Friday, August 31, 2012

Human Rights Watch accuses Ethiopian army of ‘torture and rape’: TBIJ

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‘Villagization’: sounds a lot more benign that it really is (image: Shutterstock)
The Ethiopian military has been accused of conducting a campaign of arbitrary arrest, rape and torture against scores of villagers in the Gambella region of the country according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The accusations follow the recent death of Meles Zenawi the Ethiopian Prime Minister whose 20 year grip on power has attracted international condemnation.
Last year, a joint investigation by the Bureau and BBC Newsnight revealed how aid was being used as a weapon of political oppression.
In line with this, the international NGO says the attacks are linked to the government’s on-going ‘villagization’ policy.  The government is clearing hundreds of thousands of residents from their traditional lands to make way for commercial farms. HRW says the government has used threats, intimidation, and violence against those who resist moving.
It says that rape and torture have been used in a series of military reprisals following an attack on a large commercial farm earlier this year. On April 28, 2012, unidentified armed men attacked the compound of Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc., a company that has leased thousands of hectares of land for rice farming in Gambella region. The gunmen killed at least one Pakistani and four Ethiopian employees.
Gambella residents who have fled to South Sudan have been interviewed by Human Rights Watch. They told the NGO that in the following days and weeks, Ethiopian soldiers went house to house looking for the gunmen in villages near the Saudi Star camp, arbitrarily arresting and beating young men and raping female relatives of suspects.
‘The attack on Saudi Star was a criminal act but it does not justify reprisals against Gambella’s population,’ says Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director of Human Rights Watch has called for an independent inquiry. ‘The Ethiopian government should put an immediate end to abuses by the military in the region and investigate and prosecute soldiers found responsible for these heinous acts, regardless of rank,’  he says.
The Ethiopian government’s ‘villagization’ programme is a three-year plan to relocate 225,000 people in Gambella – and over 1.5 million people across four states nationally – from their existing villages into new settlements purportedly to better provide them with basic services.
Saudi Star confirmed to the Bloomberg news agency that the military has been active in the area and Federal Police have been guarding its operations since the attack. Saudi Star Chief Executive Fikru Desalegn said in a phone interview that the company has no information about the armed forces’ activities.
Ethiopia’s government routinely denies the advocacy group’s allegations of human rights abuses and says HRW is motivated by its ideological opposition to Ethiopia’s state-led development model.
The HRW report can be seen here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

ICC urged to investigate Rwanda president for arming DRC rebels | World War 4 Report

The International Criminal Court on Aug. 17 received requests to investigate Rwandan President Paul Kagame for backing armed rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Rwandan and Congolese advocacy groups opposed to Kagame's rule have alleged that the Rwandan leader is guilty of war crimes for helping to create and arm rebel groups in eastern DRC including M23, which has been conducting a mutiny in North Kivu province under the leadership of a particularly notorious group of human rights violators. The calls for an ICC investigation follow the release of a UN report last month detailing investigations since late 2011 that revealed substantial evidence that the Rwandan government helped create the rebel groups and supplied them with weapons, armor and recruits, including children. In June UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay estimated that the armed conflict between the DRC government and the M23 movement has displaced around 218,000 people from their homes since April, specifically mentioning five M23 leaders and describing them as the "worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the DRC, or in the world for that matter."

The unrest in the eastern part of the DRC has been a focus of the international community recently. Last month US Office of Global Criminal Justice (GCJ) leader Stephen Rapp announced that Rwandan leaders who armed the DRC rebels as alleged in the UN report may have committed war crimes by providing systematic military and political support groups known for committing human rights violations. The UN report was leaked to the media in late June. Foreign Policy magazine revealed information from the report in June but the Rwandan government rejected the allegations. Earlier that month Human Rights Watch (HRW)urged the Rwandan government to stop assisting accused DRC war criminal Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the ICC. In 2010 a UN report claimed that troops from Rwanda had committed crimes in the DRC that could amount to genocide.

From Jurist, Aug. 17. Used with permission.

See our last post on the struggle for Central Africa

NOTE: The M23 movement broke in April from the FARDC, Congo's official armed forces. They take their name from March 23, 2009, the date of the rebel CNDP's integration into the FARDC under a government-brokered deal which has now apparently broken down. (ReliefWeb, July 24; Al-Jazeera, July 12)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Woman says she was raped by two Eritreans in Tel Aviv | The Times of Israel

A woman was raped by two Eritrean men in broad daylight in Tel Aviv after they lured her into an abandoned building, police said on Thursday.
The incident happened on Wednesday but police only released information about the attack the next day.
The incident started when two Eritrean men stopped the 39-year-old in the street and asked her for assistance with a baby. The men led her to an abandoned building at 8 Hamasger Street and then dragged her inside. One of them raped her while the other kept guard at the entrance.
Map data ©2012 Mapa GISrael - Terms of Use
The woman struggled against her assailants, who beat her brutally, and then the second man attempted to rape her too. However, in the face of her continued struggles the men finally fled and she alerted the police.
Police units arrived at the scene and scoured the streets in the area together with the woman, a Kfar Saba resident, until she succeeded in identifying a 33-year-old Eritrean man as one of her attackers. Police arrested the man, who confessed to the crime during questioning. Units are searching for the second rapist.
Also on Thursday, Israeli media reported that a 51-year-old security guard was accused of raping a woman multiple times while at work.
The indictment filed in the Beersheba District Court accuses the guard of indecent assault, sexual harassment and other related offenses. The district attorney in charge of prosecuting the case recommended that the defendant be detained until a verdict is given.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

South Africa Deadly Apartheid police is alive and kicking opened live rounds on the striking platinum, miners for payment increase

At least nine killed as a result of violent protests between rival unions at platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg.
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2012 06:01
The act of the  post apartheid police on its miner brings back the old memory of brutality  back again. 

At least nine people, including two police officers, have died as a result of clashes between the members of two rival unions at a platinum mine in South Africa today.

Protests began on Friday at the mine when workers walked off the job over a salary dispute, Lonmin said in a statement on Monday.
Four workers from a rival union attempting to go to work were then attacked by the original strikers.
Angry protesters returned to the mine on Sunday, killing two security guards by setting their car on fire, authorities said.
Another two miners died on Monday in other attacks, police and company officials said.

Lesiba Seshoka, NUM's spokesman, said the fighting had shut down Lonmin's operation near Marikana.

"The situation is tense as we see the images all over the world.

Solidarity, a union that largely represents skilled white workers, said in a statement on Monday that three of its members had been injured in the protests.
The union also threatened to pull its workers from the site if calm was not restored.

The restive labour force is among many challenges facing the mining industry, which has been weakened by decades of under-investment.
A debate over nationalisation and other policy questions have created uncertainty that has scared off potential investors.

South Africa remains a major producer of platinum, coal and gold.

Lonmin, the world's third largest platinum producer, says 96 per cent of all of its production comes from its Marikana operations.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tunisian Olympians Targeted by Islamist Radicals

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- Islamist extremists have targeted twoTunisian Olympic medalists for behavior and dress seen as un-Islamic, as debate grows over the role of religion and women in the country that unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings.
Radicals on social media networks called on the government to strip Habiba Ghribi, the first Tunisian woman to win an Olympic medal, of her nationality because her running gear was too revealing. She won the silver in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
And a Facebook campaign by extremist group Ansar al Chariaa is targeting swimmer Oussama Mellouli for drinking juice before racing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Mellouli won gold in the 10-kilometer marathon and bronze in the 1,500-meter freestyle.
Tunisia is run by a moderate Islamist-led government that is facing increasing challenges from religious extremists.

Ethiopia: Prominent Muslims Detained in Crackdown | Human Rights Watch

AUGUST 15, 2012
The arrest of 17 prominent Muslims for exercising their basic rights to free speech is just the latest misuse of Ethiopia’s laws, and notably its anti-terrorism law. All those held should be immediately released unless the government can promptly produce credible evidence of unlawful activity.
Ben Rawlence, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch
(Nairobi) – The Ethiopian government should immediately release 17 prominent Muslim leaders arrested as part of a brutal crackdown on peaceful Muslim protesters in Addis Ababa, Human Rights Watch said today. A court is expected to rule during the week of August 13, 2012, on whether to bring charges against the detainees who have been held for almost three weeks in a notorious prison without access to lawyers.

Since July 13, Ethiopian police and security services have harassed, assaulted, and arbitrarily arrested hundreds of Muslims at Addis Ababa’s Awalia and Anwar mosques who were protesting government interference in religious affairs, Human Rights Watch said. Many have been released but at least 17 prominent members of the community arrested between July 19 and 21 remain in detention. A number of protesters who have been released told Human Rights Watch that they were mistreated in custody.

“The Ethiopian government should address the grievances of its Muslim community through dialogue, not violence,” said Ben Rawlence, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The security forces should be upholding the law, not breaking it.”

According to official figures, Muslims make up approximately 30 percent of Ethiopia’s population, the second largest religion in this historically Christian country.

The crackdown followed months of widespread peaceful protests, petitions, and appeals by the Muslim community in response to what they considered to be unconstitutional government interference in Muslim affairs. This included government attempts to determine the makeup of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs by imposing members of and the teachings of an Islamic sect known as al Ahbash on the community, and seeking to control the operations of Awalia mosque.

The Muslim community created a committee in January to represent it in discussions with the government. The 17 prominent Muslims currently detained include seven of the committee members, along with nine other religious leaders and activists, and at least one journalist. An additional six people, all members of the Awalia Student Council, were arrested the previous week.

The Muslim leaders and student council members are being held in pre-trial detention without charge at the notorious Federal Police Crime Investigation Department, known as Maekelawi prison, in Addis Ababa. They have had no access to legal counsel or, in several cases, their relatives. Their lack of access to lawyers while detained in a prison known for torture heightens concerns about their safety, Human Rights Watch said.

It is unclear what the detainees will be charged with. According to unconfirmed reports, they are under investigation on unspecified charges under the country’s overly broad anti-terrorism law. This week, the 28-day remand period that is stipulated only under the anti-terrorism law expires, and the detainees are therefore expected to appear before the court.

“The arrest of 17 prominent Muslims for exercising their basic rights to free speech is just the latest misuse of Ethiopia’s laws, and notably its anti-terrorism law,” Rawlence said. “All those held should be immediately released unless the government can promptly produce credible evidence of unlawful activity.”

Excessive Use of ForceSeveral witnesses told Human Rights Watch that on July 13, as hundreds of worshippers gathered at Addis Ababa’s Awalia mosque to prepare for a July 15 awareness-raising event, federal police forcibly entered the mosque, breaking doors and windows, and fired teargas inside. They beat people gathered there, including women and children, and made numerous arrests. A witness said that police beat a disabled woman, forcing her to the ground and then continuing to beat her. One man said teargas was fired directly at him inside the mosque before the police beat him.

People at the mosque sent out an appeal for help, leading scores of people to converge on the mosque in the Gullele financial district. Police forces encircling the mosque and its compound assaulted the people approaching the mosque, beating and arresting many of them.

A witness described seeing blood-soaked victims by the roadside on the way to the mosque. Several witnesses told Human Rights Watch that they saw scores of men and women being loaded into separate trucks. Many appeared to have broken bones and other serious injuries, apparently inflicted by the police, the witnesses said.

On July 21, police broke up a sit-in at the Anwar mosque in response to the arrests of the committee members. The police entered the compound, then beat and arrested large numbers of people, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. One man told Human Rights Watch that he was beaten until he lost consciousness. The government said publicly that the protesters had started throwing stones at the police.

Arbitrary Detention and Mistreatment of DetaineesThe Ethiopian government told the media that 74 people were arrested on July 13, though witnesses and members of the Muslim community said that hundreds had been detained.

Those rounded up on July 13 were taken to police stations across Addis Ababa, notably Kolfe Keraneyo and Gullele, and to Maekelawi Prison.

Many released detainees told Human Rights Watch that the police mistreated them.

A witness told Human Rights Watch that in Kolfe Keraneyo, the police forced at least two women to take off their hijab (head covering) and that they spat on one when she refused. The second, a young woman who was detained with her young son, was sexually assaulted by a policeman, who pulled the hijab off and grabbed her breast. Detainees, even some who already had been injured, described being beaten with sticks and the butt of a gun when they arrived at various police stations.

About two dozen of the people initially detained at Maekelawi were subsequently taken to Sendafa police training camp, several kilometers outside of Addis Ababa, where they allege they were mistreated. People who were detained at both Maekelawi and Sendefa described being forced to run barefoot on sharp stones. Two protesters detained at Sendafa for 10 days were beaten and made to carry out harsh physical labor, they told Human Rights Watch.

The majority of those arrested between July 13 and 21 have since been released, in several cases after having been made to sign a document. Some said they were made to sign the document without being allowed to read the content.

Reports that the police and other security services beat and otherwise mistreated the 17 prominent Muslim leaders and others while in custody should be thoroughly and impartially investigated, Human Rights Watch said.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that on July 20, police came to the home of Yusuf Getachew, the editor-in-chief of a popular Muslim magazine Yemuslimoch Guday(Muslim Affairs), intimidated his family, looted cash and phones, and arrested Getachew. His relatives were subsequently informed that he was at Maekelawi, but they have been repeatedly refused permission to visit him.

A witness said that Ahmedin Jebel, the spokesman for the Muslim committee, was arrested that evening and badly beaten by police.

In addition to the 17 prominent community members in Maekelawi, other prominent members of the Muslim community have been under house arrest since July 21. The families of two journalists fromYemuslimoch Guday, Akemel Negash and Isaac Eshetu,wereheld under house arrest for at least 10 days. The police reportedly searched the houses of many Muslim leaders, activists, and journalists.

Muslim leaders in Ethiopia have faced ongoing harassment during the last eight months. Ahmedin Jebel and the same two journalists from Yemuslimoch Gudaywere detained for four days at Maekelawi in mid-December. The crackdown on Muslim dissidents has extended beyond the capital. On August 5, three imams were arrested in the town of Gelemesso in East Harerge. And on August 10, according to a credible source, the police used teargas and beat protesters outside the Areb Genda mosque in the north-central town of Dessie.

Since 2011 the Ethiopian government has convicted at least 34 opposition members, journalists, and others on similar offenses under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Human Rights Watch has strongly criticized the law itself and its use, calling for the release of political prisoners sentenced under the law and for amendments of the law’s most abusive provisions. This includes its broad definition of terrorist acts, which can include peaceful protests that result in the “disruption of any public services,” and its vague provisions that proscribe support or encouragement of terrorism, which can include public reporting on banned terrorist groups.

The anti-terrorism law also contains provisions that violate fundamental due process rights. For instance, the provision on pre-trial detention allows suspects to be held in custody for up to four months without charge, one of the longest periods in anti-terrorism legislation worldwide.

“In the hands of the Ethiopian government, the anti-terrorism law is becoming a multi-purpose tool used against any kind of dissent,” Rawlence said.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ethiopians demonstrate against rent hike... JPost - National News

Jewish Agency cancels all non-emergency programs and summer camp; “No one wants to be here," says demonstrator organizer.

Hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants demonstrated at the absorption center in Mevaseret Zion on Sunday against a raise in their rent and general frustration with the authorities and Jewish Agency over their situation.

In an effort to ensure the absorption center has room for incoming immigrants, the Jewish Agency is raising the rent for residents who have been in the center for over four years – from NIS 500 to NIS 1,500 per month.

“No one wants to be here, but we can’t leave without a solution,” said Sifinew Reta, one of the demonstration’s organizers who has resided at the center for eight years. Reta is a mechanical engineer but only makes NIS 3,500 per month as a general technician and said he can’t afford to pay more rent – whether at the center or for another apartment.

Residents held an all-day protest outside the administration offices of the center, home to 2,000 Ethiopian immigrants.

They received the necessary permits from the police, but when absorption center director David Mulla tried to address them, they chased him back into his office waving sticks and hurling insults. Mulla filed a complaint with police.

All non-emergency services at the absorption center, including a summer camp set to begin Monday are canceled until the situation changes, said the Jewish Agency’s Yehuda Shars, director of Aliyah, Absorption and Special Operations.

Shars accused a small, violent group of politically motivated activists of taking advantage of the Ethiopian immigrant community at the center and encouraging them to resort to violence. He said the Jewish Agency would not place staff members in danger if they are still concerned about the possibility of violence.

But demonstrators said the core of their frustration came from the hopelessness of their situation: While they did not want to stay in the absorption center, no one could afford to leave.

“When the immigrants stay in the absorption center for more than two years, it’s not healthy, they need to be involved in the community,” said Dr. Avraham Neguise, director of the South Wing to Zion organization and an Ethiopian aliya advocate. “They’re in ghettos, it doesn’t give them independence, it doesn’t give them confidence,” he said.

Neguise explained that because of the great cultural differences, these immigrants need a sheltered environment for their first year or two in Israel, but afterwards must be absorbed into the community.

“Someone who wants to leave can leave, that’s what we see,” said Elad Sonn, Immigrant Absorption Ministry spokesman.

As part of a special absorption basket, Ethiopian immigrants are entitled to a NIS 1,500 monthly rent assistance, as well as an interest- free loan of NIS 330,000 for the down payment for a house.

Reta said home ownership is the only way out of the cycle of poverty for immigrants at the center, who have trouble holding down steady jobs and are worried that the NIS 1,500 grant could be canceled at any point.

Zena Argawi, one of the coorganizers of the demonstration, said that although he finally left the center after living there for six years, he is constantly worried about becoming homeless, a widespread concern among older immigrants who did not benefit from the same level of education in Ethiopia.

“The worst part and the most expensive part is the apartment – if there is an apartment we can survive the rest,” he said.

Demonstrators want the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Finance Ministry to offer the grant assistance as part of the loan – in order to get closer to owning an apartment. Sonn said the division of the funds was a Finance Ministry decision, and the Finance Ministry refused to comment on the matter.

“We’re ready to leave, but to where?” asked Reta. “We don’t want to be a drain. We want to be a part of the state. We came to the state to build it, not to stand in the street and say ‘rescue me.’”