Saturday, July 28, 2012

Will Ethiopian crackdown stir Islamist backlash? -

With arms raised and wrists crossed, silent Muslim worshippers surrounding the largest mosque inAddis AbabaEthiopia's capital, again today peacefully protested what they call a violent government response to legitimate demands.
The act of civil disobedience from Muslims, who constitute at least one-third of the population, is a rare sign of instability in a country seen by USpolicymakers as a bulwark against radical Islam in the volatile Horn of Africa region.
Last month, members of a committee mediating the dispute over perceived unconstitutional state interference in Islamic affairs were taken into custody, while unrest broke out on two occasions around separate mosques in the city of around 5 million people.
"We are showing solidarity with leaders who have been arrested but who are strong," says a demonstrator named Mohammed, referring to the vigil latched onto the end of midday prayers at Anwar Mosque. "They should be released; they were arrested for nothing." Moments later, nervous friends ushered him away.
Through military interventions in neighboring Somalia, crackdowns against a separatist movement in its Muslim-majority Ogaden region, and now the detention of Muslim activists in its capital, Ethiopia has taken on a role as front-line defense against the spread of political Islam in East Africa. It's a stance that broadly enjoys support from the West and neighboring countries, but some observers argue that Ethiopia's hard line may be creating a backlash, strengthening the appeal of insurgents whom it is battling to suppress.
Human rights group Amnesty International called on the Ethiopian government this week to either formally charge or to release those currently in detention. Amnesty also called on the Ethiopian government to investigate allegations of torture of detainees, to allow peaceful protest, and to use "proportionality in the use of force" against demonstrators who turn violent. 
For its part, the Ethiopian government justifies its actions by saying that the real troublemakers are a tiny minority of foreign-influence Salafi extremists. 
"This group actually deals day and night to create an Islamic state," says Shiferaw Teklemariam, the minister responsible for religious affairs. "This in the Ethiopian context is totally forbidden and against the constitution."
Activists scoff at the accusations. Ethiopia is a secular, multi-ethnic state, where Orthodox Christians predominate, they say. How could any Islamist group hope to create an Islamic state in such a country? The dismissal is seconded by Terje Østebø, an academic at the Center for African Studies and Department of Religion, University of Florida, who studies Islam in the Horn of Africa. He says that Ethiopia's historically oppressed Muslims are enthusiastic backers of the current secular system.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ethiopia barred domestic workers to UAE over right abuses - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

July 26, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - The Ethiopian government has banned its citizens from becoming domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to stop the widespread rights abuse and inhumane treatment Ethiopian workers face in the Middle East.

The ban will remain imposed until an agreement that ensures the rights of citizens is reached with agencies at home and concerned bodies in the UAE.

Ethiopia’s Consular General in UAE, Mesganu Arga, said the temporary suspension is aimed at rooting out unscrupulous recruiters and abuses in the gulf nation.

"We have suspended labour from Ethiopia to the UAE because a number of recruitment agencies are working illegally," said Arga.

"We want an agreement with the UAE that ensures our nationals’ rights."

The Consul-General further said that his office in Dubai, which is the only Ethiopian mission in UAE, receives five to ten complaints a day on a number of matters such as on unpaid salaries and physical abuse.

Under Ethiopian law, sponsors are required to provide medical insurance and pay employee a minimum monthly wage of Dh660. All contracts have to be sent to the Labour Ministry in Addis Ababa, which provides workers with an ID card to work overseas.

A lot of Ethiopians are brought to UAE without proper work contracts or insurance, and most face hardship.

Every year thousands of Ethiopian women make an economic migration to the Arab world seeking lucrative jobs but are subjected to cruel beatings, other forms of torture and are denied their wages.

Others are thrown out of high-rise windows, face sexual abuse and are forced to work hard without sleep. Many end up mentally ill while others prefer to commit suicide.

Many return home with horror stories and allege to being treated like slaves.

According to the Consul, there are an estimated 100,000 Ethiopians in the UAE but only one agency is known to be legally recruiting Ethiopian workers. Last week, Ethiopia has banned dozens of illegal recruitment agencies based in the capital.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Huge Silent Protest of Ethiopian Muslims at The Grand Anwar Mosque on July 20/2012 - YouTube

Huge Silent Protest of Ethiopian Muslims at The Grand Anwar Mosque on July 20/2012 - YouTube: ""

'via Blog this'

Ethiopian police clash with Muslim protesters at Anwar Mosque arrests made

Ethiopian police clashed on Saturday with scores of Muslims protesters complaining that the state is interfering in their religion, witnesses and officials said.

The protesters, some wearing masks, blocked the entrance of the Anwar Mosque in the west of the capital Addis Ababa and hurled stones at riot police who had surrounded the compound after noon prayers. 

The protesters say the government is promoting the ideas of the group through Ethiopia's highest Muslim body, the Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs, and preventing overdue elections that could bring alternative views onto the Council.

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said police had arrested "several" people on Saturday but denied that police had used teargas. Activists have reported several deaths during previous clashes, but no casualties were reported on Saturday.

Each Ethiopian Jewish Soldier will have a Mentor - Defense/Security - News - Israel National News

Personnel Branch is planning a project to help Ethiopian soldiers in their initial steps in IDF.
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By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/20/2012, 3:12 PM

Soldiers (file)
Soldiers (file)
Israel news photo: Flash 90
Those who call Israel a racist state may not like to hear it, but the IDF's Personnel Branch is planning to help Ethiopian-Jewish soldiers take their steps in the military by giving each of them a mentor. The mentors will be selected from the IDF's permanent professional corps ("Tzva Keva").
Major General Orna Barbivai, Head of Personnel Branch, told the IDFWebsite that "the idea is to take Tzva Keva staff from the [Personnel] Branch, on all levels, and to connectthem as a kind of mentor or companion to the soldier from the stage where he is a candidate for enlistment."
Officers and NCOs will accompany the soldiers through the training stages until they are integrated into their units.
During a visit to an Education Corps base on the occasion of the completion of a course in Hebrew, Maj. Gen. Barbivai told Ethiopian Jewish soldiers: "We are committed to the success of the members of the Ethiopian community. You have influence in the army and in society, and it is our job to ensure your success. I expect that you carry out a meaningful service out of the understanding that the IDF needs your influence and your contribution to this generation."
 In a conversation with the Head Education Officer, Brig. Gen. Eli Sharmeister, and Educational  Corps commanders, Maj. Gen. Barbivai noted that she is "disturbed" by the relatively high proportion of Ethiopian Jewish soldiers in the military jails. "We must carry out steps of prevention and not just try to fix things retroactively," she explained.
The IDF Website has published official statistics that indicate Ethiopian Jews make up 11% of the prisoners in military jails – more than four times their relative size in the general population of IDF soldiers

Human Rights Watch raise concerns over Kenya, Ethiopia Gibe III dam project. | Bloggers Association Of Kenya

Human Rights Watch raise concerns over Kenya, Ethiopia Gibe III dam project.

Human Rights Watch raise concerns over Kenya, Ethiopia Gibe III dam project.

Ethiopian herders at the lower end of the Omo river where the controversial dam Gibe III is set to be built Kenya’s quest to get power from Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam project by 2014
may receive a setback after Human Rights Watch wrote to World Bank, a major
financier against the project. The rights watchdog have written to WB saying they should stall the
funding of the 1,000 kilometer transmission line to the country from the 240m
high dam, tallest in Africa, in Southern Ethiopia with a capacity to produce
1,870 megawatts of electricity citing abuse of human rights. But yesterday Thursday WB agreed to fund the project even though it
doesn't meet its project assessment.  “The World Bank should ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples
and the environment are rigorously protected before funding a power
transmission line connecting Kenya to the controversial dam in Ethiopia” Human
Rights Watch said in a letter to President Jim Yong Kim ahead of Thursday
meeting on the project. “The World Bank shouldn’t think that it’s fine to fund a transmission line
while closing its eyes to abuses at the power source, where rights of hundreds
of thousands of indigenous people are threatened by the Gibe III dam without
protection ” Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions
advocate at HRW said in statement posted on their website. The project is set to double Ethiopia's
current power generating capacity which will see excess power being exported to
neighboring countries like Kenya whose 80 percent of the population don’t have
access to electricity. Apart from exporting the power, the
Ethiopian government is going to use power from the dam supplied by the Omo
River which also gives 90% of Lake Turkana water, to supply electricity for her
245,000 hectares of state-run irrigated sugar plantations and other projects. According to HRW “the dam and related
agricultural plans are also likely to dramatically decrease water levels in
Kenya’s Lake Turkana to further increasing competition over scarce resources
for the additional 300,000 indigenous people who live around Lake Turkana.” The
statement says. 
The site of the Gibe III dam Apart from Kenya there have been serious
implications of Ethiopia’s sugar plantations project where over 200,000
indigenous residents of the Lower Omo have been forcefully relocate by security
forces to affect the loss of grazing land and cultivation sites as they rely on
the 760KM long Omo River for their survival. “State security forces have used intimidation,
assaults and arbitrary arrests when people questioned the relocation or
refused to move even though The United Nations in 1980 named the area a World
Heritage because of its special cultural and physical significance” the
statement says. WB requires that projects it funds should
follow and mitigate against adverse environmental and social impacts especially
if it will affect loss of livelihood by calling on adequate compensation to at
least maintain their previous living standard. “WB is set to undermine these policies by
approving the power transmission line to Kenya with the source of energy highly
questionable” the statement says adding that environmental and social
assessment should be done on the project on indigenous people before funding the
transmission line. Jim Yong Kim the 12th WB
president who took the office on July 1 is faced with his first big test to
commitment to human rights and environment issue on the funding of the
transmission line to Kenya.  “Kim should show the people of Ethiopia
and Kenya that he will stand for their rights. That means not letting this
project proceed until the bank has taken adequate steps to prevent serious harm
to peoples’ rights and livelihoods” Evans, the HRW official says. ©Manuel Odeny 2012

Ethiopian woman says she escaped captivity from Melbourne home | FLORIDA TODAY |

An Ethiopian woman told Melbourne police she escaped abuse Wednesday evening after officers found her at Melbourne First Baptist church on Dairy Road.
According to police records, investigators suspect she may be a victim of human trafficking. She was carrying an Ethiopian passport and was not injured.
“In my experience, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an instance of human trafficking locally,” said Sgt. Sheridan Shelley, who has served for 11 years.
They struggled to understand the woman, who could not speak English. They telephoned a translator service and were able to learn that the woman, 36, had been in the country for about 90 days working for a Kuwaiti family in Melbourne.
She said she worked for a different family in Ethiopia, who brought her to Kuwait and introduced her to the Kuwaitis, who brought her to London and then on to Melbourne to work as a maid.
Police said she told them, through an interpreter, she was treated badly and was not fed or paid as promised. Police said she told them she had been abused and forbidden from leaving the home.
On Wednesday night, she told police, she slipped out of the home while it was vacant and found her way to a home on Coventry Circle, near West Melbourne, where she was taken in and brought to the church, where she was fed.
Police said they aren’t sure where she was being held. Federal investigators are talking to the Kuwaiti family. No arrests have been made.
The case was handed over to agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We’re still early on in the investigation,” said Nestor Yglesias, a spokesperson for ICE.
Investigators will try to determine whether she is a victim of human trafficking. They’ll figure out how to provide her help if she is a victim. They’ll look into how she got into the country and what she was doing in Melbourne.
“Every case is different,” Yglesias said. “There are a number of things we have to do.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ethiopia rocked by massive Muslim protests-Daily Maverick -

Ethiopia: Counterterrorism As Pretext

On July 13 an Ethiopian court handed down heavy prison sentences to six journalists convicted on vague terrorism charges. Award-winning blogger Eskinder Nega got an 18-year term; the others live in exile and were sentenced in absentia.
This was the latest in a series of repressive actions by the Ethiopian government against journalists taken under the sweeping Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009. This is a particularly blatant example of the use of counterterrorism as a pretext, as similar over-broad counterterrorism legislation continues to proliferate in countries around the world.
This kind of abuse is distinct from the serious abuses of human rights and international law by governments, including the United States and many other countries, taken in the course of actions against violent groups that are accurately described as terrorists. Vague definitions of terrorism, in addition, allow the use of counterterrorism laws to repress opponents guilty of nothing more than free expression or other peaceful opposition to incumbent governments.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a selection of articles and documents on the latest case in Ethiopia, including an op-ed by scholar Tobias Hoffman, press statements by the U.S. Department of State, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Human Rights Watch, and a report on critiques presented earlier this year by UN human rights experts.
Despite the fact that the U.S. State Department joined in the critique of Ethiopia's action, there seems little prospect that the United States or other leading international donors will put significant pressure on the Ethiopian government to stop such practices. According to the latest statistics, for 2008-2010, Ethiopia ranked first among African countries in the volume of Official Development Assistance received. Ethiopia also remains a key military partner of the United States in actions against Al Shabaab in Somalia.
An extensive background report by Human Rights Watch in 2010 documented how aid is used in Ethiopia a tool to support repression. / direct URL:
For regular critical commentary on the repressive political situation in Ethiopia, see the Monday Commentaries by Alemayehu G. Mariam at
The text of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009 is available at
The latest statistics on official development assistance to Africa show that Ethiopia is the top recipient, with an average of 3.559 billion in aid a year over the period 2008-2010.
While the abuse of counterterrorism laws in Ethiopia is extreme, the phenomenon is worldwide, as documented in a June 2012 report by Human Rights Watch entitled "In the Name of Security: Counterterrorism Laws Worldwide since September 11," documenting the widespread enactment of laws against terrorism with multiple scope for violation of international standards on human rights and due process, notably including vague and over-broad definitions of terrorism. For the full 112-page report, visit
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Ethiopia, visit -- Editor's Note
Supporting Stability, Abetting Repression
By Tobias Hoffman
New York Times, July 11, 2012 / direct URL:
Tobias Hagmann specializes in East African politics. He is a visiting scholar at the Department of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley.
Berkeley, California - Next time I travel to Ethiopia, I may be arrested as a terrorist. Why? Because I have published articles about Ethiopian politics.
I wrote a policy report on Ethiopia's difficulties with federalism. I gave a talk in which I questioned Ethiopia's May 2010 elections, in which the ruling EPRDF party (Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front) won 545 out of 547 seats in the Parliament. As part of my ongoing research on mass violence in the Somali territories, I interviewed members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist rebel group in eastern Ethiopia that the government has designated as a terrorist organization.
In the eyes of the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, my work is tantamount to subversion. Not only do his officials have zero tolerance for criticism, they consider people who either talk to or write about the opposition as abetting terrorists.
In recent years the government has effectively silenced opposition parties, human rights organizations, journalists and researchers. On June 27 a federal court convicted the journalist Eskinder Nega and 23 opposition politicians for 'participation in a terrorist organization.' More than 10 other journalists have been charged under an anti-terrorism law introduced in 2009. Among them are two Swedes, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, who are serving an 11-year prison sentence in Ethiopia. Hundreds of opposition supporters languish in prisons for exercising the very democratic rights that the Ethiopian Constitution nominally protects.
Most people outside Ethiopia associate the country with famine and poverty. They know little about the country's history and politics - for example that Ethiopia was never colonized, or that it has Africa's second biggest population. Nor are they aware that Ethiopia is a darling of the donor community, receiving more aid than any other African country. Over the past year alone, the U.S. Agency for International Development has given Ethiopia $675 million in aid. The United States closely collaborates with Ethiopia in covert missions against radical Islamists in neighboring Somalia.
Much of this support comes from the portrayal of Ethiopia as a strong and stable government in a region riddled with political upheaval. The problem, however, is that Ethiopia is plagued by too much state control.
When EPRDF came to power in 1991, it promised to democratize the country. Two decades later the party has a tight grip on all public institutions, from the capital to remote villages. Formally a federal democracy, Ethiopia is a highly centralized one-party state. No independent media, judiciary, opposition parties or civil society to speak of exist in today's Ethiopia. Many of the country's businesses are affiliated with the ruling party. Most Ethiopians do not dare to discuss politics for fear of harassment by local officials.
As I found out in dozens of interviews with Ethiopian Somalis, security forces indiscriminately kill, imprison and torture civilians whom they suspect of aiding Ogaden rebels.
How have donors who fund about one third of Ethiopia's budget and many humanitarian programs reacted to this? They haven't. They not only continue to support the Ethiopian government but in recent years have increased their aid. The West, most prominently the United States and the European Union, have concluded a strange pact with Meles Zenawi: So long as his government produces statistics that evince economic growth, they are willing to fund his regime - whatever its human rights abuses.
This policy is wrong, shortsighted and counterproductive. It is wrong because billions in Western tax money are spent to support an authoritarian regime. It is shortsighted because it ignores the fact that the absence of basic rights and freedoms is one of the reasons Ethiopians are so poor. It is counterproductive because many Ethiopians resent the unconditional aid and recognition given to their rulers. In Ethiopia - and also in Rwanda and Uganda - the West is once again making the mistake of rewarding stability and growth while closing its eyes to repression.
Ethiopia sentences Eskinder, 5 others on terror charges
Committee to Protect Journalists
Nairobi, July 13, 2012--An Ethiopian court today handed down heavy prison sentences to six journalists convicted on vague terrorism charges, local journalists and news reports said. Award-winning blogger Eskinder Nega got an 18-year term; the others live in exile and were sentenced in absentia.
"The court has given due considerations to the charges and the sentences are appropriate," presiding Judge Endeshaw Adane told a packed courtroom at the Lideta Federal High Court in the capital, Addis Ababa, as he issued sentences for 24 defendants, including the journalists, convicted of involvement in a vague terror plot, according to wire reports.
The judge accused veteran journalist Eskinder of participating in a terrorist organization, planning a terrorist act, and "working with the Ginbot 7 organization," a U.S.-based opposition group that the Ethiopian government formally designated a terrorist entity in 2011. The judge also accused Eskinder of wanting to incite anti-government protests in Ethiopia with online articles discussing the Arab Spring. Authorities have detained Eskinder at least eight times during Meles Zenawi's two decades as prime minister, according to CPJ research.
Exiled journalists Mesfin Negash and Abiye Teklemariam received eight years each based on accusations of making information about Ginbot 7 available to Ethiopians through their news website, Addis Neger Online.
Abebe Gellaw of the U.S.-based Addis Voice and Abebe Belew of U.S.-based Internet radio station Addis Dimts were each sentenced in absentia to 15 years, and Fasil Yenealem got a life sentence, based on their activities with pro-opposition exiled broadcaster Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), which government prosecutors described in court documents as "the voice of the terrorist organization Ginbot 7."
All of the journalists have professed their innocence, according to news reports. Violations of fundamental principles of fairness, such as the presumption of innocence, undermined the credibility of the trial, according to legal experts and CPJ research.
Defense lawyer Abebe Guta told Agence France-Presse the defense would appeal.
"The harsh sentences handed down to Eskinder and five other journalists on baseless terrorism charges tell the rest of the press corps that critical coverage of the government is an act of terrorism," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "The international community should rebuke Ethiopia for using the cover of terrorism to deny its citizens the fundamental right to free expression."
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, three U.N. special rapporteurs, the U.S. State Department, members of the U.S. Senate , and the European Union have expressed concern at Ethiopia's use of its far-reaching antiterrorism law to criminalize fundamental rights guaranteed under the Ethiopian constitution.
Fasil, who has continued to practice journalism from exile, had already been sentenced in absentia to life in prison in 2009 on anti-state charges based on his affiliation with Ginbot 7. "For the second time, I am sentenced to life in prison. What can I say about this verdict? Do I have two souls to serve both sentences on earth, or is the latest one reserved for the other world?" he told CPJ today.
"The central goal of the charge is cutting us from our home and warning journalists and other critical voices to remain silent," Mesfin told CPJ.
Ethiopian Court's Sentencing in Anti-Terrorism Trial
Press Statement Victoria Nuland Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
July 14, 2012
The United States remains deeply concerned about the trial, conviction, and sentencing of Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, as well as seven political opposition figures, under the country's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The sentences handed down today, including 18 years for Eskinder and life imprisonment for the opposition leader Andualem Arage, are extremely harsh and reinforce our serious questions about the politicized use of Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law in this and other cases.
The Ethiopian government has used the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to jail journalists and opposition party members for peacefully exercising their freedoms of expression and association. This practice raises serious concerns about the extent to which Ethiopians can rely upon their constitutionally guaranteed rights to afford the protection that is a fundamental element of a democratic society.
We reiterate our call for the Government of Ethiopia to stop stifling freedom of expression and we urge the release of those who have been imprisoned for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Ethiopia: Terrorism Law Used to Crush Free Speech: Donors Should Condemn Verdicts, Demand Legal Reforms
Human Rights Watch
June 27, 2012
July 13, 2012 UPDATE: On July 13 Eskinder was sentenced to 18 years in prison. His lawyer said he will appeal.
(Nairobi) - Ethiopian high court on June 27, 2012, convicted 24 journalists, political opposition leaders, and others under Ethiopia's deeply flawed anti-terrorism law, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Ethiopian government should immediately drop all politically motivated charges against the defendants and amend the law's most pernicious provisions, which are being used to criminalize free expression and peaceful dissent, Human Rights Watch said.
In the third high-profile "terrorism" verdict in the past six months, Eskinder Nega Fenta, an independent journalist and blogger, was one of six journalists convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009. Their sentencing is expected on July 13.
Eskinder Nega, who was recently honored with the prestigious PEN America press freedom award, is in detention in Addis Ababa, and was convicted of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, which carries a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment or death,as well as participation in a terrorist organization and treason. The other five journalists were convicted in absentia. A total of 11 journalists have been charged or convicted under the antiterrorism law since December 2011, including two Swedish journalists who were arrested while trying to investigate the conflict in Ethiopia's eastern Somali region.
"This case shows that Ethiopia's government will not tolerate even the mildest criticism," said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The use of draconian laws and trumped-up charges to crack down on free speech and peaceful dissent makes a mockery of the rule of law."
Members of the political opposition were also among those convicted under the law on June 27.
Andualem Arage Wale and Nathnael Mekonnen Gebre Kidan, prominent members of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), a registered opposition political party, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts as well as participation in a terrorist organization and treason as was Kinfemichael Debebe Bereded, a member of the All Ethiopian Democratic Party (AEDP).
The convictions bring the total known number of individuals convicted of terrorism-related charges to 34, including 11 journalists, at least 4 opposition supporters and 19 others.
The anti-terrorism law's most problematic provisions were used during this trial, Human Rights Watch said.
Two of the journalists tried in absentia, Mesfin Negash and Abiye Tekle Mariam, were convicted under the law's article on support for terrorism, which contains a vague prohibition on "moral support." This provision is contrary to the principle of legality, which requires that people be able to determine what acts would constitute a crime. Only journalists have been charged and convicted under this article.
All of the 24 defendants were initially charged with "terrorist acts." Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised concerns over the law's broad definition of "terrorist acts," which can be used to prosecute lawful, peaceful dissent. Similarly, all defendants were initially charged with "encouragement of terrorism," which includes the publication of statements "likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts," a provision that Human Rights Watch has warned could be used against government critics and journalists who even publish the names of organizations or individuals deemed to be terrorists.
"The Ethiopian government is using every means at its disposal to shut down press freedom," Lefkow said. "Ethiopia's international partners should immediately call for the release of the many journalists and opposition supporters unlawfully prosecuted, and for the revision of the law that put them behind bars."
Ethiopian courts have little independence from the government. As in earlier terrorism trials, the trial of the 24 was marred by serious due process violations, Human Rights Watch said. The defendants had no access to legal counsel during almost two months of pre-trial detention and complaints of mistreatment and torture by defendants were not appropriately investigated.
Nathnael Mekonnen told the court that during his pre-trial detention he was tortured for 23 days, including being beaten, forced to stand for hours upon end, deprived of sleep, and having cold water repeatedly poured over him at the notorious Maekelawi facility. His complaints were not investigated. According to credible sources, Andualem Arage lodged a complaint after he was beaten by a convicted prisoner on February 15 in Kaliti prison, but his complaint was dismissed. The court prevented further questioning by defense attorneys and accepted as fact the response by the prison administrator that contradicted Andualem's claims, without further investigation.
Furthermore, the Ethiopian authorities and government media have repeatedly undermined defendants' presumption of innocence. In October 2011 Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told the Ethiopian parliament that the journalists and political opposition members arrested under the law were guilty of terrorism.
In late November state-run Ethiopian Television (ETV) broadcast a three-part program called "Akeldama" ("Land of Blood") in which several of the defendants, including Andualem Arage and Nathnael Mekonnen, were filmed in detention, seemingly under duress, describing their alleged involvement in what the documentary brands a "terrorist plot." Allegations were also made against Eskinder Nega. The court reportedly dismissed the complaints of due process violations against the defendants on the grounds that the video footage was not produced as evidence by the prosecutor.
The same court later charged the editor of the independent weekly newspaper Feteh, Temesghen Desalegn, of contempt of court for having among other things reproduced verbatim statements made by a defendant. The courts in Ethiopia have little independence from the government.
"The courts trying cases under the anti-terrorism law have repeatedly run roughshod over the rights of defendants," Lefkow said. "Judicial independence has all but vanished in any politically sensitive case in Ethiopia."
Ethiopia's anti-terrorism laws must not be misused to curb rights - UN
United Nations News Centre
2 February 2012 - A group of independent United Nations human rights experts today spoke out against the ongoing use of anti-terrorism laws to curb freedom of expression in Ethiopia, where several journalists were recently given prison sentences under such legislation.
"Journalists play a crucial role in promoting accountability of public officials by investigating and informing the public about human rights violations," said Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression. "They should not face criminal proceedings for carrying out their legitimate work, let alone be severely punished."
A week ago, three journalists and two opposition politicians were given prison sentences ranging from 14 years to life imprisonment under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism laws. This followed the sentencing of two Swedish journalists to 11 years in prison in December, a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated.
Another 24 defendants are scheduled to appear in court next month, for various charges under the anti-terrorism law, several of whom may face the death sentence if convicted.
Ben Emmerson, the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, said that "the anti-terrorism provisions should not be abused and need to be clearly defined in Ethiopian criminal law to ensure that they do not go counter to internationally guaranteed human rights."
The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, emphasized that "journalists, bloggers and others advocating for increased respect for human rights should not be subject to pressure for the mere fact that their views are not in alignment with those of the Government."
She voiced concern at the case of Eskinder Nega, a blogger and human rights defender who may face the death penalty if convicted. Mr. Nega has been advocating for reform on the issue of the right to assemble peacefully in public.
Similarly, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, cautioned against the ongoing campaign of harassment against associations expressing dissenting views, while Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, deplored the reported failure to ensure the defendants' right to a fair trial.
The experts called on the Ethiopian Government to respect the concerned individuals' fundamental rights, especially their right to a fair trial, and reiterated the need to apply anti-terrorism legislation cautiously and in accordance with the country's international human rights obligations.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Key U.S. Outcomes at the UN Human Rights Council 20th Session

Fact Sheets:

By Newsroom America Feeds at 7 Jul 09:55
Key U.S. Outcomes at the UN Human Rights Council 20th Session

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 7, 2012

The 20th Session of the Human Rights Council underscored the broadening scope and efficacy of the Council, while highlighting the instrumental role of United States engagement with a diverse range of countries from all regions of the world to address urgent human rights concerns. U.S. leadership kept the Council at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights in Syria, and the passing of a resolution on the equal right to nationality for women and children. With our strong support, the Council passed a historic resolution on Internet freedom, and created of special rapporteurs on Belarus and Eritrea. Though much work remains, in particular ending the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel, U.S. engagement since joining the Human Rights Council has made it a more effective and credible multilateral forum for promoting and protecting human rights.
Belarus: The Council took a first step last year on the human rights situation in Belarus by passing a resolution that called for a written report on Belarus, but the continued lack of cooperation by Belarus with HRC mechanisms and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the further drastic degradation of the human rights situation highlighted the need to take more robust action. After close collaboration between the United States and the European Union and intense lobbying before and during this session, the HRC voted to create the special rapporteur on Belarus, re-creating a mandate that was eliminated in 2006.
Eritrea: Nigeria, Djibouti and Somalia led the Council to create a special rapporteur on Eritrea. This independent human rights expert will focus urgent attention on a critical human rights situation. Eritreans remain victimized by one of the world’s most repressive governments. They suffer arbitrary and indefinite detention; inhumane conditions of confinement; torture; restrictions on freedom of speech, movement, and belief; and indefinite forced labor in national service. The United States co-sponsored this important resolution along with a cross-regional group of supporters. This is the first time the HRC has unanimously created a special rapporteur that was actively opposed by the country in question, showing both the increased credibility of the Council, the leadership o the African Group, and the international community’s concern over human rights violations in Eritrea.
Syria: The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria provided an oral report at this session, including its initial findings from an investigation of the May 25 Houla massacre. The United States, with the support of cross-regional partners, including Turkey, presented a resolution that maintained the focus on Syria and underscored the need to continue the Commission of Inquiry’s work to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law as the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.
Israel: While the biased Israel-specific agenda item unfortunately still exists, we are pleased that there were no resolutions tabled under this item during this session. However, the HRC President did name the members of the Fact Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements, created in March. As reflected by our vote against this measure at the March session, the United States strongly opposed the creation of the Fact Finding Mission.
Internet Freedom: The United States was proud to work closely with the main sponsor, Sweden, and over 80 co-sponsors, including Brazil, Turkey, Nigeria, and Tunisia, to help unanimously pass a landmark resolution that underscores that all individuals are entitled to the same human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression, online as they are offline, and that all governments must protect those rights regardless of the medium. We will continue to work with our partners to address challenges to online freedom, and to ensure that human rights are protected in the public square of the 21st century.
The Right to a Nationality: This resolution, which the United States led with Botswana, Colombia, Mexico, Iraq, Turkey, and Slovakia, aimed to address an important but under-recognized human right, the right to a nationality, with a specific focus on women and children. The equal right to a nationality for women, including the ability to acquire and retain nationality and confer it on their children, reduces the likelihood that women and children will become stateless and vulnerable to serious harm. This is the first time that the Human Rights Council has addressed the issue of discriminatory nationality laws targeting women. In total there were 49 co-sponsors supporting the resolution, with representation from every geographical region. This resolution supports the Secretary’s initiative to promote women’s equal right to nationality, which emphasizes that women’s rights are human rights.

PRN: 2012/1108

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Ethiopian refugee builds new life for self, others -Human Right Watch

With a record number of Ethiopian refugees entering Yemen last year, aid groups scramble to meet the needs of those fleeing war, political persecution, famine and drought. Lost in the statistics are the personal stories of the people who make the arduous journey to Yemen. Kirubel Lemma, 32, left his native Ethiopia in 2001, and he shares his story with the Yemen Times.
From the Beginning
The son of a mechanic, Lemma was born in Addis Ababa, the middle child in a family of eight. In high school, he was accused of participating in the 2000-2001 student protests against the Ethiopian government. The studentswere demonstrating for academic freedom.
According to Human Rights Watch, Ethiopian security forces responded with “excessive force,” and at least 47 students died. Eyewitnesses reported that security forces fired live ammunition at unarmed students and beat women and children.
ethiopians refugeesHundreds were arrested and held in secret prisons. Lemma, who says he was not political at that time, was rounded up and taken to a secret prison on the border of Ethiopia and Somalia, where he was beaten and tortured regularly.
“One of the guards, Nasser, would make us walk on our knees, on the hot desert sand in 38 degree Celsius weather. I was interrogated every three days. He was always drunk and took out his frustrations on us.”
Lemma shared a cell with other political prisoners. There was little food—a piece of bread and plate of rice is all they ate each day. Denied mattresses, they slept on concrete floors.
Despite all this, Lemma says he was “the luckiest one.”While some languished for years in secret prisons, with the help of a policewoman he’d befriended, Lemma was released after three months.
Fearing another arbitrary arrest, he fled to Somalia, where he could finally contact his family. Because prisons holding student protesters were secret, police denied Lemma was in their custody. With dozens of students massacred by the security forces, his family had feared the worst.
A Difficult Journey
From Somalia, Lemma went to Djibouti and worked on a cargo dock for seven months so he could afford the journey to Aden, Yemen.
Human Rights Watch reports that, since 2008, “More than 100,000 people have set off to Yemen in boats from Djibouti or the Somali port city of Bosasso. More than 99 percent of them are Somalis and Ethiopians, and many are fleeing war or persection at home. Some have fled seeking protection as refugees, some are looking for work and hope to pass through Yemen to Saudi Arabia and other wealthy countries, and some have left for a combination of reasons.”
Lemma remembers the night of his voyage to Yemen vividly. There were 55 people on his boat, each with their own stories, with loved ones left behind, with dreams for a new life. Only 35 would survive the tumultuous trip; 20 people drowned that first night. Lemma was nearly one of them.
About 4km from shore, the smugglers forced all the passengers to jump off the boat and swim, fearing they would be caught if they came any closer.
“It’s dark, the waves beat you, and it’s raining. It’s a horrible night I’ll never forget in my life. When I remember it, I feel like I’m a child; I feel frightened. We didn’t even know what direction to swim in.”
Lemma said one passenger, about 20 years old, didn’t know how to swim and grabbed onto him. Lemma’s friend managed to separate the two, and Lemma was able to make it to shore with the help of Yemeni’s who threw him and his friend a rope attached to flotation devices.
“He’s dead now,” says Lemma of the boy who held on to him.
When he reached shore, a middle-aged man carried Lemma on his back.
“I was crying. They gave me sugar and water, and it helped with the vomiting. I had some money in a plastic bag attached to my belt loops, but they wouldn’t accept it. They said they did it for Allah.”
In the morning, he awoke to a limitless desert in front of him.
“Where did they come from?” he says, referring to the Yemeni men who had saved his life. “Where did they get sugar and water in the middle of the desert?”
They walked 4 hours in the hot sun before spotting a camel. Soon, they meta farmer who gave them bread and invited them to rest. He told Lemma he looked as though he had risen from the dead.
Prison Revisited
On their way to the nearest city and desperate for water, Lemma and his friend flagged down a police car. Unlike Somalis, who are granted automatic refugee status by the Yemeni government, Ethiopians are not recognized as asylum seekers, a “discriminatory policy that violates international law,” according to Human Rights Watch.
They were taken to Taiz Central Prison, where Lemma spent the next 6 months. He was visited by the Ethiopian embassy, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Red Cross.  The Ethiopian embassy told him to go back home, but UNHCR documented his story.
After teaching English to the children of the prison’s chairman, he was released with the Somalis. Other Ethiopians were deported.Lemma then hitchhiked to Aden to retrieve his protection papers from UNHCR. Although the U.N. officially recognized him as a refugee, the Yemeni government, whose policy toward Ethiopians is to “track them down, arrest them and deport them,” says Human Rights Watch, did not.
Al Kharaz Refugee Camp
Lemma spent only two days in Al Kharaz refugee camp. It’s a “hopeless place,” he says. There was little food, little water and long waits. After speaking with people who’d lived there for 3 to 5 years, Lemma left the camp with the clothes on his back, less than 48 hours after arriving.
“I didn’t see a future in the camp,” he says. “People had been waiting for a long time, and all they could do there was to keep waiting and hope that the world would start caring about them.”
A New Life
After arriving in Aden, the Ethiopian community took him in, and he found work as a receptionist in a hotel, thanks to his English language skills. Lemma taught himself English as a teenager, listening to hip-hop, reggae and country music. His favorite musician is country singer Don Williams. He starts to sing a few verses from his favorite song, “Come Early Morning”:
I been walking, walking in the moonlight
Tripping in the starlight, Lord and I’m feeling down
Walking in the shadows, sneaking down a side road
Come early morning I’ll be there on the edge of town
In 2003, with $4,000 in savings and family loans, Lemma opened Ethiopique, a music shop. He focused on international music and found a large customer base amongst the expat community in Sana’a.
“They were not only my customers, they became my friends,” Lemma says.
Lemma met his wife, a French woman, at a party he DJ’d, and she became a regular customer at his store. They fell in love and married, moving to Paris for a short while before returning to Yemen.
“She was reluctant to come back because she thought it would be too painful for me to return here. But I love Yemen. I spent my 20s here, I fell in love here, I married here … my destiny is to be here.”
Fighting for Justice
Lemma works to ensure that refugees—all people—can lead a life of dignity. He made a short documentary, “Young and Invisible,” and he wrote a booklet in partnership with the United Nations Development for Women (UNIFEM), called “Wake Up! A Guidebook for Domestic Workers in Yemen.”
He created a support group, United for the Improvement of Domestic Works (UNIDOM), with UNHCR, the Red Cross, UNDP and ILO. The group opened a safe house for women escaping abuse. It is the first safe house in Sana’a, according to Lemma.
UNIDOM also opened a school to educate workers about their rightsand teach skills such as cooking western food—domestic workers had complained that their lack of skills resulted in abuse from employers. The school taught 360 students and employed mostly Iraqi and Ethiopian refugees.
Forging Connections
Lemma nowruns the News@Cafe in Hadda, where students, musicians, refugees and qat-chewers gather. He’s preparing to open an Ethiopian cafe and art gallery called Sheger Café.
The cafe will display borrowed art from a collective in Ethiopia. All the artists are from the Diaspora, and their works have been featured in exhibitions in New York, Norway and Paris.
The cafe will be a place for people to learn about Ethiopian culture and life and to introduce people to modern Ethiopian painting. The restaurant will have shisha, various drinks, burgers and, on Thursday evenings, Ethiopian food.
Lemma will work with the Ethiopian community to make sure they have access to the space to discuss Diaspora issues, the plight of Ethiopian refugees, current events and life in Yemen.
Lemma is most excited when he lists the music his cafe will play: Bob Marley, Teddy Afro, Kenny Rodgers, Michael Jackson and plenty of Don Williams.
Music as Medicine
Despite all the difficulties and injustices Lemma has faced, he becomes most emotional when talks about the recent loss of his mother.
“She was my other anchor in life. When I lost her, I felt like I was lost at sea again … I felt disappointed in being a human. Why I am alive? Why did my mother die at 49? You don’t know the logic of this life.”
Music helped heal Lemma, helped save him, he said.
“I love music more than anything. It was the only medicine for me; it made me feel human again.”

Human rights watch