Friday, June 02, 2006

Civicus Calls For DANIEL'S RELEASE

ADDIS ABABA - On 28 May, the people and government of Ethiopia will celebrate National Day, marking the 15th anniversary of the country’s freedom from military dictatorship.

While saluting Ethiopia for the gains it has made, Civicus joins six organisations and 23 individuals from 10 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe in reminding the government of the commitments made to foster democracy, freedom, development and human rights 15 years ago.

The joint appeal urges the government of Ethiopia to fulfil those promises and allow civil society to flourish once more in the country. It asks the government to unconditionally release and drop all charges against the civil society activists currently being detained on charges of treason, particularly the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) campaign coordinators, Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie.

The trial of Daniel and Netsanet, together with more than 100 civil society activists, journalists and members of the opposition parties, began on May 2 2006.

The defendants face six charges, including attempted genocide and treason. Specifically, Daniel and Netsanet are charged under Article 238(2) of the criminal code with “the crime of outrage against the constitution and the constitutional order.”

The charge can carry the severe punishments of life imprisonment or death. Both Daniel and Netsanet have been denied bail, even after appealing to the Supreme Court.

The appeal asks the Government of Ethiopia to re-assert its commitment to democracy, development and human rights by releasing civil society activists and publicly assuring Ethiopian citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms to participate in public affairs

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ethiopia: Amnesty International’s presentation to the European Parliament on Human Rights in Ethiopia

AI Index: AFR 25/018/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 122
15 May 2006

Embargo Date: 15 May 2006 19:00 GMT

Ethiopia: Amnesty International’s presentation to the European Parliament on Human Rights in Ethiopia*
This presentation focuses on a treason trial of prisoners of conscience arising from the Ethiopian elections a year ago. More details of the background and the general human rights situation in the country are contained in a report published by Amnesty International on 2 May 2006, “Ethiopia – Prisoners of conscience on trial for treason: opposition party leaders, human rights defenders and journalists”, AI Index: AFR 25/023/2006 (also available at

Today, in the early stage of the prosecution case and for the next several months, 76 people are on trial in Addis Ababa on charges which could carry the death penalty. They include leading members of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party, as well as elected members of parliament, lawyers and academics.

Human rights defenders are among the accused, including Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, who is aged 76 and in poor health, founder of the only active human rights reporting organization in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council; Daniel Bekele, policy and advocacy manager of the Ethiopian office of ActionAid, the South Africa-based international development organization; Netsanet Demissie, director of the Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia – both are human rights lawyers and working for the Global Campaign Against Poverty; and Kassahun Kebede, the Addis Ababa representative of the Ethiopian Teachers Association.

Fourteen journalists of the private press are also on trial, in this latest government attack on the freedom of the media. One of them, Serkalem Fasil, is seven months pregnant and complaining of lack of medical and pre-natal care.

They are all accused of organizing violent demonstrations against the government and ruling party over alleged electoral fraud. The CUD leaders deny this – though they are boycotting the trial as they do not consider it will be fair. They maintain that they organised peaceful protests and were not responsible for the violence which erupted, particularly when the security forces used live ammunition against demonstrators and killed dozens.

Amnesty International believes the CUD leaders, journalists and human rights defenders are prisoners of conscience who should not be facing charges carrying possible death sentences, such as treason, outrage against the constitution, inciting armed rebellion, and an absurd charge of “attempted genocide”. Others on trial may also be prisoners of conscience.

Like the Ambassadors’ Donor Group in Addis Ababa, which includes the European Commission, Amnesty International has called for the unconditional release of the opposition party leaders, human rights defenders and journalists. The government’s claim that they will get a fair trial is doubtful in view of the history of unfair political trials under the current government. The European Union’s appointment of an international trial observer is one important safeguard. The Donor Group has called for a political reconciliation between the government and opposition parties.

Amnesty International’s call to the European Parliament
Amnesty International urges the European Parliament to do four things in response to these violations of human rights:

1. Work vigorously in all possible ways, including through their own contacts with the Ethiopian parliament and on visits to Ethiopia, to secure as soon as possible the release of these prisoners of conscience, as well as closely monitor their treatment in prison.

2. Support the right to freedom of opinion, expression and association in Ethiopia, including the right to demonstrate peacefully, the right to publish opinions freely through an independent press, and the right to engage in civil society activism.

3. Adopt a resolution on the human rights situation in Ethiopia, aimed particularly at protecting and supporting the Ethiopian human rights defenders on trial, in line with the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

4. Call on the European Commission and the EU Council and its member states, to more actively investigate and report on human rights violations throughout the country, and bring these to the attention of the Ethiopian Government and the international community for remedy.

*Statement delivered to the Extraordinary Joint Committee Meeting of the Committee on Development, the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, held at Strasbourg on 15 May 2006, the anniversary of the May 2005 elections in Ethiopia, which were observed by the European Union Election Observation Mission. Statement presented by Dr Martin Hill, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

Contact for further information:
Amnesty International EU office, Brussels: +32-2 502 1499

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Reflections on a visit from prison


Reflections on a visit to prison.

Release Date: 13 April 2006

By Kumi Naidoo, CIVICUS Secretary General

Dear e-CIVICUS readers,

Last week, a delegation from the Global Call to Action Against Poverty visited Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie, both civil society leaders in Ethiopia where they have been held in prison for five months. You can read more about the outcome of the visit elsewhere in e-CIVICUS 287 but I wanted to share some of the highlights here.

We met with various civil society leaders and the families of the political prisoners on the first day of our visit. They painted a very troubling picture of the political space available in Ethiopia at the moment.

We also succeeded in securing a meeting with the government. During our meeting, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi was cordial and knowledgeable about civil society debates and his knowledge of the development challenges facing Africa were impressive. He explained that he places great confidence in indigenous, membership-based African civil society organisations, as opposed to those which primarily receive overseas funding and have no membership constuency. He did, however, acknowledge that these NGOs often do good work.

Our delegation, which included the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane and Salil Shetty of the UN Millennium Campaign, appealed for permission to visit our colleagues in prison and we were grateful that the Prime Minister's office obliged. He also assured us that the government would not stand in the way of the launch of the Global Call to Action against Poverty in Ethiopia, the only country not to be colonised on the African continent.

Both Daniel and Netsanet, whom I am privileged to have met before, had lost weight and said that the conditions under which they are being held were far from great but yet they are trying to cope. They have been charged with treason. However, unlike the political prisoners from the opposition political party also awaiting trial, they do not have access to the evidence that the state plans to use against them and which they could use has a basis for the preparation of their own defence.

From my own knowledge of these two colleagues, I am absolutely certain that there is no basis for the charge of treason. Both of them are human rights activists that have a consistent record of using their legal skills and training as lawyers to advance the interests of the poor in Ethiopia.

As many people around the world observe the Easter weekend and its significance, it is important that we remember Daniel, Netsanet and many other political prisoners around the world. In this day and age, where democracy is supposedly on the rise, the fact that people who have alternative views from the state or government are held as political prisoners does not seem right.

Daniel and Netsanet where at pains to stress that "if one good thing can come out of our incarceration it should be the strengthening of civil society generally and the building of GCAP in Ethiopia more specifically". This was the message we shared at a meeting of civil society groups subsequent to our visit to prison. Their trial starts on 2 May 2006. Please monitor the civil society watch website ( where we will be following proceedings.

Daniel and Netsanet also expressed a great interest in pursuing graduate level human rights studies while in prison and CIVICUS is trying to secure support for this. If you would like to support our efforts to strengthen civil society in Ethiopia please contact for more information or visit CIVICUS blog at

It is important to note that several hundred members of the political opposition, including the elected mayor of Addis Adiba and several elected members of parliament are also imprisoned. While our focus has been related to our civil society colleagues, the charges being brought against all defendants appear to be questionable. The fact that members of the political opposition have decided not to co-operate with the legal process suggests that Ethiopia is facing a serious political log jam. The people of Ethiopia hold a special place in the hearts of many Africans and citizens of the world over given some of the challenges and tragedies that nations has had to endure. A contested legal process is unlikely to deliver a lasting resolution. What is called for now is the political wisdom for a dialogue with the opposition so that a political resolution can be found and civil society can play its full role in securing democracy and development.

In Solidarity,

Kumi Naidoo

High level delegation in Ethiopia to request release of prisoners of conscience

Media statement – for immediate release

High level delegation in Ethiopia to request

release of prisoners of conscience

Johannesburg, 7 April 2006 - A high-level delegation of African religious and civil society leaders, including His Grace Njongonkhulu Ndungane, Arch Bishop of Cape Town, are currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to press for the release of civil society prisoners of conscience. The delegation has so far met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi Meles, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, and the prisoners of conscience and their families.

In addition to His Grace, the delegation includes Dr Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and member of the International Facilitation Team of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), Salil Shetty, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign, Henry Malumo, African Facilitation Group of GCAP and Elizabeth Eilor, African Women’s Empowerment Network.

The delegation is seeking the immediate and unconditional release of civil society prisoners of conscience who have been detained as part of a government clamp down following the May 2005 elections. It is estimated that tens of thousands of people have been detained since May.

Following the return of the delegation from Ethiopia on 8 April, there will be a press conference on the results of their meetings in Johannesburg, South Africa:

Who: His Grace Njongonkhulu Ndungane and Dr. Kumi Naidoo

When: 4-5pm, Monday 10 April 2006

Where: Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, 9 Jubilee Road, Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa

Ethiopia has been experiencing a deteriorating human rights situation and a shrinking of space for both civil society and political opposition. Among the accused are prominent human rights and civil society activists including Daniel Bekele, a lawyer and policy manager of the ActionAid office in Ethiopia and Netsanet Demissie, an environmental and human rights lawyer and chair of the Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia. Both Bekele and Demissie were active in GCAP and have been imprisoned since November 2005.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Free Oppositions Leaders on Bail, EU Urges Meles Zenawi

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said he was committed to talk with the opposition, but he did not agree to free its jailed leaders on bail, a senior EU official said after meeting him on Friday.

European Union Development Commissioner Louis Michel was speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Ethiopia, where opposition leaders are among 131 people charged with treason and planning to commit genocide.

Michel met both Meles and jailed opposition leaders, including Hailu Shewal, chairman of the main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).

"These are signs of flexibility and signs of good will on the part of the government," European Union Development Commissioner Louis Michel told a news conference.

He said that while he had "no positive answer" to his suggestion Meles release the prisoners on bail Meles "confirmed to me that international legal observers will be welcomed at the trial ... he also told me that the trial could be speeded up."

Western donors have withheld direct budget aid to impoverished Ethiopia, sub-Saharan Africa's second most populous country, over a crackdown on the opposition and media after disputed parliamentary elections last May 15.

The government arrested thousands of opposition members and others after two bouts of violence struck the capital, in July and November. At least 82 people were killed in clashes.

Meles accused the opposition of plotting to incite violence, through street demonstrations, to topple him.

The CUD and other opposition parties which gained parliamentary seats in the vote have accused the government of vote fraud and intimidation. The CUD says the charges against its leaders are politically motivated.

Michel said Hailu, a known diabetic, and the other opposition leaders told him they did not support any attempt to overthrow the government.

Michel said Meles assured him the government was committed to dialogue and that he had already started discussions with members of the opposition in parliament.

"All the people I met here realize that there is no alternative to sincere political dialogue to break the current deadlock," the commissioner said.

Michel urged the government to put in place confidence-building measures and made clear he wanted to see parliamentary, judicial and media reforms.

Michel's earlier spokesman expressed concern about Hailu's health after the commissioner met him on Thursday.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mels Refuses to Grant Clemency--Calls Daniel and Others 'Hardliners'

Ethiopia defiant on opposition detainees

By Andrew England in Nairobi
Published: February 8 2006 02:00

Ethiopia's prime minister yesterday defied pressure to release opposition leaders detained after politically motivated violence in Addis Ababa that killed more than 80 people.

Human rights activists and donors, which are withholding direct budgetary support worth about $375m, have condemned the government for its heavy-handed reaction to riots in June and November. After the November clashes thousands were rounded up and dozens of opposition leaders, as well as human rights activists and journalists, were charged with treason and genocide.

Meles Zenawi, the prime minister, told parliament that releasing "these hardliners" would embolden them to think "whatever their action, they will not be held accountable".

He said: "The government has made it abundantly clear that interfering with the judicial process for the release of hardliners is out of the question. The government has taken this unwavering position not because of stubbornness or for a lack of willingness to resolve issues through dialogue and negotiation."

Mr Meles accuses the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) of instigating the violence and attempting to overthrow the government. However, opposition members insisted that they had called for peaceful protests and accused the government of using brutal tactics to silence critics.

The violence was sparked by disputed May elections, during which the opposition made unprecedented gains while also claiming that the process had been rigged.

In Addis Ababa the CUD won a landslide, but Berhanu Nega, who should have become the city's mayor, was among those detained. Before their arrest CUD leaders had refused to take up their seats unless the government met a series of ­conditions.

Mr Meles said fresh elections should be held for the capital, an opposition stronghold, "as the elected representatives have failed to assume their responsibilities by respecting the law". However, he said the poll would not take place until the right conditions were in place.

The government's res-ponse to the riots severely strained relations between Mr Meles, once a favourite of donors, and western governments.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ethiopia's Meles rejects clemency for opposition facing trial

Ethiopia's Meles rejects clemency for opposition facing trial
Lea-Lisa Westerhoff
February 3, 2006

ADDIS ABABA -- Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Thursday rejected calls for the release for jailed opposition leaders accused of fomenting a coup after disputed elections last year and said that they face trial.

At the same time, Meles suggested that new elections might have to be held for the Addis Ababa city council, which was won by the opposition in the polls of May 2005, but has been unable to meet due to a boycott by the elected members.

In a speech to parliament, the prime minister said that conspiracy and treason charges would not be dropped for a group of 131 opposition figures, journalists and aid workers who have been detained since November.

"Interfering in the natural process of the rule of law and releasing those violent leaders would only prove to them that they can get away with anything," he said.

"It would give them the green light to do whatever they wish, assuring a situation where they will pursue their goal of dismantling the constitutional order by any means possible," Meles said.

He rejected calls for leniency to be shown to the group, which includes nearly the entire leadership of the main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), and said that their release would accomplish nothing.

"This will by no means bring about stability," Meles said. "This is the reason why the government is determined to stand up to any pressure and to make the leaders of the CUD legally accountable."

A deadly crackdown on the opposition following two outbursts of election-related violence has drawn heavy international criticism and some foreign donors have responded by withholding direct aid to the government.

The CUD claims that the May elections were rigged by Meles' ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and called for public protests against the alleged fraud to demand new elections.

Demonstrations turned violent in June and November when police opened fire on unruly crowds in Addis Ababa and other towns during the protests, killing at least 84 people.

Meles has accused the opposition of trying to overthrow his government, which has been in power since 1991, but has come under fire for the prosecution of the CUD leaders who are next due to appear in court on February 23.

The accused have refused to plea to the charges but have denied all the allegations against them maintaining that they are politically motivated.

Human rights groups have called for the charges to be dropped but Meles rebuffed the appeals, saying that the opposition had been warned numerous times not to stage protests aimed at bringing down the government.

"We said time and again that their only guarantee was the rule of law and if they didn't abide by it, legal action would be taken against them and in that event no pressure from inside or outside would be of any consequence," he said.

In the midst of the election dispute, Addis Ababa has been run by a transitional authority as all seats on the city council were won by opposition candidates most of whom have refused to take up their posts.

Meles said that the situation was not sustainable, that the capital needed an elected government and suggested that if the elected councilors would not serve, new polls might have to be held.

"If those people who were elected refuse to honor the mandate given to them by the people, the only option left is to run another election," he said.

He added, however, that the government was weighing possible "adverse consequences" including unrest that a new election could bring.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Daniel and Fellow Political Prisoners are Denied Bail!

By Rosamond Hutt, Community Newswire

A leading British-based international development charity has condemned the actions of an Ethiopian court today after two anti-poverty activists were refused bail.

ActionAid made an appeal for the release of Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demessie after they were held for more than a month before being charged with conspiring to overthrow the Ethiopian constitution.

The men were among a number of civil society activists taken into custody in early November. Around 125 other people were arrested and are also facing this charge and up to six additional charges.

Mr Bekele is a lawyer and heads ActionAid's policy team in Ethiopia and Mr Demessie is executive director of Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia (OSJE).

ActionAid insists that Mr Bekele and Mr Demessie have done nothing illegal, nor were they involved in any unconstitutional activities.

Fikre Zewdie, director of ActionAid Ethiopia, said: "We are extremely disappointed that Daniel and Netsanet have been refused bail. Their continued detention is a travesty of justice.

"There exists no basis at law or on the facts for the denial of their right to bail. The public prosecutor opposed bail and disappointingly, this was not challenged by the judge today.

"If necessary, Daniel and Netsanet will fight their case vigorously in court. But we have said from the start that there is no sustainable case against them and the charges should be dropped."

The two activists attracted the attention of the Ethiopian authorities while campaigning for civil society monitoring of the national elections in May, demanding amendments to a new Ethiopian law on non-governmental organisations and helping to organise Ethiopia's part of the Global Call to Action against Poverty.

Since their arrest, the men been denied their constitutional entitlement to bail and have had very limited access to their lawyers.

ActionAid is also concerned that their case could be prejudiced unless the men are tried separately from the other accused activists.

Mr Zewdie said Mr Bekele and Mr Demessie are dedicated to eradicating poverty and injustice through non-violent social change and had no case to answer.

"They have worked to improve the lives of Ethiopia's poorest people through legitimate social activism. This kind of activity is protected by the constitution and cannot be characterised as anti-state."

London-based ActionAid is one of the UK's largest development charities and is currently working with more than five million of the world's poorest people to provide access to vital services and fight poverty. Visit for more information.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Open letter to President of Ethiopia on Arbitrary Detentions of Human Rights Defenders

Open letter to President of Ethiopia on Arbitrary Detentions of Human Rights Defenders

World Organization Against Torture (Geneva)

Mr. President, The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, wish to express their deep concern regarding the continuing detention of several human rights defenders following the new wave of repression and arrests against political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists in November 2005 (see FIDH press releases, dated December 15, 2005 and January 2, 2006, and OMCT urgent appeals Case ETH 031105, Case ETH 031105.1 and Case ETH 031105.2, dated November 3, 2005, November 8, 2005 and November 17, 2005).

According to the information received, on November 1, 2005, Mr. Mesfin Woldemariam, former president of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), was arrested at his home. On November 7, 2005, he appeared along with other defendants before the Federal Court of Addis Ababa, which ordered the extension of their detention for 14 more days, in order to conduct an investigation. He was then denied bail twice on November 21, 2005 and December 1, 2005, and remanded.

On November 28, 2005, M. Woldemariam started a hunger strike to protest his detention. On December 21, 2005, he was formally charged with crimes including, conspiracy and armed uprising, trying to subvert the Constitution, high treason and genocide, along with 128 persons including two minors, opposition activists, human rights defenders and journalists. According to the Ethiopian penal code, maximum sentences for these crimes are ranging from 25 years imprisonment to the death penalty.

The Observatory is also very concerned by the arbitrary detention of Mr. Daniel Bekele, Policy, Research and Advocacy Manager for Actionaid Ethiopia, an international NGO dedicated to the fight against poverty. Indeed, since he was arrested by the police, on November 1, 2005, without any mandate, the Observatory has received no information on his whereabouts, nor on his conditions of detentions. In view of this, the Observatory fears for his physical and psychological integrity. The Observatory recalled that Mr. Bekele had been attacked by two unknown men on October 16, 2005 (see Observatory urgent appeal ETH 002/1005/OBS 098). The Observatory believes this arbitrary detention to be linked with his activities as member of the Executive Committee of the Network of Ethiopian NGOs and other civil society organisations, which monitored May 15, 2005 elections. In this regard, Mr. Bekele had publicly expressed his opinion on irregularities during the electoral process.

The Observatory also fears for the physical and psychological integrity of several members of EHRCO as it has not been able to contact them since the November second wave of repression of elections protests. The Observatory has received no information on their whereabouts:

- Mr. Negist G/Hiwot, former member of the executive committee of EHRCO;

- Mr. Tesfaye Bekele, teacher and Chairperson of the members committee of Dessae Branch, who was detained on October 25 and released on bail on October 28, 2005;

- Mr. Seifu Degu, a teacher by profession and Chair of the Dessae Branch Committee, Mr. Bezu Mekonen and Mr. Chanie Reta, both EHRCO members and teachers, who were detained on November 4, 2005. Mr. Bezu and Mr. Chanie gave themselves up because their wives were earlier taken into custody in their place by the Zone police. They are reported to be detained some 40 km north of Dessae, where their family could not visit them;

- On November 1,and 2, 2005, Messrs. Yared Haile Mariam and Cherinet Taddesse were put on the list of those accused of treason and wanted by the government. Yet, Mr. Yared Haile Mariam was not even in the country at the time of the November protest, but attending a human rights defenders conference in Entebbe starting from October 30, 2005;

- The family home of another employee of EHRCO, Mr. Wondimagegne Gashu, has been under continued surveillance of plainclothes security men, although he is not on the list of wanted people. His mother has been taken and interrogated by the police;

- Mrs. Elfinesh Demissie, teacher and member of EHRCO's Executive Committee, was made to pay fines from her salary for not coming to school during the week of protest, although the schools were closed and transport interrupted during this period. Furthermore, she has been threatened in writing with a "final action" to be taken against her by higher authorities. The nature of this action has not been specified.

Although, some information indicated that some of them were allegedly detained and part of the 129 people charged with treason - which leads to indicate that they would be detained by State authorities -, this information could not be confirmed by the Observatory, and there is no indication on the existence of any charges that would have been pronounced against them.

The Observatory notes that these events are blatantly violating the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular article 12.2 which stipulates that "the State shall take any 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".

The Observatory respectfully urges you to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Daniel Bekele, Mesfin Woldemariam and all others human rights defenders detained, and to give public information on the whereabouts of Mr. Bekele and all others EHRCO members.

The Observatory calls upon you to ensure that all detained EHRCO members will be released, in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular article 1 which provides that "everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international level" and above-mentioned article 12.2, and more generally, with the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and of international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Ethiopia.

In the hope you will take these considerations and requests into account,

Yours sincerely,

Relevant Links

East Africa
Legal and Judicial Affairs
Human Rights
Crime and Corruption

Sidiki Kaba, President of FIDH

Eric Sottas, Director of OMCT

Monday, January 02, 2006

Keep The Pressure on The Ethiopian Government!

A heartfelt and deep 'Thank you' to all of you who have sent your letters, written us words of encouragement and passed on the information about Daniel Bekele.

Daniel Bekele, along with 131 others including two teenagers, allegedly aged 14 and 15 are being tried for a series of outrageous crimes against the state including genocide, treason, inciting violence and trying to disrupt the constitutional order of Ethiopia.

Daniel, a human rights attorney, academic, activist, is committed to a free and just Ethiopia. His only crime is challenging a government with a deplorable record on human rights and who dares to elevate dissent to treason. These charges are political subterfuge.

Please continue to urge for the release of Daniel and thousand of other Ethiopians. We are their only hope! We must say no to repression, no to scapegoats and no to a regime that jails children!

Long Live Ethiopia! Free Daniel!

Friday, December 23, 2005

CIVICUS writes Meles Zenawi in support of Daniel Bekele

Urgent letter of appeal on harsh charges against anti-poverty activists

23 December 2005

Dear His Excellency Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi,

I write to you, on behalf of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, concerned with the unwarranted and disproportionate charges laid against Daniel Bekele, an ActionAid Ethiopia staff member and Netsanet Demissie, director of Organization for Social Justice Ethiopia, a partner of ActionAid Ethiopia. Both are also involved in coordinating the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) campaign in Ethiopia.

On 21 December, Daniel and Netsanet were charged under Article 238(2) of the criminal code, “outrage against the constitution or the constitutional order.” The charge carries the severe punishments of life imprisonment or death. The two men were charged along with 129 other civil society activists, journalists and politicians. Daniel and Netsanet had been held without charge since 1 and 8 November respectively.

We kindly remind the Government of Ethiopia that Daniel and Netsanet are members of civil society, actively and peacefully engaged in issues of poverty in your country. They have committed no crime, and have not defied the constitution in any way. Their work directly benefits the citizens of Ethiopia who struggle with a poverty rate of 44 percent. By charging these two courageous activists, your government is discouraging work vitally important to the welfare of the people of Ethiopia.

As Ethiopia is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, we also remind you that the charges against Daniel and Netsanet are in direct violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms, particularly freedom of _expression (article 9).

CIVICUS joins other civil society groups in urging the government to immediately release Daniel and Netsanet and drop all charges against them.


Kumi Naidoo,
Secretary General, CIVICUS;
Chairperson, GCAP

MEDIA: For more information, please contact Julie Middleton, CIVICUS communications associate at, or +27 76 245 2069.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Leading Ethiopian anti-poverty campaigners on ‘treason’ charges

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Leading Ethiopian anti-poverty campaigners on ‘treason’ charges

ActionAid today expressed its deepest concern over the news that its Ethiopia policy head Daniel Bekele, and close partner Netsanet Demessie of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia (OSJE) have been formally charged with crimes against the state.

ActionAid has been calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the two men, arguing that they have done nothing illegal, nor been involved in any unconstitutional activities. Yet today, the court ruled that the federal prosecutor could add their names to the list of 131 defendants already charged.

Ramesh Singh, ActionAid International Chief Executive said: “Daniel and Netsanet are not criminals. They have been arrested for their civic activism, for doing their duty as anti-poverty campaigners. Their continued detention since being arrested in early November for engaging in activities that are protected by the constitution violates both Ethiopian and international law.”

Lawyers engaged by the agency on Daniel and Netsanet’s behalf have been prevented from meeting with their clients for more than a few minutes at a time, and both men have been denied their constitutional entitlement to bail.

Fikre Zewdie, ActionAid Ethiopia Country Director said: “Whilst we categorically believe that there is no case to answer and that both men should be released immediately, at the very least they must be granted bail.

“If it comes to a trial, we want it to be fair, open and internationally monitored. Daniel and Netsanet must also be given full access to lawyers to prepare their defence.”

To avoid prejudice, ActionAid says that it is imperative that the men’s trial be separate from those of opposition politicians and their supporters, whom the Ethiopian government broadly accuse of attempting to subvert the constitutional order using violent means.

Daniel and Netsanet appear to have attracted the attention of the authorities by campaigning for civil society monitoring of the national elections in May, demanding amendments to a new Ethiopian law on non-governmental organisations, and helping to organise Ethiopia’s part of the Global Call to Action against Poverty, a worldwide movement supported by the UN Millennium Campaign, of which the UK Make Poverty History campaign is a part. Neither has been involved in violent protest.

ActionAid is grateful to all those around the world who have voiced their support for Daniel and Netsanet and are campaigning for their release.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Free Daniel Letter #1

His Excellency Alpha Konare, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union
Headquarters of the African Union
Tel: +251 11 5514554
Fax: +251 11 5513036

His Excellency Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
The Prime Ministers Office
Fax number: +251 1 552030 or +251 1 241194

His Excellency Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Fax number: +251 1 514300

His Excellency Kemal Bedri, President of the Federal Supreme Court and Chairman of the National Election Board
National Election Board
Fax number: +251 1 510025.
Your Excellencies:

     I am writing to express my concern regarding the arrest and detention of Daniel Bekele. Mr. Bekele was arrested on November 3, 2005. He is accused of trying to violently undermine the constitutional order of Ethiopia and is threatened with the charge of treason.

     Despite these claims, Mr. Bekele has been a consummate patriot and has worked tirelessly to better the lives of Ethiopians. Mr. Bekele is a human rights attorney, a PhD candidate of law at Oxford University and Policy Manager for Action Aid Ethiopia, an international Nongovernmental organization dedicated to eliminating poverty. Mr. Bekele works to ensure that the poorest of Ethiopian citizens have access to basic necessities. He has been a consultant to many international organizations including the Horn of Africa Capacity Building Program for Oxfam Canada and ARTICLE 19, a human rights organization which focuses on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide.

     I urge the Ethiopian Government to unconditionally release Daniel Bekele and others who are similarly held and whose only mission is to better the lives of their fellow Ethiopians.

Very truly yours,

[Any organizational affiliation]

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


For Immediate Release Contact: Meron Wondwosen
November 30, 2005 (917) 846-5746


Prime Minister Zenawi’s Regime Launches Purge of Opposition Leaders;
Detainees to Be Charged with Treason at 12/1 Hearing

New York/International—Today, a collaboration of Ethiopian and African organizations, under the leadership of Aandenet (Unity), calls on the international media and world leaders to turn their attention to human rights abuses inflicted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s regime on Ethiopian citizens. Vast numbers of individuals, from 10 to 30 thousand citizens, remain in the custody of the Ethiopian government for inciting violence.

On Thursday December 1, 2005, 58 of the Ethiopians who have been detained by the state—designated by Amnesty International as “prisoners of conscience”—will appear in court in Addis Ababa to be officially charged with treason—a crime punishable by death. The 58 Ethiopian citizens include professors, lawyers, journalists, opposition leaders and representatives of an international nongovernmental organization.

Among those to be charged with trying to “violently undermine [the] constitutional order of [Ethiopia]” is Daniel Bekele, human rights attorney, PhD candidate of Law at Oxford University and policy manager of Action Aid Ethiopia, an international nongovernmental organization working to eradicate poverty. For the majority of his life, Bekele has worked to improve the lives of poor rural-dwelling Ethiopian women. Bekele is among thousands of Ethiopians who have been detained without charges in an effort to squash opposition to government policies—a direct violation of international human rights law. There is no official count on the number of individuals detained, those killed by government forces or the number of camps where the detainees are being held.

Following peaceful protests against alleged election irregularities, the Ethiopian government has arrested and unlawfully detained thousand of individuals. International observers as well as opposition leaders have questioned both the process and the result of parliamentary elections that took place in May 2005. Protests against the elections began in June 2005 and were followed with another round of demonstrations the first week of November. In response, Meles Zenawi’s regime has arrested the majority of opposition leaders and, as of today, is holding at least 12 journalists they accuse of trying to “foment a coup.”

"The ongoing crackdown on the private press in Ethiopia is an outrage," said Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non profit organization committed to defending press freedom internationally. "The government must stop its attempt to shutter the entire local press, and release all jailed journalists immediately."

Aandenet is organizing a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the human rights violations in Ethiopia, urging for the unconditional release of all political detainees and demanding the respect of human rights and international human rights standards in Ethiopia. Aandenet urges the international community to assist in bringing to light the grave injustice suffered by the Ethiopian people.

“The international community can not continue to sit silently while the fate of thousands of Ethiopian citizens is unknown,” says Yehnaynesh Haile, an organizer with Aandenet. “Elevating dissent to the level of treason not only mocks basic human rights but is an example of the persistent assault on Ethiopian society imposed by Meles Zenawi’s regime. It’s time the world’s leaders pay attention to the atrocities funded with their aid dollars.”

Amnesty International has released an action alert concerning those detained in Ethiopia and considers the fifty eight individuals threatened with the charge of treason to be prisoners of conscience. The International Secretariat of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), based in Geneva, has called for an urgent intervention in Ethiopia in light of reported massive violations of human rights. Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) has expressed their concern regarding the arrest of Daniel Bekele and has called on the Ethiopian Government to explain its arrest of Bekele.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005


On Thursday December 1st, Daniel Bekele, along with 57 other Ethiopians including professors, lawyers, economists, representatives from an international nongovernmental organization, students, journalists and opposition leaders will be taken to court and officially charged with treason by the Ethiopian government.

This assault on Ethiopian citizens by Meles Zenawi's regime comes as a result of peaceful demonstrations to protest alleged election rigging. In response Zenawi has arrested and detained thousands of Ethiopians.

Join those of us who are committed to human rights in Ethiopia and around the globe in calling to the release of Daniel Bekele and all politicial prisoners.

Amnesty International has named the fifty eight individuals "prisoners of conscience"--those who are persecuted for the peaceful expression of their human rights. Please raise awareness of this situation and write your representatives, the United Nations and the Ethiopian government to demand respect for human rights and for the release of all political prisoners.

Long Live Ethiopia!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Amnesty International Names Daniel Bekele a Prisoner of Conscience

Ethiopia:Further information on possible prisoners of conscience/fear of torture or ill-treatment/health concern.
2PUBLIC AI Index: AFR 25/018/2005 10 November 2005
Further Information on UA 284/05, [AFR 25/017/2005, 02 November 2005] -
Prisoners of conscience/fear of torture or ill-treatment/health concern
Hailu Shawel (m), member of parliament and president of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), aged 70
Professor Mesfin Woldemariam (m), aged 75, former chair of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council
Birtukan Mideksa (f), CUD Vice-President, lawyer and former judge
Dr Berhanu Negga (m), CUD member of parliament, Mayor of Addis Ababa and university professor (economics)
Getachew Mengiste (m), senior member of CUD and member of parliament
Gizachew Shifferaw (m), member of CUD executive committee
Dr Hailu Araya (m), former editor of Press Digest and CUD member of parliament
Dr Yacob Hailemariam (m) CUD member of parliament and former UN Special Envoy
Debebe Eshetu (m), CUD public relations officer
Muluneh Eyual (m), CUD secretary general
Daniel Bekele (m), policy director of ActionAid (a non-governmental organization)
Hundreds of others

On 7 November 2005, police in Addis Ababa brought 24 people, including those listed above, to court and distributed a “"wanted”" list with the photos of 34 others. The court ordered the 24 in custody to be detained for a further 14 days for police investigations into suspected violent conspiracy in connection with the previous week’s demonstrations, although no one has yet been formally charged with any offence. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on 5 November that all 58 would be charged with treason, which carries a possible death penalty.

Amnesty International considers the 24 detainees in custody to be prisoners of conscience who have not used or advocated violence and that the other 34 would also be prisoners of conscience if detained. The complete list of 58 includes seven members of parliament, 11 journalists, Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), and civil society activists, lawyers, aid workers, two Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) investigators and two Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) leaders, some of whom were in hiding or were abroad. Amnesty International fears the detainees may be kept in prolonged pre-trial detention in harsh conditions and at risk of ill-treatment, and may not receive a fair trial according to international standards. Amnesty International remains deeply concerned about the health and treatment of the former chair of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, who suffers from a painful back complaint. His family were reportedly denied access to him up to his court appearance on 7 November.
In Addis Ababa between 1 and 4 November, police shot dead 42 demonstrators and wounded 200 others. CUD had called for a stay-home strike in protest against alleged election fraud but demonstrations erupted into violence when police began shooting. CUD denied any violent conspiracy. CUD subsequently called for a further strike and boycott of government businesses for the following week. Smaller protests occurred in other towns, but with fewer deaths and arrests than in Addis Ababa. More than 4,000 people have been detained, including many unemployed youth protesters in Addis Ababa, and taken to remote prisons in rural areas where conditions are harsh. Some 285 have been released but others are held without charge. Arrests in Addis Ababa and in other towns are continuing.

AI Index: AFR 25/018/2005

10 November 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Daniel Bekele's Unlawful Arrest Highlighted in the Washington Post

Crackdown in Ethiopia
By Nora Boustany
Wednesday, November 23, 2005; Page A16

A government crackdown in Ethiopia, following a wave of political unrest, has left opposition politicians, journalists, intellectuals and aid officials behind bars, even though the government of President Meles Zenawi has released some detainees under international pressure.
Ato Daniel Bekele , the policy manager for ActionAid International in Ethiopia, was detained in his home in Addis Ababa, the capital, on Nov. 1. He remains in custody, although no charges have been filed against him, according to Sandy Krawitz, a spokeswoman for the group's U.S. branch, based in Washington.
"ActionAid expresses our ongoing concern for the unwarranted detention of Ato Daniel Bekele," Krawitz said Tuesday. "If charges are to be made, they should be brought forth quickly. Otherwise, he should be released."
ActionAid and its local partners provide a range of assistance to countries, including emergency relief, health and educational aid, and civil society promotion, such as voter education projects. "We take no sides, we just support the democratic process," Krawitz said.

However, Bekele, who is a lawyer, had criticized the government openly for not honoring the constitution and suppressing dissent. He was arrested during a second wave of protests over parliamentary elections in May, after government opponents alleged that the ruling party had stolen the vote.
At least 80 people have been reported killed in clashes between authorities and demonstrators in June and earlier this month. In the latest confrontation, Action Aid and others said, police fired into crowds of demonstrators with live ammunition, killing 46. The aid group said a girl of 7 lost an eye and a boy of 11 was shot in the stomach.
Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid in sub-Saharan Africa, receiving about $800 million a year, including $500 million worth of food assistance, according to the State Department. The Bush administration has sought the Meles government's help in its war against terrorism.
On Friday, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on Africa, global human rights and international operations, introduced a bill seeking to hold Ethiopia accountable on human rights, democracy and economic freedoms. The bill says the police, courts and prison systems do not "effectively uphold the human and civil rights of the citizens of Ethiopia." It also objects to the continued incarceration of journalists.
"The administration has called Ethiopia an anchor country . . . important vis-a-vis U.S. foreign policy in Africa. What we need to do is to help Ethiopians back from the brink that this crisis is pushing them toward," said Greg Simkins , a staff member of the subcommittee.
A spokesman for the Ethiopian Embassy, Mesfin Endrias , said that the government was taking action to probe the political violence and that the May elections had been conducted properly and fairly.
"There was an election and the national election board has issued its full result. The country is not on the verge of collapse," he said Tuesday. "Parties should work together. Everyone has a stake here." He added that Ethiopia's Parliament had formed an independent body to investigate the recent violence. "Everybody should wait," Endrias said.
In addition to political opponents, Action Aid and others said the government has targeted civil society organizations and nongovernmental groups.
"The United States believed that the Ethiopian government was supporting it in the war on terror, but that government is terrorizing its own people in the street," said Mesfin Mekonen , an activist from the Ethiopian Americans Council who has been lobbying Congress to pass Smith's legislation on behalf of the Ethiopian opposition.
Mekonen said the opposition supports land reforms and privatization of plots. He said certain public companies, acting as fronts for private interests, monopolize land ownership and provide fertilizer and other agricultural assistance only to farmers who support the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. Although the climate of democratization has improved somewhat, the same group has held power since the overthrow of President Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.
In letters to the country's National Electoral Board, European Union election monitors have accused the government of violence and political intimidation. Two weeks before Bekele was arrested, Action Aid reported, he was attacked by two gunmen, believed to be government agents. F ikre Zewdie , Action Aid’s country director for Ethiopia, told the Voice of America that Bekele was not involved in any protests this month.
Under Ethiopia's constitution, detainees must be accused and taken before a judge within 48 hours of their arrest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Unjust Profiling; Daniel Bekele Listed as One of 14 Suspected of Instigating Violence

Federal Police Says Put Under Custody 14 Suspects Of Violence Instigators

Addis Ababa, 11/11/2005

The Federal Police said it has put under control 14 of suspects of violence instigators, whose list and photographs were published in newspapers as wanted four days ago. In a statement it sent to ENA on Friday, the Federal Police said the stated number of suspects were put under police custody over the last couple of days..The suspects who were put under police control are listed as follow:

1. Anteneh Mulugeta
2. Tamirat Tarekegn
3. Zekarias Tesfaye
4. Dereje Habte-wold
5. Fasil Yenealem
6.Dr. Tadious Bogale
7. Biruk Kebede
8.Nestaent Demisse
9. Andualem Ayele
10. Daniel Bekele
11. Asefa Habtewold
12. Nardos Meaza

The Federal Police said the cooperation shown by the society has been strengthened. It has also brought before the court of justice two individuals charged with hiding two suspects.The police called up on the public to cooperate in capturing other suspects who are still at large.
Source: ENA

Unlawful Detention: Daniel Bekele, Ethiopian GCAP Activist, Arrested

The Global Call to Action against Poverty expressed its alarm at yesterday’s arrest of Ato Daniel Bekele, a GCAP activist and the Policy, Research and Advocacy Manager for Action Aid Ethiopia. On Tuesday November 1 at around 8 pm, Ethiopian security forces went to Bekele’s house and arrested him without charge. Fikre Zewdie, a fellow activist who visited Bekele and saw him across the fence of the prison gate reports that he is in good health, although he continues to be held without charge and incommunicado. Article 6 of the African Charter of Human Rights, adopted on June 27 1981, of which Ethiopia is one of the signatories’ states: Every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person. No one may be deprived of his freedom except for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law. In particular, no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained. By holding Ato Daniel Bekele, the Ethiopian government is in direct contravention of this article and GCAP calls upon the African Union and the United Nations to hold them accountable. Prior to this latest incident, Bekele had been attacked on October 16 by two armed men believed to be government security forces. Before using physical violence, the men questioned him on his criticism of EPRDF (ruling party in Ethiopia) and assaulted him, causing injuries to the head and to his left eye. The Ethiopian newspaper Eftin reported that when they asked for justification for the assault, a party official and the Head of Police, denied any knowledge of, or participation in Bekele’s assault. This is the same government that in April, refused to grant permission to Ethiopian civil society to hold a rally to launch GCAP. GCAP is appalled that Ethiopia, with a poverty rate of 44 percent, would antagonize its civil society activists who are fighting for the betterment of Ethiopian citizens instead of working with them. We hope that the Ethiopian government explains its’ illegal holding of Bekele and investigate fully the reasons surrounding his beating.