To European Union Delegation to Ethiopia: A Call to Stop the State of Siege in Ethiopia

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Aug 5th, 2014

Global Alliance for the Rights of Ethiopians (GARE), letter to European Union Delegation to Ethiopia

The Global Alliance for the Rights of Ethiopians (GARE), an all-inclusive human rights advocacy group is outraged by the state of siege in Global alliance for the rights of EthiopiansEthiopia; and calls on all Ethiopian opposition political parties, civic societies, religious leaders, prominent individuals; and the donor and diplomatic community to rise up express outrage against systematic and recurrent state sponsored human rights abuses, onslaught and terror by the Ethiopian government against its own people. Ominous signs of dissension and implosion are everywhere. The precedent setting arrest, interrogation, abduction and subsequent rendition of Mr. Andargachew Tsige, a prominent political and human rights activist on June 24, 2014 by Yemeni and Ethiopian Security has formally and brazenly escalated and broadened the reign of terror by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the ruling ethnic coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which it commands. A UK citizen, Mr. Tsige’s forcible and criminal abduction and rendition to Ethiopia where he is undoubtedly facing the harshest treatment possible is an abrogation of international covenants and civilized behavior. Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the government of Yemen had an obligation to notify the Embassy of the United Kingdom. Ethiopians are uniformly angry that Yemeni authorities colluded with the Ethiopian government and handed Mr. Tsige to his tormentors; and the UK failed to demand his release the same way that it would have done if he were not an African. The same can happen to anyone of us.

GARE believes that Mr. Tsige’s case follows a systematic and recurrent pattern of state-sponsored witch-hunting, pursuit, arrest and imprisonment of political, social and religious dissenters within and outside Ethiopia that has gone on for almost a quarter of century and deteriorated sharply since the flawed elections of 2005. We are convinced that his won’t be the last. A sample of similar renditions illustrates the point. In June 2014, Mr. Okello Okuway, an Ethiopian from Gambella and a Norwegian citizen was arrested in South Sudan and extradited to Ethiopia. He faces charges as a terrorist. Earlier Kenya detained and extradited two Ethiopians of Oromo ethnic affiliation accused of having links to the Oromo Liberation Front. They were sentenced to life in prison and one of them died in prison in 2013. Kenya arrested and extradited an Ethiopian with Canadian citizenship accused of belonging to the Ogaden National Liberation Front. He faces charges as a terrorist. Human Rights Watch reports that other political refugees have been sent to Ethiopia from neighboring countries.

Equally and with more severity, the onslaught on the rights of indigenous people, civic, religious and political activists that espouse peaceful dissent has reached a tipping point. In January 2012, Human Rights Watch concluded that Ethiopia’s Villagization program funded by donors was “marked by forced displacements, arbitrary detentions, mistreatments, and inadequate consultation with indigenous people in Gambella.” On July 14, 2014, a UK High Court ruled on allegations that the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) “did not assess evidence of human rights violations in Ethiopia and should do so” soonest. GARE notes with sadness that the donor community has failed to monitor similar abuses in connection with the massive Promotion of Basic Services project initiated in the aftermath of the 2005 elections. It is often used to punish opponents. We note with regret that the generous donor community that provides $4 billion annually with no accountability is effectively complicit and accountable. The renowned economist William Easterly admonished the donor community’s total disregard of freedom and human rights in his new book, The Tyranny of Experts: economists, dictators and the forgotten rights of the poor, with specific reference to Ethiopia’s brutal regime. “Not even shooting and jailing the opposition, manipulating aid to starve the opposition, seizing the lands of villagers and relocating them against their will, and perpetrating violence against villagers who protested has been enough to shake the technocratic faith that autocrats can be trusted to be benevolent implementers of technical solutions” in alleviating poverty and creating sustainable and equitable development for the vast majority of Ethiopians. Ethiopia is replete with specific examples of abuse.

On July 12, 2014, Human Rights Watch reported that the UK provides more than 300 million British pounds of aid to Ethiopia each year, “while the country’s human rights record is steadily deteriorating.” We therefore call on the donor and diplomatic community to press the Ethiopian government to end its relentless and recurring human rights violations that are most likely to lead to a cataclysmic end, including genocide and civil wars. On July 11, 2014, Tom Rhodes of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a human rights group that caters to journalists and had assisted 41 Ethiopian journalists in exile since 2009 reported that “On June 25, 2014, 20 journalists from the state broadcaster in Oromia were denied entry to their station’s headquarters” allegedly in connection with student protests in the region that led to massacres by TPLF special forces. “The fear of being imprisoned next” has become common. Numerous journalists and others fled the country because it is a pattern for dissenters to be arrested and imprisoned “on trumped charges or none at all.” Ethiopia is the “second worst jailer of journalists in Africa after Eritrea” and one of the “ten worst jailers in the world.” On July 18, 2014, AFP reported that 9 bloggers and journalists arrested in May this year—shortly before Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Ethiopia—were charged with “terrorism for having links to an outlawed group and for planning attacks.” The draconian Anti-Terrorist and Societies and Charities Proclamations are now used routinely as blunt legal instruments to arrest and imprison anyone who struggles for freedom and justice, the rule of law and freedom. AFP confirmed that “seven journalists have been jailed under the Anti-Terrorist Law, including two Swedish journalists sentenced for 11 years in 2012 and pardoned.” Ethiopians jailed have no such lack. “Eskinder Nega is serving an 18-year sentence for having links with Ginbot 7.

On July 8, 2014, the TPLF arrested 4 young and rising political leaders: Habtamu Ayalew and Daniel Shibeshi of Andinet, Yeshiwas Assefa of Semayawi and Abraha Desta, lecturer at Makelle University and member of the Executive Committee, Arena. These recent arrests contribute to the thousands of political prisoners including Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Andualem Aragie, Bekele Gerba, Abubeker Mohamed, Tesfalem Woldeyes, Andargachew Tsige etc., etc. whose indomitable moral courage generations will never forget. Sadly, TPLF’s security that spends more monies than defense, receives substantial support from Western governments for the purpose of fighting and containing terrorism in the Horn–Alkaid a, Al-Shabab and other extremist and terrorist groups–against the Ethiopian people and avert the types of atrocities inflicted on the people of Kenya. Ethiopians are committed to anti-terrorism. Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorist Law makes no distinction whatsoever between real terrorists of the Alkaid a type; and political, social and religious dissenters. Sadly, Ethiopians face broad, sweeping and nation-wide crackdowns in the Amhara, Oromia, Gambella, Ogaden, Tigray, Addis Ababa, Afar and other regions that show the Anti-Terrorist and CSO laws are used as legal instruments against any dissenter. These laws are intended solely to maintain TPLF minority rule permanently. This unprecedented state of siege is either ignored or unnoticed by donors. Ethiopians are left to defend themselves. We conclude from this systemic repression that no dissenter at home or abroad is safe. Relentless extraditions by TPLF agents outside Ethiopia’s boundaries are presumed to send a chilling message and hinder popular resistance. Regardless of the number of arrests the struggle for justice in Ethiopia is unstoppable.

In light of heinous crimes committed against the Ethiopian people, it is high time that the donor and diplomatic community stops treating gross human rights violations in Ethiopia with a blind eye. We therefore urge the EU to leverage its considerable aid and diplomatic resources and demand that the Ethiopian government releases journalists and other political prisoners; open political, social, economic and religious space; and respect human rights and the rule of law without delay.

Aklog Birara (Dr)
Chair, Foreign Relations and Diplomacy, GARE

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