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.


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