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Wednesday April 23rd 2014

‘Oduu’ Archive

Kenya: Arrest and Disappearance of Ethiopian Oromo Refugees

(URJII ONLINE)

Usual as it has been in the past twenty or so years, four Oromo refugees have been arrested or kidnapped in Nairobi, Kenya on the first of this month of February, 2014, and taken to an unknown destination. Below is an URGENT ACTION issued by the HRLHA regarding the current situation around the lives and whereabouts of the four Oromos who have been taken away by Kenyan Security agents:

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) expresses its deep concern regarding the safety of four Oromo refugees from Ethiopia who were arbitrarily arrested by Kenyan anti-terrorist squad from Isili  area in Nairobi  on different dates of operations  and taken to unknown destinations.

               According to information obtained through HRLHA correspondent in Nairobi, Mr. Tumsa Roba Katiso, (UNHCR attestation File#: NETH033036/1) was arrested by members of Kenyan anti-terrorist squad, who arrived at the scene in two vehicles, on February 1, 2014 at around 10:00 AM from 2nd Street in the Isili locality in Nairobi on his way home from shopping. The other three refugees, Mr. Chala Abdalla, Mr. Namme Abdalla, and the third person whose name is not known yet were picked up from their home which is located in the same Isli area in Nairobi, Kenya on February 3, 2014 by members of the same anti-terrorist squad of Kenyan. The whereabouts of those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees is unknown until the time of compilation of this urgent action.

The HRLHA is highly suspicious that those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees might have been deported to Ethiopia. And, in case those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees have been deported, the Ethiopian Government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons and sentences them to up to life in prison, and often impose death penalty. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian official prisons and other unofficial or secret detention centres. Under Article 33 (1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150), to which Kenya is a party, “[n]o contracting state shall expel or forcibly return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his . . . political opinion.” This obligation, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly. By deporting the four refugees and others, the Kenyan Government will be breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary law.

  1. Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185) to which Kenya acceded in 1997, Kenya has an obligation not to return a person to a place where they face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides:

    No state party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights. We strongly urge the government of Kenya to respect the international treaties and obligations it has signed

Background Information:

The Kenyan Government is well known for handing over refugees to the Ethiopian Government by violating the above mentioned international obligations. It is very disheartening to recall that Engneer Tesfahun Chemeda, who died on August 24, 2013 in Ethiopia’s grand jail of Kaliti due to torture that was inflicted on him in that jail, was handed over to the Ethiopian Government Security Agents in 2007 by the Kenyan Government.

               Tesfahun Chemeda was arrested by the Kenyan anti-terrorist forces, along with his close friend called Mesfin Abebe, in 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya, where both were living as refugees since 2005; and later deported to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government detained them in an underground jail in a military camp for over one year, during which time they were subjected to severe torture and other types of inhuman treatments until when they were taken to court and changed with terrorism offences in December 2008. They were eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2010.  (Mesfin’s death sentence was later commuted.)

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety and security of the above listed refugees who were recently arrested by the Kenyan anti-terrorist forces; and for those who are still living in Kenya. It urges the government of Kenya to respect the international treaties and obligations, and unconditionally release the arrested refugees, and refrain from handing over to the government of Ethiopia where they would definitely face torture and maximum punishments. It also urges all human rights agencies (local, regional and international) to join the HRLHA and condemn these illegal and inhuman acts of the Kenyan Government against defenseless refugees. HRLHA requests the governments of the Western countries as well as international organizations to interfere in this matter so that the safety and security of the arrested refugees and those refugees currently staying in Kenya could be ensured.



The 2013-Irrecha – Oromo Thanks-Giving in Toronto

(URJII ONLINE)

The march to the river for cleansing

Oromos in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and other cities in Ontario and other parts of Canada warmly celebrated this year’s Irrecha Holiday yesterday, August 31, 2013 in the suburb of Whitby, a typical countryside environment that closely resembled that of Oromia. The 2013 Irrecha of Toronto has also attracted some Oromos from cities like Washington D.C and New York, from across the border in USA. There were also visitors from Germany.

As usual, this year’s Irrecha celebration in Toronto included ceremonies such as dhibaayyuu or sacrifice, cleansing or cuphaa, hulluuqqoo and darraa-gubaa or firework. Irrechaa, which is often described by anthropologists as “The Channel to God”, in all its senses is equivalent of what the Westerners call and celebrate as “Thanks Giving”. Particularly the “Dhibayyuu” part of the Irrecha ceremony is the part that signifies the saying “Thank you” to God aspect of the Holiday. Oromos of all religions, ages and gender join each other in celebrating Irrecha. Some video clips on this year’s Irrecha in GTA could be watched at: http://youtu.be/s1h7SqVOiE0, http://youtu.be/Dhu4cOxYKRAhttp://youtu.be/_Q98Xw-SrDo

The components of "dhibaayyuu": cuukkoo, buna-qalaa and itittuu/aannan

NGOs in Ethiopia Still Struggling with Multiple Restrictions

(URJII ONLINE)

Firewood displayed for sale at a rural marketplace in countryside Ethiopia

A year after the death of former Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi, hopes for change in the African country remain bleak, including for local aid groups struggling to cope with a wide range of restrictions over their work. The Ethiopian government passed in 2009 a law that restricted NGO fundraising activities and operations, and imposed stricter requirements for registration, like asking charities and civil society organizations to secure a letter of recommendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Four years later and with the dictator out of the picture, the law remains a burden to aid groups, whose numbers have decreased since. Prior to 2009, there were reportedly some 3,822 registered civil society organizations in Ethiopia, but today there are no more than 1,500, according to a local aid official. In fact, the official told Devex the situation for NGOs has “worsened” under the current regime.

A year later, sources inside the country note the government of current Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has failed to make it easier for these organizations to do their job. “The majority of Ethiopian local NGOs are in depression” due to limited funds and registration difficulties, noted the official. Many groups depend heavily on a small pool of foreign donors. And the Charities and Societies Agency, created in 2009 to regulate CSO activities, implements according to this source “double standards” during registration, being more welcoming to NGOs that support the ruling party. “Some optimists hoped that with new leadership the Ethiopian government would change track and carry out human rights reforms, including amending the abusive CSO and anti-terrorism laws,” Laetitia Bader, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Devex. “Disappointingly, instead we see much the same patterns on the human rights front — including large scale arrests of peaceful protestors and prosecution of dissenting voices.”

But what seemed to particularly upset the local official is that donors do not seem to be helping to ease these restrictions on CSOs. For instance, the official finds British support to build the capacity of the CSA as helping the government weaken the CSO sector: “DFID [is] repeatedly helping the Agency while civil society [is] in crisis.” The U.K. Department for International Development has a program whose aims include improving the dialogue between the government and civil society sector, and bridging the gap between the two. The program began in 2010, a year after the NGO law was passed, and eventually included capacity building for CSA to meet the program’s objective.

But an annual review of the program concluded in November 2012 noted: “CSO perception of a conducive political and legal environment is not improving; the Agency database is neither publicly accessible nor currently up to date; federal-regional cooperation is not moving forward (to our knowledge); Agency understanding of the civil society sector is not improving (partly due to high staff turnover); and the guidelines and regulations have only received a very minor amendment due to pressure from CSOs and DPs.”

This is not the first time that DfID has been subject to criticism over its work in Ethiopia. The agency made headlines last year following its alleged plans to use part of its foreign aid budget for Ethiopia to train a police force accused of committing human rights abuses. DfID has dismissed the issue. Bader said: “We are concerned about any approach to the CSO law that is based on negotiating individual exemptions or waivers. This just allows the government to cherry-pick agencies, which completely undermines freedom of association. The law violates Ethiopia’s constitution and international human rights standards and needs to be amended; without fundamental changes it will be impossible to achieve a significant improvement in the working environment for NGOs.” Michael Shiferaw, communications officer for the Civil Society Support Program, which is managed by the British Council in Ethiopia and is also receiving some criticism, noted they are aware of these concerns, sometimes perhaps due to some misunderstanding or miscommunication. “We try to bridge the gap between what the agency does and what CSOs in general are doing by finding a common ground,” he told Devex. These realities are not helping address the country’s multiple problems, such as unemployment, high cost of living and corruption.

While the current regime may be trying to reach that by trying to improve infrastructure, many see this dream as far-fetched. “It looks like an illusion … still we are in agrarian society and majority of rural areas are food insecure … When [I] go to rural Ethiopia, I consider myself as if we are living in inhuman way of life,” explained the official. “For example, I was born from farmers family [and they are still] depending on me. I monthly send [them money]. If I keep quit even for one month, they can’t exist.”

 Source: International Development News, www.devex.com

Accountability for the Death of a Political Prisoner in Ethiopia’s Jail

(URJII ONLINE)

Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda

Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda, a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience, has died in Ethiopia’s infamous jail of Kaliti. According to a report by the human rights agency Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA), Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda, an Oromo national who had been in prison since April, 2007, died on 24th of August, 2013 in Kaliti Penitentiary due to severe and repeated tortures inflicted on him at different detention centers during his imprisonment in the past six years. HRLHA has also reported that denial of medical treatments has highly contributed to Engineer Chamada’s death. Engineer Tasfahun Chemeda was one of the 15 Oromo nationals  who were sentenced to life in prison in 2010 by the Ethiopian court simply for holding a political belief different from that of the ruling EPRDF/TPLF party and the government of Ethiopia.

Engeener Tesfahun Chemeda, was handed over to Ethiopian security agents by the Kenyan authorities in April 2007 from Nairobi, Kenya where he was living as a refugee after being granted the (refugee) status from UNHCR. He fled his homeland to escape persecution by the Government of Ethiopia. Although it falls on deaf ears in most cases, such are the reasons why human rights organizations like HRLHA strongly oppose to deportations of refugees back to their countries of origin particularly when their cases involve political issues.

HRLHA in its report has strongly condemned the inhuman treatments and atrocious torture that the Ethiopian Government is inflicting against its own citizens and holds the Government accountable systematically subjecting Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda to death through persistent torture and denial of medical treatment while in prison “… in violation of the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which Ethiopia has signed and ratified in 1994”.

According to HRLHA, by handing over Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda and other Oromo refugees back to the Ethiopian Government, the Kenya Government is breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary laws, and therefore shares accountability in the death of Engineer Chemeda.

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa has called up on the Ethiopian authorities to immediately conduct an independent investigation into the death of Engineer Tesfahun Chamada, including the roles torture and denial of medical treatment have played in his death, and disclose the findings to the public. It has also demand that those who were found responsible be brought to justice.

URJII publishers would like to extend their condolences to the families and friends of Engineer Tefahun Chemeda while they are mourning his loss as a result of injustice.

Extreme Brutalities against Civilians in Ethiopia

(URJII ONLINE)

Part of the scene during the Kofele crackdown

According to reports by some media and human rights groups, twenty seven innocent civilians including five children have been killed, hundreds have been injured and hospitalized, and thousands of others have been taken into custody in two separate incidents in the first week of this month/August. The casualties were all the results of the heavy-handedness of the armed security forces against peaceful protestors who attempted to exercises some of their fundamental rights that are provided for in the country’s constitution and international human rights instruments.

In a clash between armed security forces and Muslim protestors that happened on the 3rd of August, 2013 in the Kofele locality of Arsi Zone in Central Oromia, twenty five civilians, four of whom were children, were shot dead while hundreds of others were injured and taken to hospitals in Asela and Shashamane towns.  In another incident on the 8th of August, 2013 (which was the Ed-Al-Fitir Holiday) in the Capital Addis Ababa/Finfinne, an expecting women and a six-year old boy were beaten to death by the police at two different locations while thousands were reportedly taken to different concentration camps around the City after being detained for hours at the national stadium where they were gathered early in the morning for Id-Al-Fitir mass prayer that marked the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The arrests include two journalists – Mr. Darsemo Sori and Mr. Kalid Mohammed – who have been working for a radio station known as “Radio Bilal”.

Both the media and the human rights groups, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) in particular have reported that similar protests by Muslim communities and clashes with security forces as well as the resultant arrests during this past week in particular have been in different parts of the country. These include Waldiya and Desse towns in Wollo Zone, Northern Ethiopia, the Afar Zone, and Waliso town in Showa Zone, in Illubabor Zone in Western Ethiopia.

 Although similar protests have been taking place at different times in the past two years by Muslim worshipers in opposition to the government’s interference in the election of their representatives in the Council of Islamic Affairs and the imprisonment of some of the leaders of the Council, this is the first time that the country witnessed such brutal killings by the armed forces. And this has clearly demonstrated the Ethiopian Government’s violent reaction, despite the constitutional provisions, against peaceful demonstrators not only to extra judicially punish its citizens who attempted to exercise their fundamental rights but also to intimidate others into silence.

“Fingerprints of International Aid on Forced Relocation, Repression, and Human Rights Abuse in Ethiopia”

(Urjii Online)

Reports by the Oakland Institute in USA have shown how Western development assistance is supporting forced evictions and massive violations of human rights in Ethiopia. Below is the details of the reports:

The Ethiopian government’s controversial “villagization” resettlement program to clear vast areas for large-scale land investments is funded largely by international development organizations. The first report, Development Aid to Ethiopia, establishes direct links between development aid–an average $3.5 billion a year, equivalent to 50 to 60% of Ethiopia’s national budget–and industrial projects that violate the human rights of people in the way of their implementation.

The report also shows how indirect support in the form of funding for infrastructure, such as dams for irrigation and electricity for planned plantations, plays a role in repressing local communities by making the projects viable.

Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of US development aid in Africa, receiving an average of $800 million annually–even though the US State Department is well aware of widespread repression and civil rights violations. A strategically located military partner seen as a leader in the “African Renaissance,” Ethiopia is gently described as having a “democratic deficit” by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Yet this phrase does not begin to describe or justify the kind of routine violence and coercion taking place on the ground and documented in the Oakland Institute’s new report, Ignoring Abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley.

The massive resettlement of 260,000 people of many different ethnic groups in the Lower Omo Valley has been fraught with controversy and has set off an alarm among international human rights groups. Information around forced evictions, beatings, killings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation and political coercion, has been shared, and these tactics have been documented as tools used in the resettlement process.

In response to allegations, DFID and USAID launched a joint investigation in January of 2012. After completing their visit, they came to the puzzling conclusion that allegations of human rights abuses were “unsubstantiated.” The contents of this new report, which include first-person accounts via transcripts of interviews that took place during the aid investigations last year, overwhelmingly contradict that finding and question the integrity of the inquiry.

The interviews paint a very different story from what DFID and USAID reportedly saw and witnessed, and for the first time are made available to the public here.
“[The soldiers] went all over the place, and they took the wives of the Bodi and raped them, raped them, raped them, raped them. Then they came and they raped our wives, here,” said one Mursi man interviewed during the investigation. Another man added: “the Ethiopian government is saying they are going to collect us all and put us in a resettlement site in the forest. We are going to have to stay there. What are the cattle going to eat there? They are our cattle, which we live from. They are our ancestor’s cattle, which we live from. If we stay out there in the forest, what are they going to eat?”

It is worrisome that aid agencies rubber stamp development projects that are violating human rights. Worse, they have chosen to ignore the results of their own investigations.

“Bottom line, our research shows unequivocally that current violent and controversial forced resettlement programs of mostly minority groups in Ethiopia have US and UK aid fingerprints all over them,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “It’s up to the officials involved to swiftly reexamine their role and determine how to better monitor funding if they are indeed not in favor of violence and repression as suitable relocation techniques for the development industry,” she continued.

The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank working to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic, and environmental issues. Starting 2011, the Institute has unveiled land investment deals in Africa that reveal a disturbing pattern of a lack of transparency, fairness, and accountability. The dynamic relationship between research, advocacy, and international media coverage has resulted in a string of successes and organizing in the US and abroad.

 

The Continuing of Deaths and Displacements in Eastern Oromia

(URJII ONLINE)

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa has reported that three innocent civilians have been killed and two others wounded in eastern Oromia’s Regional State, in Ethiopia in a violence that involved the Federal Government’s special force known as LIYYU POLICE. According to HRLHA’s report, the three dead victims of this most recent attack by the federal Liyyu Police/Special Police that took place in the early morning of July 7, 2013 in the Gaara-Wallo area in Qumbi District of Eastern Hararge Province in Eastern Ethiopia were:

  1. Mr. Ibrahim Henno, 38,
  2. Mr. Mahammed Musa, 26
  3. Mr. Mohammed Yusuf , 27

The two wounded victims of this same violent action were Mr. Nuredin Ismael (age 25) and Mr. Ali Mohammed (age 27). HRLHA has confirmed that both Mr. Nuredin and Mr. Ali have since been being treated at the Hiwot Fana Hospital in the city of Harar. More shocking, according to HRLHA, was that the bodies of the three dead victims were eaten by hyenas, because there was nobody around to pick and burry; as the whole village was deserted when the villagers were forced by the armed federal forces to leave the area. According to HRLHA correspondents and other sources, the forced eviction has been taking place in the name of alleged border dispute between the two neighbouring states of Oromia and Ogaden; although the Ogadenis have reiterated that they have not made a land claim along the border. The victims claim that the forced displacements, that have been going on for over six months, were always accompanied by dispossessions, lootings, and confiscations of properties.

                In its URGENT ACTION that it issued regarding violent action by government armed forces, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa has urged the Ethiopian Federal Government and the Regional Government of Oromia to discharge their responsibilities of ensuring the safety and stability of citizens by taking immediate actions of interference to bring the violence to end, and facilitate the return of the displaced Oromos back to their homes. It has also called upon all local, regional and international diplomatic and human rights organizations to impose necessary pressures on both the federal and regional governments so that they refrain from committing irresponsible actions against their own citizens for the purpose of political gains.

Sudan -Asylum Seekers are Entitled to Protection, Not Detention,

URJII,  March 19,  2012

 Fear of Torture and Deportation
HRLHA Appeal and Urgent Action

His Excellency Lieutenant General Omar Hasan Al-Bashir president of the Republic Sudan,

President’s Palace, PO Box 281, Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: (00 249) 11 771651, (00 249) 11 787676, (00 249) 11 783223
SUDAN
Dear Honorable President,
First of all, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) would like to express its appreciation to the people of the Republic of Sudan and to its government for their hospitality and kindness over so many years towards thousands of refugees who have fled their homes to escape government persecutions in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other neighboring countries at different times and now living in Sudan.
However, what has been happening to refugee seekers in Sudan over the past two Months is contrary to the good tradition of the Government of the Republic of Sudan towards the asylum seekers for many decades. According to information obtained by HRLHA through its informants in Khartoum, Sudan, the refugee seekers in the country, most of who are from Ethiopia have been subjected to different kinds of harassments, intimidations and detention.
According the report HRLHA received from its informants a number of Oromo national from Ethiopia have been (and are being) indiscriminately hunted and arbitrary arrested in the capital, Khartoum, in ma’imura detention center on Feb 15, 2012 in violation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 14 (1) “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” which guarantee the asylum seekers to enjoy freedom and protection in the country they are looking for an asylum.
The HRLHA informants managed to get the following fifteen among many asylum seekers believed arrested by the Sudan Security forces at different places and time from their temporary shelter on Feb 15, 2012..
Kadir Martu, an Oromo artist who was severely beaten and tortured in Ethiopia prison for his songs in which he criticizes the TPLF/EPRDF Government for its discrimination against Oromo, Jaba Morkata, Amin Ahmed, Amin Haji, Muzayan Sidiqo, Seyifu Hussen, Sa’ada Shube (female), Rukiya (female), Rabiya Aman (female), Muhamed Galato, Muhamed Hassen, Seifadin Hassen, Shukriya Hussen (female), Hussen Majid and Abdusalam Kassa Erbu.

Artist Kadir Ka Mertu

The HRLHA is highly suspicious that there might be a plan to deport those refugees to Ethiopia; In case those Ethiopian refugees would be deported, the Ethiopian Government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons.
There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian prisons and other secret places of detention. Under Article 33 (1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150), to which Sudan is a party, “[n]o contracting state shall expel or forcibly return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his . . . political opinion.” This obligation, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly by deporting the detailed asylum seekers and others, the Sudanese government will be breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary law.
1. Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185) to which Sudan acceded in 2002, Sudan has an obligation not to return a person to a place where they face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides:

No state party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights. We strongly urge the Government of Sudan to respect the international treaties and obligations it has signed..
RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Please send appeals to the Republic of Sudan Government officials as swiftly as possible, in English, Arabic, or your own language using the above contact addresses
 Urging the Republic of Sudan Government set free the detainees without any pre condition ,
 Your Concerns at the apprehension and fear of Torture if they return to their home country
 Urging the authorities of Republic of Sudan to ensure that these asylum seekers and refugees are protected depending on the 1951 refugee convention.

This appeal and Urgent action is copied to:

• UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland Fax: + 41 22 917 9022
(particularly for urgent matters) E-mail: tb-petitions@ohchr.org This e-mail address is
being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it,

 UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Suisse.
+41 22 739 8111 (automatic switchboard).

• International Committee of the Red Cross
19 Avenue de la paix CH 1202 Geneva
Tel: +41 22 734 60 01
Fax: +41 22 733 20 57
E-mail webmaster@icrc.org>
• African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights (ACHPR)
48 Kairaba Avenue, P.O.Box 673, Banjul, The Gambia.
Tel: (220) 4392 962 , 4372070, 4377721 – 23 Fax: (220) 4390 764
E-mail: achpr@achpr.org
• U.S. Department of State
Tom Fcansky – Foreign Affairs Officer
Email;-TOfcansky@aol.com>Washington, D.C. 20037
Tel: +1-202-261-8009
Fax: +1-202-261-8197
• Amnesty International – London
Tom Gibson
Telephone: +44-20-74135500
Fax number: +44-20-79561157
Email;- TGibson@amnesty.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots.
You need JavaScript enabled to view it
• Human Rights Watch – New York,
Leslie Lefkow
lefkowl@hrw.org;

LETTER FROM REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS TO U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON ABUSE OF ANTI-TERRORISM LAW

Urjii 20 Dec 2011

Freedom of the press has deteriorated considerably in Ethiopia this year, with a dozen journalists arrested in the past few weeks and the fate of two Swedish journalists on trial in Addis Ababa on terrorism charges expected to be known tomorrow.

Reporters Without Borders has written to Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, asking him to visit Ethiopia to meet the government and persuade it to stop using the war on terrorism to penalise free speech.

Here is the letter:

Ben Emmerson
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland.

Paris, 20 December 2011

Dear Sir,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that campaigns for freedom of the press, wishes to draw your attention to the worsening climate for journalists in Ethiopia since the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi began using anti-terrorism legislation against them.

Since the law was passed in July 2009, Reporters Without Borders has written to the Ethiopian authorities to point out its shortcomings and how it can be misused against the press. The organization feared the law might be used to curb freedom of the press and crack down on journalists. In 2011, our fears were confirmed.

In June, Woubeshet Taye, the deputy editor of the Amharic-language weekly Awramba Times, andReyot Alemu, a columnist for the Amharic-language weekly Fitih, were arrested. Both were accused of complicity with a group regarded as a terrorist organization.

On 1 July, two Swedish journalists of the Kontinent news agency, reporter Martin Schibbye and photojournalist Johan Persson, were arrested for entering Ogaden illegally to report on human rights abuses in the region, which is closed to the press. They are accused of entering Ethiopia illegally – which they have already admitted in court – and also of supporting a terrorist group.

Finally, in November the authorities charged six Ethiopian journalists, some of whom are in exile, with terrorism offences.

Serious though this is for those who have been arrested and prosecuted, Sir, it is also damaging for Ethiopia’s privately-owned media as a whole. It fosters self-censorship and nurtures fear.

This climate has forced at least three journalists who feared arrest to flee the country in November. These were Abebe Tola, known as “Abe Tokichaw”, a well-known columnist for the weeklies Fitih and Awramba Times, Tesfaye Degu of the newspaper Netsanet, and Dawit Kebede, managing editor of the Awramba Times.

The 2009 law has become a real threat for the news industry. In the name of the fight against terrorism, the government muzzles dissident and critical voices, thus abusing human rights and fundamental freedoms.

For this reason, we urge you to visit Ethiopia. In your capacity as Special Rapporteur in this field, it is incumbent on you to meet the Ethiopian government and persuade it to stop using the fight against terrorism to penalise freedom of expression.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require further details of the journalists who have been arrested and penalised.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Jean-François Julliard,
Secretary-General

CC: Frank La Rue, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Reporters Without Borders has also joined three other organizations and the “Free Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye” campaign in asking the European Union to take more decisive action to protect press freedom in Ethiopia.

Finally, as the Swedish journalists’ court hearing nears, the Swedish chapter of Reporters Without Borders has published the following press release:

Countdown for Swedish journalists facing terrorism charges in Ethiopia

On 21 December, a court in Addis Ababa will pronounce its verdict in the trial of Swedish journalist Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson on charges of terrorism and entering Ethiopia illegally.

The trial has turned into a fight for press freedom. International war correspondents Adrian Blomfield and Phillip Ittner travelled to Ethiopia to appear as defence witnesses. Swedish photographer Magnus Laupa and Mattias Göransson, editor of the Swedish magazine Filter, also testified on behalf of the detained journalists.

Court documents contain inconsistencies, false information and mistakes. Schibbye and Persson have responded to these documents indirectly through family members. Their comments and the latest developments in the case can be seen at martinandjohan.org, with their court statements, contact details, stories and reports from the Ogaden region.

Photo : Mr. Ben Emmerson

The Frustrating Situation of Refugees in Somaliland

URJII 12 Noveber 2011,

 

 

HRLHA Appeal and Urgent Action

Your Excellency Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud,      

President of the Republic of Somaliland.

Dear Honorable President,

First of all, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) would like to express its appreciation to the people of the Republic of Somaliland and to its government for their hospitality and kindness towards thousands of refugees who have fled their homes to escaped government persecutions in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other neighboring countries and now living in Somaliland.

However, what has been happening to refugees in Somaliland over the past two and three weeks is contrary to the expectations of the HRLHA and those of international communities.  

According to information obtained by HRLHA through its correspondents in Hargeisa, Somaliland, the refugees in the country, most of whom are from Ethiopia have been subjected to different kinds of harassments and intimidations in a very unsafe situation. According those reports, the refugees have been (and are being) indiscriminately evicted from their rented temporary shelters; and, as a result, more than 700 refugees have been forced to live on the streets. They are temporarily gathered at a place know as Social welfare Centre near the UNHCR office in Hargeisa. At this place, only those who could afford to buy are using tents; while those who couldn’t are living in open air.  Confiscations of properties, documents in particular, take place along with the kidnapping happens at their temporary shelter on street.

 The refugees uniformly claim that their tenants told them that the evictions were on the order of the government of the Somaliland. Making their situations worse, those refugees have been denied any kind of accommodation and help from the local UNHCR office. The refugees add that they were told by the local UNHCR office that they will not get any help or support from the office unless and until they go back to their shelters (rented place), which is where they have been evicted from, and have been told they were not welcome back. The refugees also say that the local UNHCR office is aware of this situation. However, it has been difficult for the HRLHA to confirm this complaint with the local UNHCR office.

A very young child has died as a result of this unfriendly situation in which the refugees are; and, according to those refugees, more lives might have been lost especially due to lack of basic needs such food and water, had it not been for the some kinds of humanitarian gestures from local people.

The other frustrating situation is that there have been two very recent cases of kidnappings and disappearances by who were described as armed agents of the Ethiopian Government. HRLHA has confirmed that, in the first case of kidnapping which took place during the first week of this month (November 3 – 4, 2011), four refugees (all of whom were Oromo nationals from Ethiopia), have been kidnapped and taken away to currently unknown destination; but believed to be taken back to Ethiopia. They were Shek Abdurrahman Qabatoo, Mr. Riyaad Kamal, Mr. Ali Dabbal, and another refugee who was with Shek Abdurrahman at the moment. In the second case of kidnapping and disappearance, which happened on the 10th of November, 2011, two other refugees, namely, Mr. Abdushukuur Mahammad (RF/06/055), and Mr. Hassan-nuur Mahammad Suleeyman (REC /361/08) have become victims of this illegal action; while a refugee named Mohammed Bushura Gurrachaa escaped the kidnapping by running away from site. The hunting and attempts of kidnapping the refugees has continued even while this urgent action is being compiled. Originally, the refugees were targeted at their rented places of stay; and now (after evictions) at the Social welfare Centre near the UNHCR office in Hargeisa.

According to eye witnesses, the armed team/group that is engaged in hunting and kidnapping the refugees drives around in a truck, approaches specific individuals it has targeted, or picks randomly, forces them onto the track, and drive away without any interference from the local government, or any other party. The fact that the vehicles were supplied by the local government makes the whole operation look like a joint work of the governments of Ethiopian and the Somaliland. It is important, here, to remind each other that such incidents and experiences of refugees are happening repeatedly; and that, in most cases, (as hinted at above through the UNHCR reference numbers provided) the victims of such illegal actions are refugees who are already under the UNHCR mandate.

Mr. President, even if those refugees are not protected by the UN mandate, what is happening to them is blatantly in breach of the 1951 International Refugee Convention.  In this (1951) document, it is stated that:

“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers where his/her life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” 

The overall situations taken into consideration, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety and wellbeing of hundreds of those refugees who are now in a socially, economically, and politically unfriendly environment in Somaliland.

So, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) requests the government of the Somaliland to make efforts to honour its both local and international obligations, and ensure the safety of people within its jurisdiction. We specifically request that the Somaliland Government prevent such illegal actions as kidnapping from happening to innocent and defenseless people, and refrain from sending refugees back to a country that they fled because their lives were at risk.

  Also, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) calls upon regional and international humanitarian and diplomatic communities to join us in making and sending these requests to the government of Somaliland.

The HRLHA is a non-political organization which attempts to challenge abuses of human rights of the people of various nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa. It works on defending fundamental human rights including freedoms of thought, expression, movement and association. It also works on raising the awareness of individuals about their own basic human rights and that of others. It encourages the observances as well as due processes of law. It promotes the growth and development of free and vigorous civil societies

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

Please send appeals to the Somaliland Government officials as swiftly as possible, in English, Somali, or your own language:

v  Urging the Somaliland Government  reverse its decision of expelling refugee from Somaliland

v  Your Concerns at the apprehension and fear of Torture if they return to their home country

v  Urging the authorities of Somaliland to ensure that these refugees are protected depending on the 1951 refugee convention.

  • His Excellency  Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud

President of the Republic of Somaliland

TEL/FAX:     252-225-3871

             president@somaligovernment.org

  • UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations Office at Geneva 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland Fax: + 41 22 917 9022

(particularly for urgent matters) E-mail: tb-petitions@ohchr.org This e-mail address is

being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • International Committee of the Red Cross

19 Avenue de la paix CH 1202 Geneva

Tel: +41 22 734 60 01

Fax: +41 22 733 20 57

E-mail webmaster@icrc.org>

  • African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights (ACHPR)

48 Kairaba Avenue, P.O.Box 673, Banjul, The Gambia.

Tel: (220) 4392 962 , 4372070, 4377721 – 23 Fax: (220) 4390 764

E-mail: achpr@achpr.org

  • U.S. Department of State

Tom Fcansky – Foreign Affairs Officer

Email;-TOfcansky@aol.com>Washington, D.C. 20037

Tel: +1-202-261-8009

Fax: +1-202-261-8197

  • Amnesty International – London

Tom Gibson

Telephone: +44-20-74135500

Fax number: +44-20-79561157

Email;- TGibson@amnesty.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots.

You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • Human Rights Watch – New York,

Leslie Lefkow

lefkowl@hrw.org

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