Wednesday, November 30, 2005

WORLD PRESS, LEADERS URGED TO TURN ATTENTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN ETHIOPIA

For Immediate Release Contact: Meron Wondwosen
November 30, 2005 (917) 846-5746
Labella929@yahoo.com

WORLD PRESS, LEADERS URGED TO TURN ATTENTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN ETHIOPIA

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.

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