Sunday, April 16, 2006

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.


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