Archive for March, 2012
URJII, March 31, 2012.
Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega has defended himself against charges of belonging to a terrorist organization in Ethiopia’s Federal High Court this week on the 28th March, 2012, according to a press release by IPI (International Press Institute). Eskinder Nega was charged with supporting Ginbot 7, an opposition party that was deemed a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian authorities last year. The outspoken commentator has long been a thorn in the side of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government.
He and his wife Serkalem Fasil were jailed for months after the disputed elections in 2005, and the publishing company they ran has subsequently been ordered to pay a fine of approximately €6,600. “It’s nothing in the American or European context, but for us it’s huge,” Eskinder Nega told IPI at the time. “This is the largest fine that has been imposed for a criminal charge, ever. The largest fine against a publisher until now was 15,000 Birr (approx. €830).”
In court on Wednesday, Nega challenged accusations that he conspired to overthrow the government in a 20 minute presentation to the court, Heinlein reported. According to Heinlein, Nega “admitted writing and speaking about whether an Arab Spring-like movement might take root in Ethiopia, and calling for peaceful protests, but denied advocating violence or unconstitutional change.”
Nega has been in jail since his arrest last September. Earlier this month IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie called on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to speak out against the use of anti-terror laws against journalists in Ethiopia, a practice IPI argued “makes a mockery of the universal right to “hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
IPI noted that these cases also undermine “the fight against real terrorists, who use violence – and not words – to achieve their ends. “We again call on the authorities to cease labelling critics as terrorists, which is an apparent attempt to silence real dissent and investigative reporting about the ruling party and the current government,” said IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills. “All journalists currently in jail in Ethiopia should be freed immediately and officially cleared of all wrongdoing.”
Nega is among five journalists who have been jailed under anti-terror laws in Ethiopia over the past year. Woubshet Taye and Reyot Alemu were convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison this January, as were Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johann Persson, who were convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison after they were arrested last year in the company of rebels in the Ogaden region.
Source: IPI website – http://www.freemedia.at/index.php?id
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
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..
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: email@example.com This e-mail address is
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
+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
• 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
• U.S. Department of State
Tom Fcansky – Foreign Affairs Officer
Email;-TOfcansky@aol.com>Washington, D.C. 20037
• Amnesty International – London
Fax number: +44-20-79561157
Email;- TGibson@amnesty.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots.
• Human Rights Watch – New York,
URJII, March 09, 2012.
Four days before Christmas last year Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were sentenced to 11 years in prison in Ethiopia, charged with entering the country illegally and supporting terrorism. I do not grasp the full impact of oil prospecting in Ogaden, or the controversial link between Lundin Petrolium (the company the journalists were investigating) and Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister. Likewise, I am unable to judge the legitimacy of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, with which the journalists were in contact, in breach of Ethiopian law.
Yet, as a daughter of both countries, who is generally suspicious of oil multinationals and silencing people by law, it is impossible to remain indifferent to the drama that has unfolded since Persson and Schibbye’s arrest in July last year. It is a drama that resonates with certain aspects of being a Swede of Ethiopian origin, in the same way that the case of Eritrean-Swedish journalist and writer Dawit Isaak does.
Incarcerated since 2001 in Eritrea, which became independent from Ethiopia in 1993, Isaak, like Persson and Schibbye, was drawing attention to sensitive issues. The difference is that Persson and Schibbye have had their charges tried in court, but Isaak has yet to appear before one. Among the first to be adopted from Ethiopia to Sweden in the 1970s, I am linked to a relationship that dates back more than a century. In the 1860s Swedish missionaries first settled in Ethiopia and in 1954 it became the first country to receive Swedish development aid. When the two nations celebrated 50 years of “partnership” against poverty in 2004, the relationship between the countries was still one of unilateral aid and modest bilateral trade.
Replacing the word “aid” with “partnership” reflects an admirable effort and approach to humanitarian aid, but it also distorts reality. The rapport between Ethiopia and Sweden was never mutually beneficial and the “partnership” is dysfunctional in the way any relationship in which one party gives and the other receives is dysfunctional. It is inevitably tainted by a dose of donor arrogance and passivity on the part of a disempowered receiver. It is also dented by the stubbornness of a receiving country that emphasises its autonomy to avoid drowning in a sea of gratitude and by the anxiety of a giving nation known as one of the most egalitarian societies in the world. Theirs is a complicated friendship that threatens the self-image of an African country that was never colonised and a European nation with a colonising past so far back in time that it does not view itself as a former coloniser.
My being adopted to Sweden, with my twin brother, was a manifestation of the interest in and solidarity with the outside world that partly, but not completely, characterised Sweden during the 1970s. Over the years we became a family of seven: apart from my brother and me, our Swedish parents, two sisters from Guatemala and an older brother from the Philippines (he has since moved back). This was before anyone talked about “rainbow” nations or families and long before Angelina and Brad made such constellations fashionable.
Many of us were offered far better lives than we would have had in our countries of origin, but the problematic aspect of international adoption cannot be ignored. To some extent it can be viewed as a reproduction of the worst crime of colonialism — appropriating the colonised nation’s potential for growth. This was done through natural resources during the days of colonialism and children in the post-colonial era. What internationally adopted Swedes also have to deal with is that our very existence in Sweden is proof of the failure of our own countries — countries that inevitably are a part of us.
My relationship with Ethiopia has always been clouded by shame about a country that seemed incapable of getting its act together. It was a shame rooted in the general Swedish perception of Ethiopia as a basket case. Throughout my life I have been reminded of this perception by concerned, friendly people, by large images of suffering Ethiopians in the subway every Christmas and by not-so-well-meaning fellow Swedes sharing racist jokes about starvation and Africa. Similarly, my bond to my adoptive country has always been rather fragile: my belonging is constantly being questioned and I am constantly reminded of a debt of gratitude I seem to owe to so many people.
I have lost count of how many sweet old ladies asked me to assess exactly how happy I am to have been saved and more than once I have been blamed for the failure of my country of birth by other guests at dinner parties who “frankly have given up hope on Africa”. Others projected their low expectations of Ethiopia and Africa on to me and rejoiced in the slightest progress, such as my speaking Swedish — my first language — fluently and having Swedish friends. This persistent and widespread paternalistic attitude towards Ethiopia and the rest of Africa has had a negative impact on my ability to identify myself fully as a Swede among others. It is an attitude not just shown by ordinary people, but also by the current foreign minister, who refers to the minister for development co-operation as “the minister for Africa”.
I have since reconnected with Ethiopia through friends and several visits to the country. One of the phrases I know in Amharic is “I don’t speak Amharic” — useful in a country where almost everyone looks as if they could be my brother or sister. To witness what I knew intellectually but failed to realise emotionally, that I come from a place where people laugh, cars drive in the streets, and high-rise buildings reach to the sky, has been a healing experience. Ethiopia is a country of which I am immensely proud, but one that also makes me sad and disillusioned.
Terrible events sometimes lead to positive outcomes, even if they may not be worth the sacrifices of those directly concerned. In the case of Persson and Schibbye, their incarceration will hopefully bring some attention to Ethiopians in the same situation. What is more, the increasing number of Swedes calling for easy solutions, such as cutting aid to Ethiopia immediately, might encourage Ethiopia and Sweden to revisit and redefine their relationship. It has changed during the course of the years as both countries have made new friends, identified new enemies and changed their priorities. I am not suggesting that Persson and Schibbye’s prison sentence is a direct consequence of Ethiopia and Sweden’s failure to address the changed expectations of their complicated relationship.
I do, however, view their imprisonment as an almost perfect metaphor for the arrested, or at least severely delayed, development of the two countries’ deadlocked relationship and Ethiopia’s transformation into a democratic, freer and more equal society. I hope that 2012 will be the year when Ethiopia, Sweden and I will learn to embrace ambiguity while facing the world with open eyes and minds, hoping to find new and creative ways to tackle 150-year-old issues. And, hopefully, Persson and Schibbye, who have decided to seek pardon instead of appealing their sentence, as well as Isaak, from whom no one has heard in years, will be reunited with their families.
Article: By KATARINA HEDRéN
Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://mg.co.za/article/2012-03-09-trapped-in-a-soured-relationship
URJII 01 March 2012
His Excellency Mr. Jens Stoltenberg
Prime minister of Norway
Postboks 8001 Dep,
0030 Oslo, Norway
Feb 29, 2012
Your Excellency Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg,
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is writing this letter in an attempt to bring to your attention the case of 400 refugees from Ethiopia who were dined political asylum in Norway, and the agreement recently signed between the Ethiopian and the Norwegian governments in relation to the case of those refuges. The agreement, which appears to have been politically motivated, aims at returning the 400 refugees to Ethiopia. Norway has a proud tradition of providing shelter for refugees from the Horn of Africa, including thousands of Oromo nationals, who fled their homeland to escape extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, disappearances, and imprisonments. We thank the government and the people of Norway for welcoming the victims of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, especially Oromo nationals, who were forced to flee their homeland in search of safety and security. We are truly disheartened and greatly alarmed by the prospect of those very refugees to be returned to Ethiopia, where the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia are subjected to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without trial, denials of job opportunities due to political reasons, confiscation of property without compensation and extrajudicial execution without any due process of law.
We believe that none of the 400 refugees will return to Ethiopia voluntarily. This means, if the recent agreement between Norway and Ethiopia is implemented, their return would be involuntarily, which is equivalent to deportation. We also believe that those refugees, if returned, would undoubtedly be facing all sorts of extrajudicial punishments. So, we now request that those refugees who were denied political asylum be allowed to stay in Norway until such a time when a government that believes in the rule of law, respects human as well as democratic rights of all nations and nationalities is established in Ethiopia. We presume that, as the Prime Minister of Norway – the beckon of hope for the survival of those refugees, and as a head of state of one of the politically and diplomatically respected nations of the world, you very well understand that have a huge moral responsibility not to allow the deportation of those refugees to Ethiopia.
The Honorable Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg,
Although Oromia, the Oromo regional state in Ethiopia, is autonomous on paper, the Oromos have never been allowed to have any meaningful voice in the affairs of their own state, which is totally controlled by the ruling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is the leader of the TPLF, an organization that represents not more than 8 percent of the population of Ethiopia, while the Oromos, who constitute the single largest national group in Ethiopia and the third largest in the whole of Africa, are denied the basic democratic right to freely organize and democratically express their political opinions. Today, it is a serious crime that results in severe punishments such as death penalty and life imprisonment, under the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, to support and/or sympathize with any political organization that is independent of the ruling TPLF/EPRDF Party. As the underlying principle of this ruling party “You Are With Us; or Against Us” goes, any individual, group, or organization outside this umbrella of TPLF/EPRDF is always deemed “a terrorist”. The goal for such characterization is to persecute members, supporters, and/or sympathizers of any non-TPLF/EPRDF political organization under what is known as “anti-terror law”, which was intentionally made for this particular purpose under the guise of the international agenda of war on terror. Likewise, those refugees would undoubtedly be facing such harsh political punishments should they be forced to return to Ethiopia.
As reported by several local, regional, and international human rights and diplomatic organizations including the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Ethiopian Human Rights Council, the Oromia Support Group, Survival International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Commission of Jurors, the U.S. State Department Annual Human Rights Report, the European Parliament, and our own agency the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa, under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s regime, hundreds of thousands of members of various nationalities have been condemned to imprisonments of varying lengths, thousands have been killed extra judicially, and as a result, hundreds of thousands others have fled the country. What is more, even those who temporarily avoided such extrajudicial persecutions by fleeing the country are continuously being hunted in neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa. Again as reported by those human rights organizations mentioned above, there have been hundreds of cases of kidnappings and forced deportations back to Ethiopian. There have also been some cases of extrajudicial killings by armed security agents of the Ethiopian Government, one case in point being that of Mr. Jatani Ali, that happened in Nairobi, Kenya in 1994.
In light of what has been briefly stated above, which is a tip of an iceberg in terms of massive human rights violations which forced so many Oromos and other nationals to flee their homeland, HRLHA appeals to you not to implement the agreement recently signed between Norway and Ethiopia. We believe no calling is more urgent and noble, and no responsibility is greater to your Excellency at this moment than averting the deportation of those 400 individuals from Norway to Ethiopia. We request that your administration set an example by using its enormous influence to put political, economic and diplomatic pressure upon the Ethiopian government so that it would start seeking peaceful settlement for its internal political instabilities.
Finally, we kindly request you, using this extraordinary opportunity of being a head of state of such respected country, to help bring to an end such human sufferings in Ethiopia. And, the first concrete step in that direction is by not implementing the recently signed agreement with the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
“We Fight for Human Rights”
Garoma Wakessa ;- Executive Director