Thursday, November 24, 2005

Amnesty International Names Daniel Bekele a Prisoner of Conscience

URGENT ACTION
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
ETHIOPIA
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.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
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

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