailing in Ethiopia and particularly since May 2005 elections. This testimony is in no way intended to defame the ruling party and its cohorts. The main purpose is to expose the hidden realities in Ethiopia and in Oromia in particular.
Today, there is no peace and stability, democracy, and rule of law in Ethiopia . What really exists is dictatorship of one party and gross violations of democratic and human rights. The regime carried out mass killing of civilians in Gambela, Sidama, Shaka Mazengir, Oromia and CUD supporters in Finfinne. In all of these incidents the perpetuators were not brought to justice. The ruling party has two very contradicting political images that it uses according to time, place and its audiences. In and around the capital city -Finfinnee- the ruling party shows the image that it is democratic and respect rule of law. This semblance is targeted to diplomats of donor countries to gain their support to finance and strengthen its other hidden image. For any foreign dignitary that visits Ethiopia and discusses with the Prime Minister, Ethiopia is really a promising democratic state. Elections are conducted periodically, there is ¨private¨ press, there are opposition parties with seats in the parliament, etc. These are facades to attract and win the sympathy of donor countries. The reality on the ground is completely to the contrary.
November 11, 2006 — The other image of the EPRDF regime hidden from the outside world is its true nature. EPRDF is simply a dictatorship. It does not respect its own Constitution nor abide by the supremacy of the law. Everything is done at the whim of EPRDF officials who can reverse court ruling as they wish, kill, detain, torture, and harass innocent citizens without any evidence or crime committed. Anybody that they suspect as a threat is eliminated. The Oromo are in the forefront to be subjected to EPRDF’s bad-governance.
Since May 2005 elections, gross violation of democratic and human rights are being conducted in Ethiopia by the ruling party. Citizens are being killed indiscriminately, thousands are detained for long period without charges and tortured to sustain life long injuries. Tens of thousands are forced to flee their country fearing harassment and intimidation. Properties of innocent individuals are confiscated without court order. In short today in Ethiopia there prevails a total atmosphere of fear and terror.
Legally registered and operating organizations like Oromo Federal Democratic Organizations are facing the severe hand of the dictator ruling party. While top leaders of opposition organizations are sitting in the parliament, meeting the Prime Minister, attending consultation meetings with donor groups, invited to parties with diplomatic dignitaries, there members are languishing in prisons, their offices closed and properties confiscated in the regions. Opposition MPs are not allowed to go back to their constituencies to hold meetings and gather public opinions of their constituencies. Even if an opposition MP manages to go back to his constituency, it is crime for the residents to greet and talk with the person they elected to represent them. From my experience many Mana Sibu -Kiltu Karra residents who greeted me were detained and heavily fined. This is the bitter reality that is existing in Ethiopia outside of the capital city.
The EPRDF regime is on a wide campaign of detaining Oromo nationalists, students, farmers and merchants for no crime committed. An Oromo individual who asks the democratic and human rights of the people to be respected is automatically branded as OLF member and thrown into prison to stay there for years without appearing before appropriate court. Oromo students who voted for us are being killed, dismissed from schools without any reasons. Dozens were refused their university certificates. These are the vivid reality under which my people who voted for me to be MP are living under.
I have been hoping things would get better over time. But instead the situation in Oromia in particular and in Ethiopia in general is getting worse daily. This has been giving me mental torture for the last several months. Now it became so unbearable that I had to make my decision. I have been receiving death threats for speaking up against the wanton disregard for the rule of law by EPRDF. Under the circumstances my conscience could not allow me to continue to be a member of parliament when I cannot speak with and for the people who elected me and cannot spare them from the daily harassment, intimidation, repression, extra-judicial killing, torture and displacement. Hence I have chosen to desist myself from the EPRDF regime and its rubber-stamp parliament.
To sum up, today in Ethiopia , democratic and human rights are grossly violated, the rule of law is trampled upon by none other than the ruling party. The regime is doing everything it can to stay in power that it lost in May 2005 elections, in which it was totally defeated. The regime is purposely instigating and fanning religious and inter ethnic conflicts. The situation in Ethiopia is very dangerous. There is disaster looming over the country. Finally I call upon OFDM members and supporters, the Oromo people in particular and the Ethiopian peoples in general, opposition party members to stand up in unison to avert this looming disaster. And remind the international community to play a constructive role expected of them rather than continue to appease a tyrannical regime.
Dr. Getachew Jigi

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ethiopian judge tells between 15,000 and 20,000 people have been killed in the Oromia region

Claims tens of thousands of critics murdered· US ally accused of rights abuses on massive scale Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editorThursday November 9, 2006The Guardian
The Ethiopian government is responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of students and other critics over the past 15 years, one of the country's most senior judges, who has defected to Britain, said yesterday.
In an interview with the Guardian in London, Judge Teshale Aberra claimed the government of Meles Zenawi is as bad or worse than that of his predecessor, Mengistu Haile Mariam, which was widely condemned for human rights abuses.

"The Mengistu government killed and boasted about it. The Meles government kills and asks 'who killed them?', and then sets up an inquiry commission," Mr Aberra said. "This government may be more deadly."
The US has been muted in its criticism, partly because it sees Mr Meles as an ally in its "war on terrorism" and a counterweight to the unrest in Somalia. The British government cut direct aid last year in protest at a clampdown, but the reaction of the international community, taking its lead from Washington, has been low-key.
Mr Aberra, who was a judge for 12 years, said between 15,000 and 20,000 people have been killed in the Oromia region, which is one of the biggest provinces in the country and includes the capital, Addis Ababa. Others had been killed elsewhere in the country, many of them student protesters.

He cited various incidents with which he was familiar, including two students killed by a policeman last year in what he described as cold blood.
The Meles government was criticised last year after police allegedly massacred 193 people involved in anti-government demonstrations. Mr Aberra said about 80,000 people were arrested in the subsequent round-up, though most were later released.
Mr Aberra, who was president of the Oromia supreme court, said that, with prisons overflowing, those arrested had been held in the military and police academies, and torture was commonplace. "They detain people without court orders. They detain people even after the decision is rendered that they should be released. They persecute people and, in some areas, they kill people. There is massive killing all over. There is a systematic massacre."

He fled Ethiopia on October 29. His wife and two children have also left and are in hiding. He characterises himself as non-political and said he decided to leave because of pressure on the judicial system from the government and threats from senior figures in the Oromia regional government. "They warned me to comply with demands to suppress certain judges, to detain people who had been released, and release the people who had been detained but the government wanted out." Source

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ethiopian's top fighter pilot killed

DEBRE ZEIT (Ethiomedia) - A top Ethiopian Air Force commander was killed early Saturday while driving from Addis Ababa to Debre Zeit, an Air Force base 50 km south of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
Major Daniel Beyene, a squadron commander of the Air Force Fighter Pilot Training School, was buried Sunday after his body was retrieved from a sprawling farm site between the small town of Dukem and Debre Zeit.
He was killed at around 3:00 AM at the desolate site near Dukem, and was returning from an EPRDF party at the former Officers Club now known as Golf Club. Major Daniel was ordered to attend the party before he was ordered to return to his home town Debre Zeit in the wee hours of the night.
His car was smashed from the front and back, observers said, and his body was found 15 meters away from the site of the crash. Observers said his skull bore bullet holes despite attempts to give the look of a car accident to the murder.
Major Daniel Beyene was killed at the same place where he was in 1998 abducted by security forces along with another famous Ethiopian Air Force Squadron Commander, Captain Teshome Tenkolu. Both senior pilots were - hands and feet tied - held incommunicado for two years since1998.
The Meles Zenawi government later on released the pilots, and appointed the senior Captain Teshome as director of an Air Force Flight Training School in Mekelle, northern Ethiopia. Carrying bitter memories of brutal treatment, Captain Teshome fled to Eritrea in 2003, flying one of the flight school's planes. Captain Teshome Tenkolu now lives in Canada, where he was granted asylum.
The Zenawi government has since coming to power in 1991 took a series of punitive measures that virtually destroyed the foundations of the Ethiopian Air Force. For instance, the following prominent Ethiopian fighter pilots were thrown into jail in 1991, and and no charges have been brought up against them:
Col. Solomon Kebede (Fighter and Instructor Pilot)
Col. Berhane Meskel (Over 75 years old, and a fighter pilot who used to accompany Emperor Haile-Selassie is still in prison)
Col. Girma Asfaw (Veteran Fighter Pilot)
Captain Kifle Woube (Veteran Fighter Pilot)
As recently as a month ago, the government fired over 300 employees of the Ethiopian Air Force on grounds that they were sympathetic to the Ethiopian opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUDP-Kinijit). Those fired included many professionals in their 20s and 30s.
Such mass lay-offs are topped by political murders as a way of eliminating even suspected opposition party supporters. On Monday, Ethiopia's top defecting judge, Teshale Aberra, told the BBC that the Meles government kills people and then asks: "Who killed them?"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Top Ethiopia judge flees threats (BBC)

Ethiopia's most senior judge, Teshale Aberra, has left the country following threats and "continued harassment" from the government, he has told the BBC.
The Supreme Court president accused the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of killing its critics but managing to avoid international blame.
He also said the government was planning to appoint new, loyalist judges throughout the system.
Mr Meles had been seen as being part of a new generation of African leaders.
Mr Teshale is the latest in a series of senior officials - judges, diplomats and military commanders - to flee the country.
Massacres
He told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that Mr Meles' government was just as bad as that of its predecessor, led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is accused of crimes against humanity.
"The difference is these guys are wise... These people kill whoever they feel like and then ask: 'Who killed them?'"

Students accused the police of brutality during protests last yearAnother judge, Wolde-Michael Meshesha, recently fled the country after carrying out an investigation into the suppression of protests against alleged fraud in last year's elections.
In his report, he said the police had massacred 193 people.
His report said that the government had concealed the true extent of deaths at the hands of the police.
He claimed he had been put under pressure to alter his findings and fled into hiding in Europe when he received anonymous death threats.
The government has denied rigging the polls and blames the opposition for the violence which followed.
More than 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers were rounded up during the protests and are currently on trial, accused of treason and attempted genocide.
Trial
In Ethiopia, the trial of 111 opposition leaders, journalists and human rights activists accused of treason and attempted genocide, who were rounded up during the protests, has been adjourned for three days after two defendants complained of mistreatment in custody.
Daniel Bekele and Netsannet Demissie, who work for the NGO Action Aid, said they were neither "physically nor psychologically" able to go on with the trial because of the conditions they were being held in.
Daniel Bekele told the court in Kaliti, just outside the capital, that he had been taken out of his prison cell on Friday night and forced to sleep in a container. He said the next day he was moved to a room with 250 inmates.
Netsannet Demissie told the court he had been forced to sleep under one of the guards watch towers on Friday before being moved to a room shared by 300 defendants.
Police records showed 20,000 people were arrested during the anti-government protests, the judge said.
In January, Britain withheld $87m in aid because of concerns over the unrest.
Last year, Mr Meles was invited onto the panel of the UK's Commission for Africa to find ways of relieving poverty in the world poorest continent.
Source

Friday, October 20, 2006

EU anger over Ethiopia expulsions

The EU cut aid after last year's election violenceThe European Union has condemned the expulsion of two EU diplomats from Ethiopia as "totally unacceptable".
The two were deported after being caught allegedly trying to smuggle two fugitives into Kenya.
These include an Ethiopian lawyer who worked for the European Commission. Ethiopia said they were arrested over "serious crimes" without specifying.
The expulsions come at a time of strong international criticism of Ethiopia over last year's disputed elections.
The EU halted budgetary aid to Ethiopia in the wake of the poll and the wave of violence that followed it.
Any international organisation operating in Ethiopia needs to respect the laws of the host country and face punishment if it violates the law
Interior ministry
Until the election violence, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had been seen as part of a "new generation" of African leaders.
The chief observer for the EU during the elections, Ana Gomes, on Thursday said a leaked report into an alleged "massacre" confirmed that the government did not respect human rights.
'Torture risk'
An EC official, who did not wish to be named, told the BBC he was very concerned about lawyer Yalemzewd Bekele, following her arrest.
Human rights group Amnesty International says she is at a high risk of being tortured.
The identity of the person arrested with the lawyer has not been revealed but they did not work for the EC, the official said.
Swedish diplomat Bjorn Jonsson and Italian EU official Enrico Sborgi were deported on Thursday night.
The arrests were made after a car with diplomatic number plates was stopped near the southern border town of Moyale, Ethiopian officials say.
Amnesty says it believes Ms Yalemzewd was arrested in connection with the publication and distribution of a calendar of action for non-violent civil disobedience by the opposition party Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).
CUD was in the forefront of protests over last May's elections, saying it was cheated of victory.
Several CUD leaders are on trial on a number of charges, including one of trying to overthrow the government.
Almost 200 people were killed when the police put down the protests, a leaked report said this week.
'Repercussions'
Development Commissioner Louis Michel said he had called Ethiopia's envoy in Brussels for an explanation.
"There will be repercussions," he said.
He also said he had been trying since Thursday to contact Mr Meles about the incident, without success.
"Usually I can make contact quite easily with Prime Minister Meles," he said.
A statement from Ethiopia's interior ministry said the attempt to take the Ethiopians out of the country "violates the sovereignty of the country while jeopardising the security of the nation".
"Any international organisation operating in Ethiopia needs to respect the laws of the host country and face punishment if it violates the law," the statement added.
Source

Rep. Smith: Ethiopian Regime's Silence on Report Speaks Volumes

Calls for Immediate Passage of "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" when Congress reconvenes
10/20/2006 11:15:00 AM


To: International Desk, Political Reporter
Contact: Patrick Creamer of the Office of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, 202-225-3765
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ --

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today expressed outrage at the Ethiopian government's continued silence about the report linking their security forces to nearly 200 deaths during two waves of protests over election results in 2005 and called for immediate passage of his bill to promote human rights and democracy in Ethiopia when Congress reconvenes.
Smith -- who is the Chairman of the Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations Subcommittee and author of the "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" (H.R. 5680) -- said "Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's silence speaks volumes. The regime refuses to comment on the report, most likely because they never expected it to see the light of day. We have a responsibility to hold them accountable for their brutal actions as well as their subsequent efforts to suppress this inquiry."
Smith added "this report should prompt the House to move on my bill when we reconvene. We must send a message to the Ethiopian government that these actions will not be tolerated."
The independent Commission of Inquiry report found that Ethiopian security forces fatally shot, beat or strangled 193 people protesting election fraud last year -- a number that far exceeds the Ethiopian government's official death toll. The report also states that these demonstrators were unarmed, yet the majority died from shots to the head.
Wolde-Michael Meshesha, a vice chairman of the 10-member panel who conducted the investigation, said the Ethiopian government tried to suppress the inquiry and he has stated in news reports that he was told to change the results two days before the release of report. Meshesha fled Ethiopia in the wake of controversy surrounding the report and is in Europe seeking asylum.
The report comes well over a year after the first wave of violence, despite the Prime Minister's assurance to Rep. Smith during a meeting in August 2005 that there would be an expeditious and transparent investigation.
"This delayed, secret report, as well as the repeated delays in the trial of the opposition leaders, human rights activists and journalists, demonstrates an outright contempt for rule of law and due-process," Smith said.
The "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" aims to bring democratic reform and accountability to Ethiopia by limiting U.S. security assistance to peacekeeping and counter-terrorism only; denying visas to anyone who was involved in the June and November 2005 killings of demonstrators and by assisting political prisoners, indigenous Ethiopian human rights organizations, independent media, civil society and to promote legal training. Smith's legislation passed the House International Relations Committee last June.
"This legislation helps strengthen the will of the Ethiopian people who want freedom and democracy and will bring positive change to the circumstances that have limited progress in Ethiopia. It should be brought up for immediate consideration when the House reconvenes next month," said Smith.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ethiopian security forces massacred 193 people -

Nairobi, Kenya - Ethiopian security forces massacred 193 people - triple the official death toll - during anti-government protests following last year's election, a senior judge appointed to investigate the violence said on Wednesday.Unarmed protesters were shot, beaten and strangled to death, said Wolde-Michael Meshesha, vice chairman of the government-backed inquiry. He said he believed the Ethiopian government was trying to cover up the findings.Ethiopian officials refused to comment on the claims.
"This was a massacre," Wolde-Michael said in a telephone interview. "These demonstrators were unarmed yet the majority died from shots to the head.""There is no doubt that excessive force was used," said Wolde-Michael, who fled the country last month after receiving anonymous death threats, leaving his wife and five daughters behind. He is now claiming asylum in Europe and would not disclose his exact whereabouts out of fear for his safety.
Last year's elections were followed by a government crackdown on its opposition and increasing questions about its commitment to democracy.A draft of the team's report, which should have been presented to the Ethiopian parliament in early July and has since been obtained by the AP, says among those killed were 40 teenagers, including a boy and a girl, both aged 14. Both were shot dead.Six policemen were also killed in the June and November 2005 riots, bringing the overall death toll to 199. Some 763 people were injured, the report adds. Wolde-Michael says the figures could be higher because many people were too afraid to speak out.The government claimed at the time that 35 civilians and seven police were killed in November. In June, 26 people were killed.Ana Gomes, who was the European Union's chief observer during the 2005 elections, told the AP the report "exposes the lie" that the Ethiopian government is moving toward democracy."It is time the EU and US realise that the current regime in Ethiopia is repressing the people because it lacks democratic legitimacy and is actually weak," she said by e-mail after reading the report. "It is driving Ethiopia to more poverty, conflict and war."Wolde-Michael and the other commissioners spent six months interviewing more than 600 people, including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, police officers, witnesses, and other government officials.According to Wolde-Michael, Meles said he did not authorise police to use live bullets.The inquiry's mandate was to determine whether excessive force was used. In early July, shortly before completing its report, the team held a vote and ruled eight to two that excessive force was used.The vote and comments of the commission members were recorded on video, a copy of which has also been obtained."Many people were killed arbitrarily," said inquiry chairman and supreme court judge Frehiwot Samuel, who is also believed to have fled Ethiopia, was heard saying on the video. "Old men were killed while in their homes and children were also victims of the attack while playing in the garden."Ethiopian Orthodox priest, Estatiose Gebrekristos, was recorded as saying, "Based on my eyes, ears and knowledge the actions taken were 100 percent wrong."But two of the commission members said the government responded appropriately."I consider the motives of the protesters was to overthrow the government," Elias Redman, vice president of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Council, said on the video. "I therefore fully support the action taken by the police."Wolde-Michael, who was appointed a judge by the current government in 1994, said the inquiry team came under intense pressure once the ruling party learned of its findings.Electricity to their offices was cut and at one point their office was surrounded by security forces, he said. The team was also summoned by the prime minister, two days before the report was to be released, and told to reverse their findings, Wolde-Michael added.The prime minister said at the time that demonstrators were trying to overthrow his government in an Ukraine-style revolution. Prior to the unrest he had banned all demonstrations and announced on state television he had put security forces under his direct control.Wolde-Michael said police records he saw showed 20,000 people were rounded up during the anti-government protests.Of them more than 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers are on trial for treason and attempted genocide.Meles, who was part of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, was once thought to be one of Africa's more progressive leaders. However his reputation suffered in the aftermath of the elections. The EU and US Carter Centre expressed serious concerns over the vote.In January of this year, Britain withheld $87-million (about R660-million) in aid because of concerns about the government's handling of the unrest.Ethiopia is one of the poorest country's in the world. More than half the 77 million people live on less than $1 a day. Each year the international community pours in $1,9-billion in emergency aid and funds for development to help alleviate poverty.
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