Friday, January 19, 2007

Statement of the Union of Oromo Students in Germany (UOSG): Request for assistances to protect Oromo refugees in Somalia

January 19, 2007 (Germanyt) - The UOSG is founded in 1975 as one of Oromo mass organizations in exile to support the struggle of Oromo people for justice, peace, freedom, democracy, and stability. The struggle of the Oromo people has its root in its resistance to political dominations and economic exploitations by successive regimes in Ethiopia: it is not directed against any people but against the system of oppression. Since its foundation the UOSG has been committed to bring the voices of Oromo people to the attention of the international communities and the democratic governments mainly via the following major activities: organizing peaceful demonstrations, conducting annual seminars, writing appeal letters, publishing annual bulletin, etc. Unfortunately the genuine voice of Oromo people has been silenced by rules of gun under successive tyrannical governances of Ethiopia for more than a century. The UOSG is one of the Oromo people’s mass organizations that have been evolved out of the suppressed voices of the Oromo people.

The UOSG respectfully request for the assistances of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFGS) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in particular and the international communities in general to protect the help less and innocent Oromo refugees in Somalia who are without voices. The Oromo refugee in Somalia in particular and anywhere else in Africa and across the globe in general have been managed under difficult conditions to escape from the widespread human rights violations practices of the Ethiopian government lead by the Tigray People Liberation Front /Marxist Leninist League of Tigray (TPLF/MLLT) that known by its fake name Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

The unpopular government of Prime Minster Meles Zenawi lead by his political front (party), the TPLF/MLLT, has been not committed to minimize human rights violations perpetrated by its security forces against the innocent Oromo civilians across Oromia federal state since 1992. This wide spread human rights violations across Oromia is unhidden facts from the eyes of the international communities, international financial institutes, and developed countries who are reluctant to assess their polices of assisting the tribal political monopoly of the dictator Prime Minster who is not different from his predecessors in formulating and implementing policies that marginalize the Oromo people from meaningful political, social, and economic empowerments. The TPLF/MLLT regime has been systematically manipulating its monopoly of tribal military and political powers to silence the voices of Oromo people. The regime ill political attitude towards the Oromo people and majority of Ethiopian peoples is very dangerous for the stability and positive coexistences of highly diversified peoples of Ethiopia.

The TPLF/MLLT regime is manipulating its full control of military and police forces, security offices, and ministry of justices in order to routinely accomplish harassment, torture, disappearance, and extra judicial killings of innocent civilians across Oromia federal state and major parts of Ethiopia to guard its brutal governance. Seasonal and annual Human Rights Violations records in Ethiopia that have been released in the forms of statements, appeal letters, or reports by credible international human rights defenders (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, US Department of State, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Society for Threatened Peoples, etc) and local human rights groups (Oromia Support Group, Ethiopian Human Rights Council or League, Anuak Justice Council, Sidama Concern, Oromia Human Rights and Relief Organization, Ogaden humanitarian Association etc) are the best indicators of the increased degrees of human rights violations practices of the regime’s security apparatus.

The TPLF/MLLT security apparatus have been intensified all kinds of repressions against all segments of the Oromo society in fashion of cold war since 1992. This is the major factor that have been driven tens of thousands of Oromo people from their home land (Oromia) and forced them to seek refugee in the neighboring countries where they hope to live under protection provided to them based on Article 33 of the Convention of the Status of Refugees, 1951. However Oromo refugees residing in Djibouti, Somalia, the Sudan, South Africa, and Yemen have been victims of cross border activities of the security forces of Ethiopian regime that operate underground through its diplomatic institutes. In December, 2005 the security agent of the regime has killed 25 Oromo refugees residing under the protectorate of Kenyan government and the UNHCR. This was not the only incident, however the killings, kidnappings, and harassments of defense less Oromo refugees in countries neighboring Ethiopia by the security forces of the TPLF/MLLT regime have been going on for the past 15 years and it will continue for unknown periods of time.

Currently the fate of Oromo refugees in Somalia is not an isolated affair. Somalia is home of hundreds of thousands of Oromo refugees who escaped the atrocities of successive Ethiopian regimes since the half of the 20th century. The UOSG has learned from different media sources that unknown numbers of Oromo refugees across Somalia have been harassed and detained either by the solders of the TFGS or by the armies of the TPLF/MLLT regime. The UOSG worried that the harassments, imprisonments, torturing, disappearance, or killings of defense less innocent Oromo refugees across Somalia since January 2007 could be complicated by the joint operations carried out by the TFGS and the TPLF/MLLT regime to restore peace and stability in Somalia. However the Ethiopian government lead by the TPLF/MLLT has no respect for International Human Rights Covenants and Treaties it ratified: and it is not concerned about rules of law and basic human rights protection. Thus Oromo refugees across Somalia are exposed to either disappearance or extra judicial killing practices of the TPLF/MLLT security forces if the TFGS will be reluctant to give necessary protection to Oromo refugees in Somalia according to international legal norms. Either illegal repatriation of Oromo refugees from Somalia to Ethiopia or the harassment and detentions of Oromo refugee in Somalia by the TPLF/MLLT armies are the grave violations of international laws.

Therefore, the UOSG kindly appeal to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the UNHCR, the international communities, and the governments of developed countries:

1. To assist the immediate release of Oromo refugees detained across Somalia;
2. To assist in establishment of an independent Human rights committee that investigates cross border human rights violations perpetrated by the TPLF/MLLT security agents against Oromo refugees in Somalia;
3. To assist in implementation of special strategies to protect Oromo refugee in Somalia from ill treatments perpetrated by the TPLF/MLLT security agents that could be shadowed by complex conflicts in Somalia in particular and in the Horn of African sub region in general.

With great regards,

Executive committee of the Union of Oromo Students in Germany


An Oromo Student and His Brother Killed at One Spot (OLF)

January 18, 2006 ( Gimbi Oromia): Two brother students Gemechis Bulcha Buli and Lalisa Waqgari Buli were brutally murdered by the Woyane armed security agents on 01/03/07 evening in Gimbi town of Western Wollega Zone, Oromia regional state. The two brothers, who were students of Guddattuu Guyii School, were shot dead while they were studying their daily lesson at their home.

According to this report, the security agents went to the house and called Student Gemechis Bulcha Buli out of the house and killed him with a gun. Student Lalisa Waqgari Buli was then shot dead by the same agents because he fell on the body of his brother and cried.

Meanwhile the parents of these students who went to Gimbi Hospital to ask the body of their children have been arrested for allegedly escaping from their home when the security agents showed up. .
Victory to the Oromo people


The Ethiopian Regime is Unleashing State Sponsored-Terror on Oromo Refugees in Somalia



January 17, 2007 — The Tigrean Liberation Front (TPLF) regime of Ethiopia is unleashing its malignant instinct of death and destructive horror on Oromo refugees in Somalia. It is committing a planned and systematic genocide on the Oromo people by mislabeling Oromo’s struggle for self-determination and democracy as terrorism. The truth of the matter is it is the TPLF- led tyrannical Ethiopian regime that is unleashing state sponsored-terror against our people.

Recent reports by human rights groups and governments are bearing witness that there are grave violations of human rights of the Oromo people by the TPLF regime. These include extra-judicial killings, disappearances, illegal arrests, torture, gang rape and detention for a long period without charge or trial. Disappearances are systematically, incessantly and relentlessly committed against the Oromo people.

As a result of these gross human rights violations and to escape state-sponsored terror, thousands of Oromos have fled and are fleeing their homeland. In countries where they sought refuge, many have been killed or kidnapped by murder-squads organized by the Ethiopia regime in Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Africa. Others have been subjected to forced repatriation; particularly form Djibouti and the Sudan.

In its recent unlawful invasion of Somalia, the Ethiopian regime has opened another terror front on the Oromo people. It appears now that the main purpose of invading Somalia was to achieve and maintain its twin objectives, which are the genocidal and systematic terror against Oromo refugees in Somalia and the creation of the TPLF protectorate of Somalia.

Oromo refugees have come to Somalia starting from late 1960s and continued to the present. Even though the security situation in Somalia for the last 16 years has been extremely perilous, Oromo refugees continue to come to Somalia for lack of alternatives. Many have attempted to crossover to Yemen and in the process hundreds have perished in open seas.

According to eyewitnesses, the Ethiopian army and security forces, as soon as they entered the cities, towns and villages, made their sole objective the hunting-down of Oromo refugees to arrest, torture, and kill by lynching them for no apparent reasons except for being Oromo. In addition, credible evidences and eyewitness accounts indicate that members of the Somalia militia are abducting Oromo refugees and handing them over to Ethiopia security forces for a bounty. These actions have continued unabated.

It is a sad reality that the international community has failed to take any meaningful action to discharge its international duty and moral obligation relevant the crimes of the TPLF regime against the Oromo people. It is believed that the respect and promotion of fundamental human rights and freedoms recognized by the "international bills of rights" is the legal duty and moral obligation of the international community. It is incumbent upon the UN and Member States to intervene and stop these acts of genocide by the criminal Ethiopian regime against innocent Oromo refugees in Somalia. Particularly, Somalia as a State Party to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, has obligation to accord the Oromo refugees in Somalia “the most favorable treatment” and to refrain from “expelling or retuning” the Oromo refugees to Ethiopia, where their life and freedom will be in jeopardy.

It should be known that, these acts of genocide the Ethiopian regime is perpetrating against the Oromo refugees in Somalia and the Oromo people at large is bound to lead to more political instability and humanitarian tragedy in the Horn of Africa. It is the utmost necessity for the international community to realize the danger that the Oromos as a people are facing under the tyrannical government of Ethiopia led by the Tigrean ethnic minority.

The Oromo Liberation Front, therefore appeals to:

- The international community, particularly those governments financing and advising the Ethiopian regime in its invasion of Somalia, to discharge their international duty and urge the TPLF regime immediately stop the acts of genocide against the Oromo refugees in Somalia;
- The United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees to take immediate actions to ensure the protection of the Oromo refugees in Somalia;
- The UN to immediately conduct investigation of the crime of genocide being committed against the Oromo refugees in Somalia;
- Human rights organizations to expose the crime the TPLF regime is committing against the Oromo refugees in Somalia;
- The Somali people to reject the sinister divide and rule policy of the TPLF invaders and continue the brotherly and customary treatment and protection of the Oromo refugees who sought sanctuary in your country.

Victory to the Oromo People!

Oromo Liberation Front


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Targeting Oromo citizens in Somalia is an act of ethnic cleansing

“Your [Transitional Government of Somalia’s] responsibility is not to kill us but to help us since we are under your refuge.”
Mohamud Sheik Hassan, chairman of the Oromo refugees in Somalia

On December 25, 2006 the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF)-led Ethiopian regime launched a military campaign in neighboring Somalia, alleging that its “sovereignty” was threatened by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Having driven out the UIC from Mogadishu, the TPLF forces in collaboration with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, has now shifted its mission towards fulfilling its main agenda of ethnic cleansing.
The International Oromo Youth Association (IOYA) is deeply dismayed by the series of harassment, illegal detention, kidnapping, lynching, and cold-blooded murder of Oromo refugees in Somalia by the Ethiopian and Somalia TFG joint military forces.
The Oromo people, the largest ethno-national group in Ethiopia, have been deprived of their basic human rights under successive Ethiopian regimes. In spite of their contribution to the country’s socio-economic development, the Oromo people have been marginalized from participating in the social, economic, and political decision-making process. Because of their continued demand for self-determination, freedom, justice and equality, Oromos have become major targets for the authoritarian Ethiopian government. Just like its predecessors, the current TPLF minority regime led by Meles Zenawi has committed endless acts of state-sponsored terrorism against Oromo civilians, professionals, students and political dissidents.
Ethiopia and Somalia fought two border wars, in 1964 and 1977. During these two wars, Oromo’s were caught in the middle of the war waged by two dictators: Ziad Barre of Somalia and Mengistu Hailemariam of Ethiopia. Oromos comprise a significant proportion of Ethiopia’s conscripts soldiers that fought during the Ethio-Somali wars. Due to the geographical proximity of Oromia and Somalia, the 1977 war caused a humanitarian crisis including death of civilians, internal displacement and immigration to neighboring countries. Thousands of Oromos fled to Kenya and Somalia and many lost their lives on the way and thousands never returned to their homeland.
Today, Somalia is home for over a quarter of million Oromo refugees who
fled their country due to persecution and forced displacement by successive
Ethiopian governments. Many have lived and raised families in Somalia
for as long as three decades.
Over the last decade TPLF has been meddling in Somali internal affairs to unleash its crime against Oromo refugees. Oromo refugees in Somalia suspected of being members and sympathizers of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) have been kidnapped or killed by TPLF militia and its security forces.
For instance, a prominent Oromo elder Mullis Abbaa Gadaa was murdered in Somalia in 2000. The regime which considers Somali as its own province has been engaged in instigating intern clan conflict among Somalis. It has funded and organized criminal warlords that deprived the people of Somalia peace and instability. In collaboration with his puppet warlords Zenawi was able to make life miserable for Oromo refugees in Somalia.
Since the Ethiopian-backed TFG controlled the capital of Somalia, the allied forces are engaged in a house-to-house hunt for Oromo nationals in Mogadishu and its environs. We are deeply saddened by the news of increasing cold-blooded murders of unaccounted number of Oromos in Somalia, illegal detention of over 44 people and kidnapping of many others. In the past week alone, the body of an Oromo man killed by the allied Ethiopia- TFG militia was found dumped in the street of Mogadishu and another young Oromo in Jowar was also murdered by lynching.
As reports from the area clearly indicate, the victims have no wrongdoing other than being born Oromo, for which they had previously fled their home country. Over the last decade and a half, similar incidents are taking place where Oromo nationals in various refugee camps of neighboring countries are facing mass deportation, imprisonment and torture.
In response to this, IOYA hereby calls upon all freedom loving individuals, international communities, human rights groups and East African countries to save our brothers and sisters from inhumane treatment in the hands of TPLF soldiers and their TFG allies in refugee camps.
We believe that international organizations and the international community as a whole have a moral responsibility to stop these acts of ethnic cleansing that is directed at the Oromo people. A failure to act upon such critical issue would be a gross oversight by the international community.
The Ethiopian authority of raiding Oromo refuges in Somalia is in direct defiance of international agreements that protect the right of the refuges.
We would also like to appeal to the Somali people to stop handing over Oromo nationals to TPLF thugs, since these Oromo men and women have lived in Somalia for many years in harmony with Somalis. It should also be noted that such acts of ethnic profiling would only endanger our long history of coexistence.
It was very evident from the beginning of the recent war between Ethiopia and Somalia, that the Ethiopian government’s allegation that opposition parties from the Oromo are fighting alongside the Islamic militias was a pretext for its ethnic cleansing scheme.
These acts expose the primary mission of the minority-led Ethiopia’s troop in Somalia-which is to broaden its persecution of Oromo nationals throughout the horn of Africa.
We condemn in the strongest of terms this barbaric and inhumane targeting of innocent Oromo nationals in Somalia by the TFG and its Ethiopian ally.

We therefore appeal to the Ethiopian-backed TFG of Somalia, the U.S government, the UNHCR and Human Rights organization to take the following action:
• We urge the TFG to honor its obligation under international laws by providing protection to Oromo refugees under its administration and to release all Oromo prisoners without any preconditions.
• We urge the United States, which is backing Ethiopia and TFG militias, and UNHCR to pressure the TFG to promptly initiate an independent investigation of the attacks and help bring those responsible to justice as well as to intervene and secure the release of all detainees.
• We call on the United States and the UNHCR and other human right organizations to take appropriate actions to stop the targeting of
Oromo nationals in Somalia by the Ethiopian government and TFG militias.
• We call on all Somalis to raise their voice, regarding this unjust move on the part of the Somali government and to show their solidarity with the Oromo nationals who have lived in their midst.
• We also call upon peace-loving people and States of the Horn of
Africa region and the world to play a positive role in alleviating the suffering of the Oromo people in Somalia and the Horn region at large.

Justice for Oromo people, Justice for All!!
International Oromo Youth Association


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Oromo Refugees in Ethiopian Neighboring Countries Seeking Urgent Global Attention

Sponsor: Fiixaa Mootii

Thousands of Oromo Refugees in Ethiopian Neighboring Countries are Critically Suffering from Continuous Hunt, arbitrary Killings and Silencing action of TPLF minority leaders headed under PM Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia. Being in Neighborhood asylum Countries, their Current Situation in general is Deteriorating in most of those Countries and in particular in Somalia. Please respond any anything that could be of help to sustain their worsening current Situation.

To Sign the Petition, please go to the following link:

Oromo Refugees in Ethiopian Neighboring Countries Seeking Urgent Global Attention
We, the Oromo Community Members world wide do hereby express our deepest Concern on the current sadistic situation experienced by Oromo Refugees in the Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya...etc and in particular in Somalia and do ask:
1. The Intruding Ethiopian Government military forces stop the killing, intimidation, deportation and detention of Oromo Refugees in Somalia.
2.The Oromos resettled in 3rd Countries to Support them Morally and Financially and immediate demostration against these tyrannic action of Ethiopian Government Militias and
3.The African Union, the UN, the Global Human rights watch, Amnesty International, International Red Cross Society, UNHCR, Foreign and Commenwelth Offices, European Parliement, Parliamentary Human Rights watch, the US Government and any other Humanitarian Grounds strongly Protest such a gross human right Violation against these Innocent Civillians.To our best Knowledge, these Oromo asylum seekers have no Connection with any subversive activities and hence, we do hereby very strongly ask the Unconditional release of these Civilians as speedy as possible. The action pursueded by the Intruding Ethiopia Security forces Constitutes an abhorrent violation of the basic Human Rights and the fundamental principles of the UN Convention both at home and in Neighboring Countries. Therefore, we so urgently appeal that these Refugees be protected by independent bodies and their cases be dealt in separate. May God almighty extend their life span!

Sign Petition:


Monday, January 15, 2007

Oromo refugees reportedly detained and lynched in Somalia
14 January 2007

Oromo Relief Association (ORA)

The detention, displacement and lynching of Oromo refugees in Somalia

January 13, 2007 — Over the last four decades thousands of Oromos who fled from successive repressive regimes in Ethiopia have sought refugee in Somalia. Some of them have settled successfully among the Somali population and many others continue to live in refugee camps. After the collapse of the central Somali state and the subsequent withdrawal of the diplomatic community and UN agencies, the security and wellbeing of these refugees as well as the Somali people have been in grave danger. Many were killed, robbed and displaced by armed groups. Several were caught in the crossfire and lost their lives and livelihood.

Recent changes under TPLF-occupied Somalia have aggravated the already abysmal situation of these refugees. The Tigrean-led minority government of Ethiopia is persecuting these same refugees who had fled from the gruesome atrocities committed under its administration. Refugees have become target of a witch-hunt by the invading Ethiopian army as well as some warlords. Last week a young Oromo refugee was lynched in Jowhar by gangs of soldiers affiliated with the warlord Mohamed Dheere. To make matters worse, over 40 Oromo refugees have been detained, a few in Puntland, and delivered to the occupying TPLF troops.

The Oromo Relief Association (ORA) is extremely troubled by these sad incidents and concerned about the plight of the many refugees in Somalia. While condemning these barbaric and short-sighted actions, we extend our gratitude to the brotherly people of Somalia for their courage in protecting these helpless refugees and urge the international community to take immediate action to save their lives. Likewise, we urge the TFG and Puntland authorties to guaruantee respect for the rights of refugees.

Oromo Relief Association

P.O.Box 73798 Washington, DC 20056 Tel/Fax 202 232-3337 E-mail


Saturday, January 13, 2007

" ...
Continuing Abuses in the Countryside
Authorities in Oromia state continued to use exaggerated concerns about armed insurgency and terrorism to justify the torture, imprisonment, and sustained harassment of their critics, including school children. In late 2005 and in 2006 federal and regional police in Oromia engaged in mass arrests, often in nighttime raids. Those arrested were informally accused of being supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a clandestine armed rebel group, but detainees were also accused of being supporters of the Oromo National Congress (ONC), a registered opposition political party that won seats in the 2005 elections. Most of those arrested were released after having been held for some weeks and forced to sign statements disavowing the ONC as a condition for release.

Local officials used precinct (kebele) "social courts" run by government-party appointees without legal training to detain farmers who voiced support for recognized opposition parties. Local and regional officials also subjected the rural population to intense levels of surveillance. Farmers who were deemed politically unreliable were denied fertilizer and other agricultural aids over which the government exercises monopoly control; they were also subject to imprisonment for debt or eviction from their farms (the government owns all land). In Amhara state, kebele officials played key roles in identifying known or presumed supporters of opposition parties and led federal police to these persons homes at night, where the police beat and sometimes arrested them.

Abuses by the Armed Forces
The government has taken no meaningful action to address widespread atrocities committed by Ethiopian military forces in Gambella state, bordering Sudan. A government-sponsored commission of inquiry set up to investigate December 2003 violence in Gambella resulted in a whitewash. Although the scale of abuses in Gambella moderated in 2005-06, extrajudicial killings, rapes, beatings, and arbitrary arrests by armed forces personnel still occurred.

Reports of extrajudicial executions and torture also emerged from Somali state, but access to the region has been restricted by the military and by the ONLF insurgency, making these reports impossible to confirm.

Performance of the Judiciary
In high-profile cases, courts show little independence or concern for defendants procedural rights. The two-month recess in the treason trial in August-September 2006, coupled with frequent shorter adjournments, ensured the defendants prolonged detention. The trial judges put off addressing defense objections to evidence and ignored claims of serious mistreatment by prison authorities.

Although criminal courts in Ethiopia have some independence with respect to less prominent cases, the judiciary often acts only after unreasonably long delays, sometimes because of the courts workloads, more often because of excessive judicial deference to bad faith prosecution requests for time to search for evidence of a crime.

Leaders of the traditional Oromo self-help organization Mecha Tulama, arrested in 2004 and accused of supporting the OLF and of organizing a grenade attack at Addis Ababa University, remained incarcerated as of late 2006, their trial yet to begin. Other Oromo detainees have been held for eight years without judicial resolution. Fourteen years after the overthrow of the former military government (the Derg), more than a thousand of its former officials still remain jailed awaiting trial.

Human Rights Defenders
Ethiopia has only one nationwide human rights organization, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO). Government officials routinely accuse the organization of working to advance an anti-government political agenda and its staff is subjected to harassment and intimidation. One investigator was charged in absentia in the treason trial. While EHRCO was not forced to close, it was far less active in 2006.

The Oromo-focused Human Rights League, having been allowed to register in 2005 shortly before the elections after years of litigation, remains inactive. ..."

More is available at



Friday, January 12, 2007

Ethiopia: No Progress on Human Rights

Congressional Testimony Presented by Lynn Fredriksson, Advocacy Director for Africa, Amnesty International USA

November 16, 2006

Congressman Payne, I would like to thank you for holding this important briefing and for allowing Amnesty International the opportunity to address serious ongoing concerns regarding human rights conditions in Ethiopia this year. I would also like to thank Congressman Honda for his leadership in the Ethiopia Caucus, and Congressman Payne and Congressman Smith for their critical leadership in championing HR 5680, the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006.

Introduction: An Absence of Political Freedom

While opposition leaders, journalists and human rights defenders have been on trial for treason and other capital offences allegedly committed in June and November 2005, the original parliamentary inquiry commission report concluded that Ethiopian security forces did use excessive force when they killed more than 190 demonstrators, but the Ethiopian government has altered findings of use of excessive force (about which we are pleased to have heard much more at this briefing today).
Lawyer and human rights activist Yalemzewd Bekele, shopkeeper Alemayehu Fantu and others were recently detained and some reportedly tortured for allegedly distributing opposition publications calling for nonviolent civil disobedience. Hundreds of students and others have been detained this year in anti-government protests in the Oromia Region. Civilians were also detained and some tortured or executed in ongoing armed conflicts in the Oromia, Somali, and Gambela regions. Thousands including prisoners of conscience have remained in detention without charge or trial.
Amnesty International remains seriously concerned that the Government of Ethiopia continues to violate its citizens’ most basic human rights. The government and ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party continue to deny leaders and members of political opposition parties, noted human rights defenders, journalists and others their rights of speech, press, assembly and association.
The U.S. Government has provided a range of assistance to the Government of Ethiopia beyond critical Economic Support Funds (ESF), Child Survival and Health (CSH) and Transition Initiatives (OTI) funding—including Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET). While Amnesty International does not condone the conditioning of humanitarian assistance (and in fact warns that millions of Ethiopians remain dependent on emergency food aid), we do question the continuation of military assistance to countries that blatantly violate the rights of their own citizens.


Amnesty International has been deeply concerned about the large number of killings and mass arrests by the security forces of opposition demonstrators in Addis Ababa particularly in June and November 2005. The demonstrations were called—to protest alleged election fraud by the government and EPRDF—by the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), who believed that they had won many more seats in the federal parliament and regional and city assemblies than the one-third declared by the Ethiopian National Election Board.
The Ethiopian police stated that 36 people had been killed in June 2005, and 42 killed in early November 2005, and that seven police officers were killed by demonstrators in November 2005. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, the demonstrations had started peacefully, as CUD requested, but turned violent in confrontations between the security forces and demonstrators, resulting in considerable destruction of property. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had banned the demonstrations and taken personal control of the security forces in Addis Ababa, which included a special army unit in June 2005, and armed police in November 2005, including a special riot police unit.
It later emerged from the testimony of certain police officers who fled the country and disclosed police images of the dead that many more had been killed than authorities acknowledged. Amnesty International is concerned at the excessive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials, and the contrast between the original findings of the independent commission of inquiry into the killings and the subsequent government report.
In 2006 the Ethiopian government has continued to face armed opposition from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). But Ethiopia has itself supported the armed Sudan-based Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA). It has also reportedly sent troops and military assistance to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, in violation of a UN arms embargo. Such actions further jeopardize the security of Ethiopia’s citizens, and threaten to destabilize the region.
The UN Security Council has extended until January 2007 the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) but criticised the stalemate regarding the border. While the Ethiopian government said it accepted the International Boundary Commission’s judgement, it has refused to implement it. This refusal also threatens regional stability.
In early 2005, leading up to the May 15 elections, Ethiopia appeared to be turning a corner. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi sat on Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa considering issues related to political transparency and accountability, economic development, anti-corruption measures, human capacity building and the enhancement of human rights in Africa. The Ethiopian government was allowing some—albeit limited—international press access and space for political opposition rallies, particularly in Addis Ababa, although considerable intimidation of opposition parties and supporters in rural areas was reported.
Yet since the disputed elections, with accusations of electoral fraud which emerged alongside mass demonstrations in protest, political repression greatly increased—including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, extrajudicial killings, repression of ethnic minorities, intimidation of students and teachers, suppression of press freedom, and the less well-reported practice of targeting peaceful political opposition in the countryside.
Although several thousands of opposition supporters detained in different parts of the country after the November 2005 demonstration were released on bail after some weeks or months in detention without charge (often on condition of signing a statement of admission of guilt) some are believed to still be detained without charge or trial. More were arrested in student demonstrations in December, and since then as well. CUD leaders and others are now on trial on charges of “treason” and “genocide,” with no assurances of fair treatment.

Human Rights Violations against Groups

Specific populations have been heavily targeted by the Ethiopian government, including human rights defenders, journalists, members of political opposition groups, and ethnic minorities.

1. Human Rights Defenders

Among defendants in the CUD trials are several noted human rights defenders, including: retired geography professor and Ethiopia’s most prominent human rights defender Mesfin Woldemariam, founder and former president of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council; and Kassahun Kebede, an Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) official.
Those now on trial before the High Court in Addis also include Hailu Shawel, CUD president, prominent economist Dr. Berhanu Negga, formerly U.S.-based law professor and former UN Rwanda prosecutor Dr. Yakob Hailemariam, and Ms. Birtukan Mideksa, a former judge. They have repeatedly insisted that the CUD is a peaceful and legal political party which does not advocate violent opposition.
Two other ETA officials were also arrested in October but released on bail several days later. The ETA, Ethiopia’s longest-established trade union, has continued to contest court actions by the Ministry of Justice to ban and replace it with a pro-government organization bearing the same name.
Other members of the Ethiopia Human Rights Council (EHRCO) have also been detained, and the organization’s activities have been generally restricted.
The government and EPRDF have been demonstrating a generally adversarial attitude toward human rights organizations and individual human rights defenders, monitoring and restricting their activities.
Dozens of people have also been arrested in Addis recently for possession of a book written in prison by Berhanu Negga, and for a calendar containing images of the CUD prisoners and calls for nonviolent civil disobedience.

2. Journalists

Amnesty International considers 14 journalists held on trial together with the CUD leaders to be prisoners of conscience. Kifle Mulat, president of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association, has been charged in his absence while seeking asylum abroad. Journalists Solomon Aregawi and Goshu Moges are also being tried in separate capital cases. Private newspapers that criticized the government and EPRDF over the elections remain closed since November 2005. Many journalists, including state media journalists, have fled the country.
A new Press Law, proposed by the government in 2003 to replace the 1992 Press Law, under which hundreds of journalists had been arrested and imprisoned, is still under debate. This proposed law is feared to lead to even greater legal restrictions on freedom of the press, guaranteed by the Constitution in 1995.
Also troubling is the government’s attempt to censor international press, as evidenced by the initial inclusion of five Voice of America employees (naturalized U.S. citizens from Ethiopia) among the original 131 accused of “treason” and “acts of genocide (1).”

3. Detentions and Killings in Regional States

In the Oromo and Somali regions where armed opposition groups are active in some areas, members of the Oromo and Somali groups have frequently been targeted for human rights violations including arbitrary detentions, torture, “disappearances” and extrajudicial executions, on suspicion of links with armed groups based in Eritrea. Few have been charged or taken to court.
Numerous killings and detentions have been reported in the Somali Region in eastern Ethiopia of people accused of and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) connections, some of whom may be prisoners of conscience. Many political prisoners previously arrested are still detained without charge or trial.
In Gambela Region in the southwest, there have been scores of arrests of members of the Anuak ethic group considered to be government opponents or linked with armed Anuak groups. Hundreds of people arrested during the mass killings by the army and civilian mobs in Gambela in December 2003 are still detained without charge or trial.
In the Oromia Region, there have been large-scale arrests, particularly of high school and college students in who have demonstrated against the government on a number of Oromo rights issues. Some called for the release of Oromo community leaders and others detained almost continually since 2004. Amnesty International considers Diribi Demissie, president of the Mecha Tulema Association, and his co-defendants to be prisoners of conscience. Hundreds of people detained after demonstrations called by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in November 2005 are reportedly still being held without charge or trial.
Some 60 peaceful demonstrators belonging to the Sidama ethnic group in the Southern Region were arrested in March while calling for the Sidama administrative zone to be upgraded to a regional state. They were released on bail by May.

Human Rights Violations: Arrests, Detentions and Trials

Following the disputed May 2005 elections and mass arrests of opposition party activists, CUD leaders, journalists and civil society activists were brought to trial on charges including treason, outrage against the Constitution and attempted genocide, which could carry the death penalty.
The 76 defendants include CUD president Hailu Shawel, Berhanu Negga, an economics professor, Birtukan Mideksa, a former judge, Yakob Hailemariam, a lawyer and former UN Rwanda tribunal prosecutor, and retired geography professor Mesfin Woldemariam. Some 34 prominent Ethiopians were also charged in their absence, including Taye Woldesmiate, president of the Ethiopian Teachers Association.
The trials have been held in open court, with the right to legal defence, and appeal to a higher court. All defendants except three civil society activists from ActionAid, the Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Teachers Association, refused to defend themselves on the ground that they did not expect a fair trial.
From the start Amnesty International has called for the unconditional release of the CUD leaders, journalists and civil society activists, and designated them prisoners of conscience who have not used or advocated violence. Similar appeals by international donors, allied governments, and the World Bank have been ignored by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has promised the defendants will receive a fair and prompt trial.
The trials, observed by representatives from the European Union, the U.S. Embassy and others, are expected to continue for months. Amnesty International sent its own trial observer in October.
In fact there are five separate CUD trials. I’d like to focus today on one of the trials that has received less attention.

1. CUD Trial of Kifle Tigneh and Others
On March 20, Kifle Tigneh, an elected CUD Member of Parliament, was charged with 32 others under Penal Code 238 with having promoted, led, coordinated and taken part in the disturbances that took place in Addis on November 1, 2005. These defendants are charged with “having caused the loss of many lives and significant amount of property; and for their part in the conspiracy and as accomplices in the attempt to subvert the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the constitutional order.” Seventeen of these defendants, including Kifle, were also charged with “the intention to carry out genocide against people they consider to be of a particular ethnicity by causing damage to the property of a certain Freweine Yemane in a manner that has caused her mental anguish.”
These charges evoke long prison sentences and could carry the death penalty.
On October 30 Kifle Tigneh was denied bail in the Supreme Court. After multiple appeals since April this process can go no further. Earlier in October Kifle was admitted to hospital due to the aggravation by unsanitary conditions of a pre-existing physical ailment.
Visits to these defendants have been increasingly limited. Defense lawyers who have stated clearly in court that they represent Kifle and 29 other defendants have been refused access to all except Kifle. The prison authorities demanded a letter from the court stating that the lawyers represented the group, but the court has not yet provided this document.
The trial was initially held in a small court room which precluded the possibility of many observers or family members being present. We understand the venue has since been moved to a larger room where it was possible for more people to attend.
It is believed that some of the witness statements previously released by the prosecutor in this trial may have been obtained from defendants under torture. Several defendants stated at the beginning of the court proceedings in March that they had been tortured.
The Ethiopian government has offered assurances that trials currently underway would be free and fair, and would follow speedy trial standards. However, by calling a two month recess after hearing only 11 witnesses, at the very least speedy trial standards are being violated. The entire process for these trials has suffered numerous delays.

2. The Main CUD Trial
This trial started in May 2006 and is now in regular court session in Addis. But at the rate this trial is progressing, the prosecution alone is not expected to conclude until January or February 2007.
Amnesty International has described the CUD leaders, human rights defenders and journalists on trial as prisoners of conscience, having seen no evidence of their having advocated or instigated violence. The defendants have consistently maintained they were engaged solely in peaceful opposition activities – which the government and the prosecution brand as criminal attacks on the constitution, even though the constitution permits the right to peaceful opposition, assembly and expression of opinion or criticism of the government.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has rejected calls by an ambassadors’ donor group and others for their release, and merely said they would receive a fair trial. Amnesty International, while continuing to campaign for their unconditional release, is closely monitoring the trial out of concern that it may not conform to international standards of fair trial, and may end with unfair convictions of these prisoners of conscience.

3. CUD Trial of Berhane Moges and Others
The trial of CUD lawyer, Berhane Mogese and 22 others has reportedly concluded and a verdict is now expected. Mogese and the others were accused of treason, outrage against the constitution and illegal possession of a weapon.

4. Trial of Mesfin Woldemariam and Berhanu Negga
A separate trial of Professor Mesfin Woldemariam and Berhanu Negga is also continuing. They were accused of instigating violence during the Addis Ababa University student demonstrations and subsequent rioting in 2000.

5. Dergue Trial
This so-called genocide trial of 25 surviving members of the 1974 military government known as the Dergue has still not been completed. Others are being tried in their absence, such as former president Mengistu Hailemariam. The long series of trials of officials of the pre-1991 government resulted in the jailing of many for long periods and several death sentences imposed.
Amnesty International holds that the charges of “treason,” “outrages against the Constitution,”“organizing and inciting armed rebellion” and “acts of genocide” levied against some 131 (2) CUD leaders, human rights defenders and journalists have no merit.
Amnesty International maintains that these parliamentarians, human rights defenders and journalists—and possibly all of the accused—are prisoners of conscience who have not used or advocated violence and should be released immediately and unconditionally.
A number of these detainees have traveled to the U.S., taught at our universities, lived in our communities. Their plight is of great concern to many of our own citizens who have been their neighbors, colleagues and friends. It needs to be further demonstrated that it is of as much concern to the U.S. Government.
Most of these defendants are currently being held at the Karchele and Kaliti prisons, where conditions are poor and detainees have suffered ill treatment.

Torture and Ill Treatment of Prisoners

Torture by beatings on the feet and electric shocks have reportedly been used against some political prisoners, particularly those detained on suspicion of supporting armed political groups such as the OLF and ONLF.
Alemayehu Fantu, an engineer and supermarket owner, was reportedly tortured in October to admit to publishing or distributing the CUD calendar, and to name others associated with this. He was reportedly held in the basement of a former police station used for interrogations in the Gulele district of Addis. Fantu was taken to court with visible injuries, which the judges did not investigate and which he himself did not mention, having been threatened with further torture if he did.
Several defendants in the trial of Kifle Tigneh and others complained of torture when they were first brought to court, but the judges did not investigate.
Several of the CUD leaders held in Kaliti prison in a southern part of Addis were at first denied medical treatment for illnesses contracted as a result of harsh and unhygienic prison conditions.
Mesfin Woldemariam, aged 76, was refused physiotherapy for back and leg complaints causing him to be bed-ridden. There were fears for his health as a result of his hunger strikes in December 2005 and February 2006. He recovered quickly, however, after being treated in hospital for pneumonia in September. Hailu Shawel faced potentially dangerous delays for an eye surgery. Berhanu Negga did not receive immediate treatment for a heart complaint.
Four prisoners of conscience were subjected to ill-treatment as a result of arbitrary prison punishment and transferred to Karchele Central Prison (in the process of demolition). CUD leaders Muluneh Eyuel and Amanuel Araya, and journalists Eskinder Negga and Sissay Agena were kept for over two months in darkness.

The Inquiry Debacle

In response to major international concern about the killings during the 2005 demonstrations, where the security forces appeared to have contravened international standards on the use of force against demonstrators, an independent commission of inquiry was established on 21 December 2005, by proclamation. It was to contain 11 members nominated by a parliamentary legal and administration committee, who would elect their chair. It had a mandate to “investigate the disorder occurred in Addis Ababa and in some parts of the country” on 8 June, 1-10 November and 14-16 November 2005, and submit its report and findings to the parliament. Its tasks were to investigate:
a. Whether the force used by the security forces to control the disorder was excessive or not;
b. Whether the handling of human rights in matters related to the problem was conducted in accordance with the constitution and the rule of the law;
c. The damage caused to life and property as the result of the incident.
It had powers to summon witnesses, who were given immunity from prosecution.
We are pleased to have heard today from courageous participants in that commission who describe their reporting, its suppression, and the consequences at this time.
The version of the report which has been presented to the Ethiopian Parliament states that the commission found no evidence of excessive use of force by the security forces. The list compiled of people killed totalled 193, including six police officers, which exceeds the total of 78 reported to Parliament by the Police Commissioner earlier this year.
In many respects commission’s terms of reference and activities were in accordance with international standards for such commissions of inquiry, although there were certain technical and procedural deficiencies. But the terms of reference failed to include a requirement for the commission to establish a full account of the incidents and surrounding circumstances, publish the evidence collected, and make recommendations for prosecution of any public officials responsible for human rights violations including the excessive use of force or firearms.
A major discrepancy has arisen between the commission’s discussion and decision of findings which was video-recorded by the commission in early July 2006, and the report presented to the parliament in October 2006.
Commissioners have fled the country between July and October 2006 because they feared reprisals for maintaining the commission’s finding on an 8-2 vote that the security forces had used excessive force. They say that the findings presented to the parliament were the opposite of their decision, and had been changed by the remaining commissioners under duress.
The report presented to parliament by the remaining commissioners concludes that “the actions taken by the security forces to control the violence was a legal and necessary step to protect the nascent system of government and to stop the country from descending in to a worse crisis and possibly never ending violence upheaval.”
The short and extremely inadequate 8-page report contained the commission’s findings that a total of some 193 civilians (3) were killed by the security forces and six police officers were killed by the demonstrators, but concluded that the actions of the security forces were justified. It admitted that “respect for human rights was not strictly consistent with the Constitution” but also claimed that officials repeatedly instructed the security forces “to stop violations of human rights.”
Amnesty International considers that the contradictions between the two sets of conclusions warrant thorough examination by a credible independent and impartial body. This body should re-examine the evidence collected by the commission, provide an authoritative opinion on the discrepancy, and make its findings public. Those suspected of involvement in the excessive use of force and the use of firearms against demonstrators should be prosecuted, in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards.

Link between the Inquiry and the CUD Trials

As already mentioned, after the June 2005 demonstrations there were mass arrests of CUD supporters. Tens of thousands of people were detained in June 2005 but most were released in the following two months. There were more mass arrests before, during and after the second set of demonstrations in November 2005. These included most of the senior CUD leaders, independent journalists, and three officials of independent civil society organizations who had been monitoring or commenting on the elections. They were refused bail and charged with offences carrying possible death sentences, including treason, “outrage against the constitution” and “attempted genocide.”
According to Amnesty International’s information, the commission’s investigators reportedly found no evidence of CUD instigation of violence, as is being alleged by the prosecution.
Most of the defendants refused to participate in the trial or offer a legal defence as they did not believe they would receive a fair trial. Three civil society activists are being defended by their defence counsel.
The main CUD trial is being observed by a European Union trial observer and other international and diplomatic observers including the officials from the U.S. Embassy. The trial is expected to last many more months.

Ethiopia’s Role in the Region

The backdrop to these increasing human rights violations is Ethiopia’s continued border dispute with Eritrea since the 1998-2000 war, and its involvement this year in the crisis of governance in Somalia. The Ethiopian government has said it accepts in principle the international border commission ruling, but it has called for further negotiations. Eritrea has refused. Amnesty International fears that there would be massive violations of human rights law and humanitarian law in the event of renewed armed conflict between these two countries. We also fear the human rights consequences of a proxy conflict in Somalia with Ethiopian troops backing the TFG in Baidoa.
Threatened violence and political uncertainty are already having dire effects on the livelihood, health and right to movement of local populations in the region. We therefore encourage the international community to actively promote resolutions to these regional disputes, including pressing the Ethiopian government to do everything in its power to avoid violence and protect human rights.
Although Amnesty International has not taken a position on the border commission ruling, many experts strongly believe that the ongoing failure to implement this binding agreement, and the international community’s general unwillingness to press parties to do so, is negatively affecting the already complex political dynamics in the region.
Counterterrorism concerns may also be playing a role in obstructing consistent U.S. action on both the border ruling and, most important to Amnesty International, public statements and policy decisions on the highly disturbing diminution of political space, and the treatment of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in Ethiopia. The last thing anyone needs in Ethiopia is the type of impunity we are struggling with in Sudan and Somalia, the type of repression that has too commonly plagued societies in the Horn and East Africa. Clearly Ethiopia is an important U.S. ally, but that does not give us the liberty to ignore egregious human rights violations. In fact, it should encourage us to focus on them, to maintain our credibility with peoples in the region by requiring the highest human rights standards of our allies.
Amnesty International calls on the Government of Ethiopia to:
Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience detained in Ethiopia, including Members of Parliament, human rights defenders, independent journalists and nonviolent student protesters.
Ensure a fair trial according to international standards to all detainees against whom charges are maintained.
Ensure that all political detainees are treated humanely in custody in accordance with international and regional standards for the treatment of prisoners, with particular regard to medical treatment, family visits and communications, and permission for reading and writing materials.
Recognize and respect rights to freedom of speech, assembly, association and press, as set out in the Ethiopian Constitution, and international and regional human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party.
Respect the legitimate role of Ethiopian human rights defenders and civil society activists, and their counterparts in international organizations.
Amnesty International calls on the Government of the United States to:
Support these recommendations to the Government of Ethiopia, and make human rights central to U.S. relations with the Government of Ethiopia and Ethiopian civil society.
Request that our Ambassador take actions necessary to press the Government of Ethiopia to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, including the above named prisoners of conscience.
Actively monitor all political trials in Addis Ababa and other places in Ethiopia, demand that they fulfill international standards for fair trials, and actively monitor the treatment of all prisoners of conscience and political detainees.
Continue to press the Government of Ethiopia to do everything in its power to avoid conflict with Eritrea and in Somalia and to protect human rights of call citizens in the region.
Continue to provide the levels of humanitarian assistance required to provide for the basic needs of the Ethiopian people.
Actively support judicial and security sector reform in Ethiopia.
Call for a thorough, independent and impartial inquiry into the extra-judicial killings committed against demonstrators in Ethiopia. Following full publication of the evidence collected by the commission of inquiry, those suspected of excessive use of force and firearms against demonstrators should be brought to trial in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards.
Support immediate passage of HR 5680, the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006 before Congress adjourns in 2006.
Based on accusations of harming and trying to isolate certain members of the Tigrayan ethnic group, which bear no relation to international definitions of genocide.
Now some 115 since charges were dropped against 18.
Their names were not published by the government but the full list was disclosed by the commissioners who left the country.

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