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Ethiopia
29.06.05
Urgent Interventions

Ethiopia: Releases and arbitrary detentions of EHRCO members

URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY

New information
ETH 001 / 0605 / OBS 040.1
Releases / Arbitrary detentions / Judicial proceedings
Ethiopia


June 29, 2005

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), received some new information regarding the situation in Ethiopia.


New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) of the release of the three teachers Mr. Tesfawe Bekele, Chairperson of Dessae Branch Office of EHRCO, Mr. Seifu Degu, Vice-Chairperson of the Dessae Branch Office of EHRCO, and Mr. Chane Kebede, member of EHRCO.

According to the information received, they were released on bail on June 23, 2005 at noon. They are charged with “having mobilised people for anti-governmental activities” and their case is still pending.

Moreover, Mr. Taddesse Chernet, mandated by EHRCO to report on the human rights violations perpetrated by the police against demonstrators in Addis Ababa on June 8, 2005, and who disappeared right after these events (See background information), has now been located in the detention center of Zeway. He is in good shape and his family was able to visit him on June 23, 2005. He is accused of “throwing stones at the police forces during the protests”.

Furthermore, Mr. Tsegu Birhanu, Head of the Monitoring and Investigation Department of EHRCO, and Mr. Yared Halemariam, his assistant, are also detained in Zeway, and they received the visit of the International Committee of the Red Cross (on request of EHRCO) and of their families on June 25, 2005. There are still no precise charges brought against Mr. Chernet, Mr. Birhanu and Mr. Halemariam. An hearing with the Prosecutor of Addis Ababa is scheduled on June 30, 2005.

The Observatory welcomes Mr. Tesfawe Bekele, Mr. Seifu Degu and Mr. Chane Kebede’s release on bail, in which international pressure certainly played a key role.

The Observatory considers that the detention of Messrs. Bekele, Degu, Kebede, Chernet, Birhanu and Hailemariam and the charges against Messrs. Bekele, Degu and Kebede are arbitrary since they aim at sanctioning their activities as human rights defenders. These facts are in blatant violation of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its article 6.b, which states that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, as provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.


Background information:

According to the information received from EHRCO, on June 8, 2005, numerous students and activists of opposition political parties protested in the streets following the provisional results of the May 15 legislative elections, which turned out in favour of the incumbents. These activists denounced the massive embezzlement and fraud that compromised the entire electoral process. Based on the information available, at least 26 people died and one hundred were injured.

During the night following these events, Mr. Taddesse Chernet was arrested by the police at his home. His whereabouts were at the time not revealed.

Mr. Birhanu and Mr. Hailemariam were arrested together by the security forces at 5.30 pm on June 13, 2005 while leaving EHRCO office after work. Security forces forced them to get into a car. These two defenders were investigating the human rights violations that occurred during the demonstrations, visiting hospitals and taking photographs of the deceased or wounded demonstrators. They were marked by the police while performing these visits.

Mr. Tesfawe Bekele, Mr. Seifu Degu and Mr. Chane Kebede were arrested on June 14, 2005 while they were working at the preparatory school in Dessae and detained at Dessae prison. Mr. Tesfawe Bekele and Mr. Seifu Degu were both EHRCO supervisors during the election process (see Observatory press release on June 15, 2005).


Actions requested:
Please write to the Ethiopian authorities asking them to:
i. guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Tesfawe Bekele, Mr. Seifu Degu, Mr. Chane Kebede, Mr. Taddesse Chernet, Mr. Tsegu Birhanu and Mr. Yared Hailemariam, and of all human rights defenders in Ethiopia;

ii. ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Messrs. Tesfawe Bekele, Seifu Degu, Chane Kebede, Taddesse Chernet, Tsegu Birhanu, and Yared Hailemariam, and ensure that Messrs. Bekele, Degu and Kebede will be brought before an impartial tribunal, so that the charges against them be dropped, their detention and prosecution being arbitrary;

iii. comply with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the Assembly General of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international level”, its article 6.a which states that “everyone has the right to know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including having access to information as to how those rights and freedoms are given effect in domestic legislative, judicial or administrative systems”, its article 6.b mentioned above, and its article 12.2, which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

iv. more generally, conform with the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and with all other international human rights instruments binding Ethiopia.

Addresses:
  • Prime Minister, His Excellency Meles Zenawi, Office of the Prime Minister, P O Box 1031, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Fax: + 251 1 552020 / 552030

  • Minister of Justice, Mr Harka Haroye, Ministry of Justice, P.O. Box 1370, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Fax: + 251 1 51 77 75 / 520874, Email: ministry-justice@telecom.net.et


***
Geneva-Paris, June 29, 2005

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a joint FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders, and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the Emergency Line:
E-mail: observatoire@iprolink.ch
Tel and Fax FIDH: + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / + 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and Fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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