Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Federal Agencies Must Investigate Alleged Abuses By Police" Human Rights Watch

Hon. Siraj Fegeta
Minister of Federal Affairs
P.O. Box 5608
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
VIA FACSIMILE: +251 11 552030

Hon. Assefa Kesite
Minister of Justice
P.O. Box 1370
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
VIA FACSIMILE: +251 11 5517775

February 20, 2007

Dear Ministers:

Human Rights Watch wishes to draw your attention to several incidents of human rights violations allegedly committed by federal police officers against students in the towns of Dembi Dollo and Ghimbi in western Oromiya State in the past weeks. In sum, we have learned that one student, and perhaps two, died as a direct result of police beatings and that other students were severely injured and hospitalized in Dembi Dollo. Between 30 and 50 have been detained and remain detained without charge in the central Dembi Dollo jail and in two district police stations. In Ghimbi, local police and militia members deputized by local officials are reported to have shot and killed two high school students—cousins—in January.

We urge you to investigate these incidents promptly and to prosecute police officers and others responsible for these serious crimes. At the same time, we strongly urge you immediately to release students detained without charge in Dembi Dollo. If there is substantial evidence that any student has committed a serious crime, they should be promptly charged, brought to court, and released pending trial.

With regard to Dembi Dollo, Human Rights Watch has received credible reports that following a small explosion near Quellem High School in the first week of January, a police officer accused three students of being responsible and arrested them. A crowd of students protested that the three were innocent. Some started throwing stones at the police. The police officer called for reinforcements and when they arrived, they began to beat students and bystanders indiscriminately. Police also arrested some 20 students.

Several weeks later, on January 18, as students were gathering at school to march to the zonal administration headquarters to present a petition to the zonal administrators concerning the arrests and beatings, a squad of police broke into the school and beat yet more students and arrested others.

According to reports from credible sources, dozens of students and some adults were injured in these two incidents. Eight students were hospitalized. A tenth-grade student was beaten so severely that he died a few days later. Human Rights Watch received an unconfirmed report that a second student also died as a result of the beatings.

The United Nations Basic Principles on the use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Havana, 1990) provides that security forces should use force only when strictly necessary in the circumstances. If force is unavoidable, it may be used only in proportion to the seriousness of the offense so as to minimize injury. Under the Principles, governments must investigate and criminally punish the abusive use of force by law enforcement officials.

Among the students detained without charges and still in detention in Dembi Dollo jail and in two district police stations are the following: Mitiku Abdisa; Mezgebu Bekele; Dawit Warati; Binyamin Zerihun; Amana Ayale; Amanuel Magarsa; Cali Kebede; Worku Tamrat; Amanuel Degefu; Gamachu Ligaba; Waqgarri Habte; Bacha Yadesa; Ashenafi Degefa; Ishetu Getaneh; Amanuel Aklilu; Kedir Suleiman Wakshira Jabessa; Geremew Mitiku; and Abraham Hora Gusa. Two of these, Waqgarri Habte and Amanuel Magarsa, are reported to have been tortured.

In addition, at least eight female students are being held without charge and access to courts: Beti Gurmessa, Annane Tamiru; Lalise Badhasa; Galana Girma Bokka Dhinsa; Dinknesh Tekle Barkessa; Tigist Tamiru Tola; Abaynesh Lelisa; and Naima Zenyu Gobbu.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 37(b)), to which Ethiopia has acceded, provides that detention and imprisonment of children “shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time.” Article 19 of the Ethiopian Constitution requires all detained or imprisoned persons to be brought before a court within 48 hours. The UN Child Rights Committee on Juvenile Justice in General Comment 10 requires that children detained or imprisoned should be brought before a court even sooner, within 24 hours.

Regarding the Gimbi incident, Human Rights Watch received reports that two cousins, Gemechu Benesa Bula and Lelsa Wagari Bula, were killed by militia members and police officers.

On the evening of January 4, police and militia members were on patrol near Guyi High School when they came upon several students walking together. Unlike previous incidents where security force patrols have been used to break up student demonstrations there was no demonstration but several students fled as the police and militia members approached. The patrol shot at the fleeing students, severely wounding Gemechu. Lelsa returned and covered the fallen Gemechu with his body. The patrol ordered Lelsa to leave. When he refused, he, too, was shot. Both cousins died shortly after. Human Rights Watch has in its possession the names of those police officers and militia members allegedly participating in that patrol.

International human rights law requires that a government investigate allegations of serious human rights violations. According to the United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (1989), “[t]here shall be thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions…. A written report shall be made within a reasonable period of time on the methods and findings of such investigations. The report shall be made public immediately and shall include the scope of the inquiry, procedures and methods used to evaluate evidence as well as conclusions and recommendations based on findings of fact and on applicable law…. The Government shall, within a reasonable period of time, either reply to the report of the investigation, or indicate the steps to be taken in response to it.”

Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that, once again, some of Ethiopia's children have been brutally attacked by government security forces. Ensuring that police officers and militia members are held fully accountable for any crimes they commit is necessary both for the development and maintenance of a professional police force and to ensure Ethiopia’s compliance with Ethiopian and international law.

We would appreciate being advised of the results of investigations by both of your two agencies into these incidents. Thank you.


Georgette Gagnon
Deputy Director, Africa Division

    Gen. Workneh Gebeyehu, Federal Commission of Police
    Dr. Kassa Gebre Hiwot, Ethiopia Human Rights Commission
    H.E. Ambassador Samuel Assefa


Mass arrest of Oromo Professionals from Oromia Rural Roads Authority (ORRA).

The TPLF minority led ERPDF government is blindly harassing innocent professionals for their mere being OROMO. Recently on February 16, 2007 security agents detained more than 10 professionals from Oromia Rural Roads Authority (ORRA) with out any court order and took all of them to Maikelawi Central prison. Of those detained some are:

1. Engineer Abdissa Kumsa- Civil Engineer-Technical and Development Division Head of ORRA.
2. Engineer Ibsa Mohammed -Civil Engineer-Former Ilu Abba Bor Rural Roads Maintenance Manager, Currently Working at HQ of ORRA.
3. Engineer Belay Ginbo - Civil Engineer-Project Manager of Kula-Daraba.
4. Engineer Habtamu Alemu-Civil Engineer-Project Manager of Kombolcha-Dadu-Kawo.
5. Engineer Matwos Tamiru-Civil Engineer- North Shawa Zone Rural Roads Maintenance Manager.
6. Engineer Frew –Civil Engineer-Borana Zone Rural Roads Maintenance Manager.
7. Engineer Birhanu Sime-Engineer-Project Manager of Ogolcho-Meki.
8. Engineer Adugna Dheressa-Mechanical Engineer- Administration and Maintenance of Machineries of ORRA.
9. Engineer Mulugeta Dinka-Civil Engineer –Former General Manager of ORRA, currently General Manager of Oromia Urban Development Authority. He is OPDO Cabinet Member, suspended from duty due to unsubstantiated suspicion of relation to ORRA employees and OLF. His fate is most likely to face same harassment as those currently arrested and taken to prison.
10. Engineer Lamma Mosisa-Civil Engineer-from Adama Projects.
11. Mr Firdissa Yadata- Statistics Expert.

All of these professionals were arrested only for being Oromo, self confident professionals and mere allegation of supporting OLF. There is serious surveillance on remaining professionals and harassing innocent Oromo professionals continue an abetted.

As per the information delivered today, the prime informants for the brutal Wayyaane security forces are individuals promised high promotion from the regime to spy under guise of official duty in every office.

It was of recent memory that many of same the professionals were suffering prolonged imprisonment, forced exile and disappearance with out any trace.

Victory for Oromo and Oppressed People!

OLF Info Desk


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Oromo refugees appeal for solidarity

Chris Peterson, Melbourne
16 February 2007

MELBOURNE — On February 13, a rally was organised by the Oromo Community Association to protest the treatment of Oromo refugees in Somalia since the US-backed invasion by Ethiopia.

Shangale Ali, from the Oromo Community Association, told the rally that attacks on Oromo refugees by Ethiopian forces in Somalia are “not a random act, but a calculated campaign of ethnic cleansing directed against the Oromo people who are fighting for self-determination”.

“Ethiopian troops have misused the international campaign against terrorism as a justification for human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary executions.”

Oromo Community Association youth activist Zulfiye Tufa told the crowd that, “Hundreds of refugees in Somalia have been forced back to Ethiopia to face persecution. The invasion is supported by arms from the US.”

The association wants the international community, human right organisations and peace supporters across Australia to “stand with us and urge the Meles Zenawi minority government to stop their atrocities against Oromo refugees in Somalia”.

From: Australian News, Green Left Weekly issue #699 21 February 2007.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Atrocities Committed by the Invading Ethiopian Army
Against Oromo Refugees in Somalia

February 3, 2007

We, members of the Oromo Canadian Community Association of Greater
Toronto Area (OCCA-GTA) are writing this letter to draw your attention to the plight of Oromo refugees in Somalia.
We are appalled by the news that is coming out of Somalia nowadays about gruesome atrocities that are committed by the Ethiopian government forces against innocent Oromo refugees. The Ethiopian government forces that have entered Somalia under the pretext of fighting the ‘jihadist’ movement have been reported to have been paying rewards to armed militias who could lead them to the whereabouts of Oromo nationals across Somalia.
It is with extreme sadness that we are witnessing reports of kidnapping, murder and forceful deportation of many unarmed, innocent and helpless refugees by the very regime they were forced to flee in the first place.

Oromo refugees in Mogadishu have appealed to the international community about refugees who have been kidnapped and murdered and many others who have been forcefully packed into military convoys and sent back to Ethiopia where they could face grave situations. These carnages are putting many lives at risk and these refugees need immediate protection from the international community.

Most of these refugees have fled from repressive regimes in Ethiopian over the last four decades and have sought refuge in Somalia with UNHCR protection as political refugees. It should be remembered that Ethiopia is signatory to the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees and targeting innocent Oromo refugees in Somalia violates Human Rights and the Geneva Convention.

Ethiopia is a country ravaged with its own problems, such as poverty, internal conflicts, and lawlessness; and it is the largest refugee producing country in the region. With no democratic tradition of its own, no one would know how it plans to bring peace and democracy to Somalia. It is well known that Ethiopia who is still the poorest country in the world has been ignoring its citizens who are starving and invests its resources on building massive military power to destabilize the horn of Africa and endanger many more lives in the region.

Government orchestrated atrocities drove hundreds of thousands of Oromos into exile and many have sought shelter and protection in the neighboring countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea and other east African and middle eastern countries. It is through this plight that many of us have made it to this great nation of ours, Canada.

According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Ethiopia continues to be one of the gross violators of human rights in the world with tens of thousands prisoners of conscience, majority of whom are Oromo nationals facing torture, arbitrary detention and excessive use of force by the police. Tens of thousands of people remained in long-term detention without charge or trial on suspicion of supporting armed opposition groups.

Considering the record of human rights violations of the Ethiopian government, we are very concerned for the safety of these political refugees who have been deported to Ethiopia. In the past, those who were forcefully deported were either tortured or killed.
The international community has failed to take this situation seriously and supported a tyrant with gross human rights violations as a regional
ally on “the war on terror” ignoring the voices of so many innocent Oromos and other oppressed nationalities in Ethiopia.
We would like to bring to your attention that many of us here today, who enjoy peaceful democratic citizenship here in Canada are disturbed by the news that is coming out of Somalia and we urge you to do something to end this carnage and massacre. We also urge the Canadian government to act responsibly on its humanitarian record and take immediate action to protect these refugees whose lives are threatened everyday.

We members of the Oromo Canadian Community Association of GTA, call upon the international community, the United Nations, EEU, OAU, IGAD, and all peace loving nations to take immediate and responsible action to:
1. Condemn the action Ethiopian army in Somalia and demand a stop to such atrocities as kidnappings, arrests, disappearances, murders and forced extraditions of innocent Oromo refugees to Ethiopia;
2. Demand that the Ethiopian army in Somalia release all Oromo refugees immediately and end unlawful detention of Oromo nationals;
3. Demand that the transitional government of Somalia act responsibly to end the abuse of Oromo refugees in Somalia in the hands the occupying Ethiopian army.
4. Provide immediate protection to Oromo refugees by resettling them in peaceful countries where they could have personal safety, and security.
The Oromo Canadian Community Association of Greater Toronto Area (OCCA-GTA).

Please join us at a peaceful rally on February 3, 2007
12:30 – 2:30PM
In front of the American Consulate
360 University Avenue
Toronto, Canada

Oromo Canadian Community Association of GTA


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2007: Ethiopia
Area: 1,104,300 sq. km.
Population: 77,431,000.
Language: Amharic.
Head of government: Meles Zenawi.

The international community might have believed that legislative elections in May 2005 would mark the end of “authoritarian democracy” and the beginning of a genuine openness. But the polling fiasco and the riots which followed them dashed this hope. Around 15 journalists have been in prison since November 2005 after being picked up in a crackdown on the opposition coalition.

After a disastrous year, 2006 in Ethiopia was a static one. Some 20 journalists spent it in cells in Addis Ababa, part of a group of at least 76 members of the opposition, civil society and the private press prosecuted for “treason”, “conspiracy” to overthrow the government and “genocide”. Their trials before the federal high court opened on 2 May. The general disapproval, including from Ethiopia’s traditional allies, failed to get Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to budge. For him, there was no doubt that the opposition wanted to engineer a coup and to take revenge on ethnic Tigreans like himself.

Fourteen newspaper editors or publishers were rounded up in the space of one month in November 2005. From December onwards, other journalists were arrested and sentenced in defamation cases. All were still detained as of 1st January 2007.

Since 1st January 2006, two other journalists were added to the list of the “November prisoners”. Solomon Aregawi, of Hadar, arrested in November 2005, was charged on 21 March 2006 with “insulting the Constitution” and “genocide”, along with 32 other prisoners, members or supposed members of the CUD, Goshu Moges, of the weekly Lisane Hezeb, arrested on 19 February was charged with “treason” on 19 April. A number of other journalists and opposition figures or organisations, were charged while out of the country and tried in absentia.

It is against this tense background, aggravated by the war with Somalia and the standoff at the Eritrean border, that several privately-owned newspapers are continuing to appear in Addis Ababa. Self-censorship is commonplace, particularly on military issues. Ethiopian journalists are held to an imposed patriotism and foreign correspondents closely watched. Anthony Mitchell, working for the Associated Press (AP), was forced to leave the country on 22 January for having allegedly “tarnished the image of the country”. Foreign media have great difficult in obtaining accreditation from the Information Ministry, which is essential to be allowed to work legally in Ethiopia.

Reporters Without Borders has been worried since 2004, about the plight of two journalists working for the Oromo service of public television ETV. They were arrested in April of that year, along with other ETV staff, since released, following a violent crackdown on an Oromo student demonstration on the Addis Ababa University campus, on 4 January 2004. The two journalists were accused of being informers for the separatist Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

For the first time in its history, the Ethiopian government appears to have launched itself into web censorship. From May to June 2006, most blogs and opposition websites were inaccessible in the country. The government denied being behind it. However, at the end of November, these online publications against mysteriously disappeared, which makes the hypothesis of political censorship appear more plausible.