Sunday, October 28, 2012

Israel: Eritreans Pushed Back to Egypt, Despite Risk of Abuse| Human Rights Watch

Building a border fence does not give Israel a right to push back asylum seekers.
Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate
(Jerusalem) – The Israeli military has since June 2012 prevented dozens of asylum seekers, most of them Eritreans, from crossing Israel’s newly constructed fence on its border with Egypt, Human Rights Watch, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel said today.Israel has also unlawfully deported dozens more back to Egypt, the three groups said. Israel should stop rejecting asylum seekers at the fence unless its officials determine in a fair procedure that they do not face threats to their lives or freedom or inhuman and degrading treatment because of that rejection.
In forcing asylum seekers and refugees to remain in Egypt and in deporting others, Israel is putting them at risk of prolonged detention in Egyptian prisons and police stations, where they cannot claim asylum, of forcible return to Eritrea, and of serious abuse by traffickers in the Sinai region. Israeli officials’ claims that Israel may seal its borders to anyone are wrong under refugee and human rights law.
“Building a border fence does not give Israel a right to push back asylum seekers,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “International law is crystal clear: no summary rejection of asylum seekers at the frontier and no forcible return unless and until it is established that their refugee claims are not valid.”
At least seven times since June, Israeli forces patrolling Israel’s newly constructed 240-kilometer border fence with Egypt’s Sinai region have denied entry to dozens of Africans, mostly Eritreans, thousands of whom continue to flee persecution in their country every year. In July, Israeli forces also detained about 40 Eritreans just inside the Israeli border and then forcibly transferred them to Egyptian custody.
The 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Israel is a state party, customary international refugee law, and international human rights law require all countries to respect the principle of nonrefoulement, which prohibits the return of anyone to a place where their life or freedom would be threatened or where they would face the threat of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. This means anyone seeking asylum may not be summarily rejected at the border and may not be deported unless their claim has been fairly determined.
Based on Israeli government figures, about two-thirds of those trying to cross the border are from Eritrea, where Human Rights Watch has documented widespread and severe abuses against people seeking to avoid mandatory and indefinitely prolonged national service on wages barely sufficient to survive, and against adherents of “unrecognized” religions and government critics.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that more than 80 percent of Eritreans who claim asylum worldwide are recognized as refugees.
Recent interviews with Eritreans arriving in Israel confirm that many passing through Sinai to reach Israel are facing serious abuses, including torture and rape, by traffickers in Sinai who hold the Eritreans for ransom. Those who pay are allowed to travel onward to reach the Israeli border.
The three human rights organizations recently documented cases in which Israeli border guards blocked Eritreans and others at the fence, firing warning shots in the air, throwing stun grenades and teargas, and using long metal poles to push them back from the border fence. On some occasions, witnesses contended that Israeli soldiers had entered Egyptian territory and detained them until Egyptian forces arrived, although Israeli and Egyptian authorities have denied those accusations.
In one case a group of Eritreans alleged that Israeli soldiers allowed them to enter Israel but then beat them with fists and guns to force them back into Egypt.
“Not only are there credible reports that Israeli soldiers are blocking asylum seekers at the border, but also that they are using violence to do so,” Simpson said. “Israeli authorities should immediately instruct its border patrols to stop abusing people who try to enter Israel.”
Israeli aid groups also say that in recent months Israeli soldiers prevented them from assisting Eritreans who had been waiting for days at the fence. Israeli media reports also said Israeli soldiers had received orders to deny food and water to people trying to enter Israel, whom one soldier described to a reporter as “skinny like skeletons.”
Israeli authorities contend that asylum seekers to whom it denies entry can request asylum from Egyptian authorities, that Israel has the right to seal its borders, and that its obligations toward asylum seekers do not extend to those who are prevented from entering its territory. None of these arguments are correct under the Refugee Convention or international human rights law, the three rights groups said.
UNHCR’s Executive Committee – of which Israel is a member – has stated in its Conclusion No. 22 (1981) that, “In all cases the fundamental principle of non-refoulement involving non-rejection at the frontier must be scrupulously observed.” It elaborated on this inConclusion No. 82 (1997), stating that the principle of nonrefoulement prohibits “expulsion and return of refugees in any manner whatsoever…whether or not they have been formally granted refugee status” and establishes “the need to admit refugees into the territories of States, which includes no rejection at frontiers without fair and effective procedures for determining status and protection needs.”
UNHCR has stated, when intervening in legal proceedings, that “the extraterritorial applicability of the principle of any person within a State Party’s actual control, irrespective of his/her physical location.”
With respect to Israel’s assertion that asylum seekers it turns away at the border can request asylum in Egypt, UNHCR’s Executive Committee has stated in its Conclusion No. 15 (1979) that, “Asylum should not be refused solely on the ground that it could be sought from another state."
UNHCR’s guidance on the safe third country concept says that while it is legitimate for a state to consider whether an asylum seeker had sought or could have sought asylum in another state he or she had passed through before reaching that state, this cannot be presumed but needs to be examined. UNHCR’s guidance maintains that the obligation to respect the principle of nonrefoulement still applies.
UNHCR’s guidance also “discourages unilateral action by States to return asylum seekers to countries through which they passed without the countries’ agreement, because of the risk of chain deportations, forcible returns to situations of persecution, and of orbit situations as well as the need for international solidarity and burden-sharing.”
Various credible sources say Egypt refuses to give UNHCR – which is solely responsible in Egypt for registering asylum claims – access to sub-Saharan nationals detained for lengthy periods in police stations in Sinai. Since 2008, Human Rights Watch has also documented cases in which Egypt hasforcibly returned Eritrean refugees, registered asylum seekers, and would-be asylum seekers to Eritrea.
The three rights groups have also reported on widespread trafficker abuses against sub-Saharan Africans in Egypt’s Sinai desert, against which the Egyptian authorities have consistently failed to take effective action. Over the past few years, hundreds and possibly thousands of sub-Saharan Africans – most from Eritrea and Sudan – have been held and tortured for months in Sinai before crossing into Israel to claim asylum.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on Egypt to locate and prosecute traffickers abusing asylum seekers, and to allow UNHCR access to asylum seekers detained by Egyptian authorities in Sinai.
Refugee rights groups have also documented dozens of cases in 2012 in which traffickers have kidnapped people from or near refugee camps in Ethiopia and Sudan and transported them against their will into the Sinai.
Recent medical examinations by Israeli doctors and interviews with some asylum seekers whom Israel allowed to cross the border for medical treatment because of their apparent poor health also provide evidence that Bedouin traffickers continue to torture and rape sub-Saharan Africans in Sinai. One man said traffickers had detained him for three months and forced him to work in a detention camp, where he heard women being tortured and saw other Africans held for ransom die while in captivity. His brother borrowed money and paid US$38,000 to secure his release.
The three rights groups said that when Israel returned asylum seekers to the Sinai ithout considering their cases, it was putting them at risk that Egypt would ignore their refugee claims, that it would forcibly return them to Eritrea, and that they would be abused by traffickers in the Sinai against whom the Egyptian authorities have been unable or unwilling to provide protection.
“Based on arguments that are wrong in law and on the facts, Israel is forcibly turning back people who have fled persecution at home, have faced severe abuse by traffickers in Sinai, and who then risk detention in Sinai with no access to asylum,” Simpson said. “There is simply no loophole justifying Israel’s denial of protection to asylum seekers by rejecting them at the border without fully considering their individual cases. To accept such a claim would be to accept the evisceration of refugee protection.”
For details about Israel’s position on its recent pushbacks of people on the Sinai border, international legal obligations, and the recent pushbacks, please see the text below.
Four Erroneous Israeli Arguments for Blocking Asylum SeekersIsrael has made four arguments to justify blocking asylum seekers at its fence on the Israel-Egypt border.
1.     The sovereign prerogative to control immigration – the floodgates argument
On September 6, Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Israeli Army Radio that, “A sovereign country, responsible for its borders, can decide for itself who can enter and leave its territory,” and warned that making exceptions for individual groups of migrants would mean that Israel would have to allow entry to many of the “300 million people in Africa.”
While states do, indeed, have sovereign rights to control immigration, refugee and human rights law strictly prohibit refoulement – forced return that would expose people to persecution, torture, or inhuman and degrading treatment.
Refugee law says countries may not return or expel anyone claiming to be a refugee, including at their borders, without fairly considering their asylum claims. In its Conclusion on International Protection No. 22 (1981), UNHCR’s Executive Committee stated that, “In all cases, the fundamental principle ofnon-refoulement involving non-rejection at the frontier must be scrupulously observed.” And in Conclusion 99 (2004), the Committee called on states to ensure “full respect for the fundamental principle of nonrefoulement, including non-rejection at frontierswithout access to fair and effective procedures for determining status and protection needs.”
2.     Refugee obligations do not apply outside a state’s territory – the extraterritoriality argument
In a July 27 affidavit submitted to an Israeli refugee lawyer, Anat Ben-Dor, an Israeli soldier said that in June his superior officers on the Sinai border had told him that blocking someone’s access to asylum procedures is lawful as long as they are blocked before they set foot on Israeli soil. The soldier said that on the basis of this advice, his unit had entered Egyptian territory three times, where it had intercepted Africans approaching Israel’s border fence and had handed them over to Egyptian border police.
Egyptian officials denied that Israeli forces are operating on Egyptian territory. However, on August 10, the Associated Press reported that the Israeli military spokesperson’s office stated that Israeli soldiers stopped groups of Africans near the border several times and held them “until the arrival of Egyptian forces that took the infiltrators.”
As a matter of law, a country’s obligation not to summarily return asylum seekers is not limited by territorial boundaries. Refugee law is not concerned with the place from which refugees are being returned but with the place to which they are being returned.
The 1951 Refugee Convention specifically prohibits countries from returning refugees “in any manner whatsoever” to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened. UNHCR has also stated that, “The principle of non-refoulement does not imply any geographical limitation,” that, “The resulting obligations extend to all government agents acting …within or outside national territory” and that as a result, “The extraterritorial applicability of the non-refoulement obligation [under the Refugee Convention] is clear.”
3.     Refugee obligations do not apply to people who have not been officially recognized as refugees
In the past, under its so-called “hot-returns” policy, Israel said that as long as it apprehended irregular border crossers close to the border and returned them to Egypt within hours or days, it was not obliged to allow them to lodge asylum claims in Israel. In 2011, the military told Israel’s Supreme Court it had stopped the practice. But in July 2012, Israel appears to have returned at least 40 Eritreans less than an hour after they entered Israel.
A person who meets the “well-founded fear of being persecuted” definition is a refugee independent of being formally recognized as such, however. The UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status says that recognition of refugee status is declaratory: “He does not become a refugee because of recognition, but is recognized because he is a refugee.” And UNHCR’s Executive Committee, in Conclusion 79 (1996), recognized that the principle of nonrefoulement prohibits the expulsion and return of refugees “whether or not they have formally been granted refugee status.”
Also, the proximity of apprehension to the time and place of entry are irrelevant to Israel’s obligation to abide by the prohibition on refoulement. UNHCR’s Executive Committee Conclusion 6 (1977) has affirmed “the fundamental importance of the observance of the principle of nonrefoulement - both at the border and within the territory of a State ….”
Frustrating the lodging of asylum claims or refusing to consider claims therefore does not legally absolve a country of its obligations to protect asylum seekers and refugees.
4.      Egypt is a “safe third country”
In response to a petition by Israeli refugee rights groups, on September 4, Israel’s state attorney claimed Israel had no obligation to consider requests for asylum by Africans arriving at Israel’s border fence because they could claim asylum “in Cairo.”
UNHCR’s Executive Committee has stated in its Conclusion on International Protection No. 15 (1979) that, “Asylum should not be refused solely on the ground that it could be sought from another state.”
Israel has no formal agreement with Egypt governing the return of third country nationals – including asylum seekers – at the Sinai border, and Egypt has never made a commitment to Israel that it would allow asylum seekers among them to claim asylum.
Furthermore, Egypt systematically refuses to allow UNHCR to visit sub-Saharan nationals detained in police stations across the Sinai desert. Since UNHCR is solely responsible in Egypt for registering asylum claims, this practice prevents them from seeking asylum there and means Israel cannot claim that Eritrean asylum seekers refused entry to Israel at the Sinai border or returned to Egypt receive adequate protection.
Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers remain at risk of forcible return to Eritrea from Egypt. As recently as October 2011, Egyptian prison guards at the al-Shalal prison in Aswanbeat 118 Eritrean detainees– including 40 registered refugees – to force them to sign papers for their “voluntary” return to Eritrea. Human Rights Watch has documented other cases in which Egypt has forcibly returned Eritrean refugees, registered asylum seekers and would-be asylum seekers to Eritrea.
Recent Cases Involving Israel Blocking or Deporting Eritrean and Other Asylum SeekersAccording to various sources, on at least seven occasions since June, Israel has prevented dozens of Eritrean asylum seekers from seeking asylum in Israel on the Egypt-Israel border. In July, Israel also unlawfully deported around 40 Eritreans from Israel to Egypt.
Pushback Case 1In October, the two Israeli nongovernmental organizations – the Hotline for Migrant Workers and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel – spoke to an Eritrean asylum seeker whom Israeli border guards had allowed to enter Israel because of his apparent ill-health. He said that although the guards had allowed him and another Eritrean man to cross, they had prevented four other Eritrean men and two Eritrean women from entering Israel. He said that before they had reached the Israel border, traffickers had held all eight of them – together with many other sub-Saharan Africans – for ransom in the Sinai before finally taking them to the Israeli border.
The man gave a detailed account of abuses he and others had faced at the hands of the traffickers. He spoke of the screams of women whom the traffickers beat while the women called their relatives on phones to plead with them to pay the traffickers a ransom to secure their release, of how men detained in other rooms said that the bodies of detainees who had died chained to each other were not removed for days, and of how traffickers forced him and other men to build rooms at their detention site.
The three rights groups were unable to verify independently whether the six Eritreans had been denied entry into Israel. However, Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean journalist and activist living in Sweden, spoke with Human Rights Watch and said she received a phone call on October 15 from the sister of one of the Eritrean men who had been denied entry to Israel. The woman said she had spoken with her brother, who was detained in an Egyptian prison. She said that during the call, an Arabic-speaking man had taken the phone from her brother and told her that if her family paid a fine, her brother would be released and be allowed to travel to Ethiopia.
Pushback Case 2
Two Eritrean women and a 14-year-old boy who were allowed to cross into Israel and who spoke with Israeli rights groups said that between August 28 and September 6, Israeli soldiers stationed at the border fence prevented them and 18 Eritrean men from entering Israel. One of the women said Israeli soldiers fired shots in the air when they first arrived at the fence and “twice threw [tear]gas at us and pushed a long metal pole through the fence to try and get us to move away.” The second woman said soldiers used teargas when members of the group tried to break through the fence.
The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported that on September 11 an Israeli rights group, We Are Refugees, filed a complaint with Israel’s high court on behalf of the two women and the boy, who submitted affidavits stating that Israeli forces had used teargas and violence to force the other 18 people in their group away from the fence.
Israeli aid groups also said Israeli soldiers stopped them from helping the group. The two women and boy said that on September 6, the soldiers cut a hole in the Israeli border fence and allowed them to cross, but forced the 18 men to pass back through a second fence on the Egyptian side of the border on the other side of which they could see Egyptian soldiers.
Pushback Case 3
In a similar case, the Israeli daily newspaperYedioth Aharonothreportedon September 6 that for six days in August, Israeli forces prevented a group of about 20 Eritreans and Sudanese migrants from crossing the border fence. The article included an account from an Israeli soldier, who said his unit was ordered not give the group any food and to use teargas and stun grenades to force them away from the fence. On the following day, the paper reported that Israeli forces had received orders to prevent migrants from crossing the fence and to give them only bread and a small amount of water.
Pushback Cases 4 – 6
An Israeli soldier’s affidavit given to Anat Ben-Dor, the refugee lawyer at Tel Aviv University, said that in June Israeli forces detained at least three groups of sub-Saharan Africans at the border and forcibly handed them over to Egyptian forces without allowing them to claim asylum.
Pushback Case 7The medical group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has said that in August Israeli forces refused to allow a group of Eritreans to cross for four days. The group, whose size was not clear, was forced to remain for four days in an area near the border fence. An anonymous witness told the group by phone that Egyptian forces were guarding the Egyptian end of the area. The Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson’s office confirmed to Haaretz on August 10 that, “The IDF is operating in conjunction with Egyptian forces to extract the foreigners” from the area. Israeli forces eventually allowed the Eritreans to cross. They are now detained in the Saharonim detention facility in Israel’s Negev desert, near the border.
Possible Pushback Case 8
In another case involving possible unlawful blocking of entry, Israeli refugee rights groups reported on September 9 that Israeli forces had prevented a group of 11 Africans, including a pregnant woman, from crossing the border for three days. The rights groups have been unable to determine whether any members of the group were allowed to enter.
Unlawful Deportation CaseAccording to Estefanos, the Swedish-Eritrean journalist, on July 19 Israeli forces detained and unlawfully returned to Egypt a group of about 40 Eritrean asylum seekers, including a pregnant woman. Estefanos interviewed two of the returned men by phone on August 2 while they were in Egyptian detention.
The men said that when the group – which included people who had been beaten by traffickers –reached the Israeli border, Amharic and Arabic speaking Israelis soldiers said, “Welcome to Israel.” They told some of the group to get into a military truck and told the rest to walk along a road under construction next to the border fence on the Israeli side. After a short while, the soldiers told those on the truck to get out and ordered the whole group to cross back into Egypt.
One of the men said that when they refused, the Israeli soldiers contacted the Egyptian army by radio, soon after which four Egyptian soldiers arrived. The other man said he overheard the radio communication and heard the Egyptian soldiers tell the Israeli soldiers to push the group down a steep incline into Egyptian territory. The man said “We refused to get out, and so the [Israeli] soldiers beat us with their hands and gun-butts, and then threw us down [the incline]. Many of us were badly injured [by the Israeli soldiers] and the Egyptians took us straight to prison.”

Dutch courage? A TPLF warlord denounces the 1998 ethnic cleansing campaign | IndepthAfrica

By Getahune Bekele
Described as the late fuehrer Meles Zenawi’s lap dog and a pathological anti- Ethiopianism, Bereket Simeon, have caused a massive controversy by openly denouncing Africa’s biggest post colonial ethnic cleansing campaign of 1998, committed by himself and the dead tyrant.
Bereket, Standing for his Eritrea? Picture curtsey of
The massive campaign of forcibly removing Ethio-Eritreans, including women and children was started in 1998 immediately after Eritrean war planes raided Mekele, the capital of Tigraye republic, killing several students at Aider primary school.
The incident later grow into full blown boarder war where more than 70,000 souls perished in a battle resembled the bloody trench warfare of the first world war; just for control of a tiny dust bowl known as Badime.
Appearing as guest speaker on Eritrean oppositions Arabic paltalk  chat room on line ,on Saturday, the controversial Eritrean born warlord, Bereket, accused top Tigraye born warlords Seyye Abreha and the illiterate Gebru Asrat of spear heading the yet to be investigated ethnic cleansing campaign.
“If we don’t like the color of their eyes, we have the right to chase them away”, was Zenawis’ response to the concern of human right organizations during the mass deportation.
“We were wrong to chase away Eritreans” Bereket admits, for the first time contradicting the dead despot “It should not have happened and it will never happen.”
Bereket, the man who single handedly picked the current PM of Ethiopia; Hailemariam Desalegn to succeed his late boss also spoke on the issue of Badime.
“Badime is not our land. It belongs to Eritrea and we don’t have a problem of handing it over to Eritrea. The problem we have is how to go about it” Bereket said, in the process showing contempt to pro Badime Tigre warlords such as Abbay Woldu, Samora unice, Seyoum Mesfin and Birhane Gebre kiristos, who still sees Badime as an integral part of the future Tigraye republic.
It is not clear what gave Bereket the Dutch courage to openly defy the feared group of Tigraye nationalists with more than one million foot soldiers under their command.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ethiopia's Muslims accuse government of religious meddling | The Malay Mail

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2012 - 18:40

 hands clasped together as a symbol of unity, lines of Muslims gather under the beating sun outside Addis Ababa's Anwar mosque after Friday prayers chanting "Amin, Amin," or "thanks to God."

They gather - as they have all this year - to protest what they call unconstitutional government interference in religious affairs, heightened by the election of Muslim leaders this month the protesters say were not free or fair
Ethiopia's Muslims accuse government of religious meddling
Muslim demonstrators gather outside Addis Ababa's Anwar mosque on October 19, 2012 to protest against the government interfering in religious affairs.AFPpic

"We have requested an election, a peaceful one, a democratic one, and we didn't get (it)," said Zeinu Lopiso, 26, a merchant near Anwar mosque, speaking at a recent demonstration where hundreds took part.

Zeinu, like many other protesters, refused to cast a ballot in the October 7 elections to appoint the leaders of the Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs, the community's main representative body.

Zeinu opposed holding elections in government offices instead of mosques, complaining the government handpicked candidates after 17 Muslim leaders were jailed during protests in July, prompting accusations of a police crackdown.

Nine leaders remain in prison without charge, while eight have been released but could face charges, according to their lawyer.

"We have appointed those (jailed) leaders by putting our signatures to paper," Zeinu said, as fellow worshippers knelt in prayer.

"They are representatives of the Muslim community and they are innocent, they are not terrorists, so we want the government to free them all," he added.

According to official figures, Muslims make up 34 percent of the country's 83 million people. The Islamic Council reported that 7.5 million people voted in this month's ballot.

Ethiopia is a key Western ally in the fight against Islamic extremism in the volatile Horn of Africa region, including in neighbouring Somalia, where Addis Ababa invaded last year to battle Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants.

The demonstrations kicked off in January, and have been held every month since, after many Muslims accused the government of unconstitutionally trying to impose the moderate Al Ahbash Sufi strain of Islam in Ethiopia.

Protesters say clerics in schools throughout the country have been promoting Al Ahbash, a Lebanese import mostly alien to Ethiopia.

"We are not against Al Ahbash but (the government) has no right to interfere with the Muslim community inside the mosque," said Usman Faisa, 21, a merchant.

"We have our own constitutional right to have our own religious organizations and preach our own thoughts," he added.

But Mohammed Rashid, a technical advisor at the Islamic Council, said elections were held in government offices only to allow more people to participate and to collect voter data.

"We act as a neutral Islamic institution, the role to play is a neutral one, not invite one sect or avoid another... we are a neutral entity and the leaders play that role," he told AFP.

The Ethiopian constitution calls for secular a government and bars authorities from interfering in religious affairs.

"Contrary to the (claim of) the ultra-conservative extremist group... which wants to control the Islamic establishment for the purpose of pursuing its own objective, the government has never interfered in the internal affairs of the Muslim community," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told AFP.

This month, Ethiopia's new Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the government respected religious freedom, but that extremist groups were plotting unrest, and that authorities would take necessary measures to curb such acts.

Despite Shimeles' claim of non-interference, some observers say the government wants to stem extremism from taking hold in the country, despite scant evidence to suggest a growing threat from within Ethiopia.

"At the moment, there is nothing that would point us in that direction," said Terje Ostebo form the University of Florida, an expert on Islam in the Horn of Africa.

He said the arrests of the 17 Muslim leaders were an attempt to quell the protests, but that any attempt to import a foreign strain of Islam could ostracise the Muslim community.

"What they're doing by importing the Al Ahbash, by cracking down on the demonstrations, by demonizing this, they are in a way risking a process of radicalization within the Muslim community," he told AFP.

Protesters say they will continue to hold demonstrations until their jailed leaders are released and their concerns are addressed by the government.

"I don't expect the protests to cool down, not as long as those Muslim leaders are in prison," said Zeinu. -AFP

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ethiopia Muslim Election Turns Deadly - Africa - News -

Ethiopia, Muslim, election, protests
Muslims have held weekly demonstrations and sit-ins over the past year in protest at government interference in their religious affairs

ADDIS ABABA – In a new bout of violence over government interference in Muslim religious affairs, at least four people were killed when protestors attacked a police station in eastern Ethiopia.
"One police officer was killed while two police officers sustained injuries, and three members of the [protester's] group were killed during the violence," government spokesperson Shimeles Kemal told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday, October 23.
The violence occurred after protestors attacked a police station in the town of Gerba in the Amhara region on Sunday after the arrest of a protestor who tried to disrupt the postponed election of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in the town.
"His supporters, armed with machetes and handguns, tried to have him released by force," Kemal told Reuters.
"In the ensuing conflict, three members of the extremist group who tried violently to break in the prison were shot dead by police officers."
Activists have posted pictures online of dead bodies and men with gaping wounds sustained during the incident.
Police arrested several people following the violence.
Election for choosing SCIA members was held across the country two weeks ago, but Ethiopian Muslims had called for boycotting the vote.
Muslims have held weekly demonstrations and sit-ins over the past year in protest at government interference in the SCIA election.
In May, four Muslims were killed in protests against government interference in their religious affairs.
In July, 17 Muslim leaders were jailed following protests in the Ethiopian capital. Nine are still in detention without charges.
Muslims say the government is spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the Supreme Council to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called "Ahbash".
The government of former Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi has put the Ahbash in charge of the religious affairs of Ethiopia's Muslims.
Muslims say the government move is in violation of the constitution, which prevents the government interference in religious affairs.
Muslims also accuse the Ahbash of launching an "indoctrination program" in predominantly Muslim areas, forcing people to attend "religious training" camps or risk police interrogation and possible arrest.
Founded by Ethiopian-Lebanese scholar Sheikh Abdullah al-Harari, Ahbash is seen by the West as a "friendly alternative" to Wahabi ideology, which the West sees as extreme and militant.
Muslims say Ahbash imams are being brought over from Lebanon to fill the Majlis and teach Ethiopians that “Wahabis” are non-Muslims.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, is home to 60 percent Christian and about 34 percent Muslim, according to CIA Factbook.
Related Links:
Ethiopia Muslims Urge Council Vote Boycott
Ethiopia Muslims Killed for Sadaqa
Free Ethiopia Muslim Protestors: HRW
Ethiopia Blocks Over Ahbash
Harassment of Muslims Risks Ethiopia Revolt

4 killed in Ethiopian Muslim protests | News24

4 killed in Ethiopian Muslim protests

2012-10-23 12:20
Addis Ababa - Four people, including one police officer, were killed in Ethiopia on Sunday as protesters attacked a police station where Muslim demonstrators were being held, an official said on Tuesday.

"One police officer was killed while two police officers sustained injuries, and three members of the [protester's] group were killed during the violence," government spokesperson Shimeles Kemal told AFP.

The attack occurred on Sunday in Gerba in the Amhara region, after demonstrators gathered to protest what they call undemocratic elections of the Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs, Ethiopia's highest Muslim representative body.

Shimeles said the group attacked the police station with firearms and machetes after the arrest and tried to "forcefully release their members".

Several people were arrested after the deaths, and police are searching for several people who escaped after the violence, but Shimeles said calm had returned to the city.

Elections have been held throughout the country this month to select the leaders of the Islamic Council, though many Muslims say they have abstained from the vote, accusing the government of appointing its own candidates.

Monthly protests and sit-ins have been ongoing since January by some Muslims who say the government is unconstitutionally interfering with Islamic affairs by trying to impose the moderate Al Ahbash sect, mostly alien to Ethiopia.

In July, 17 Muslim leaders were jailed following protests in the Ethiopian capital. Nine are still in detention without charges.

According to official figures, nearly 34% of Ethiopia's 83 million people are Muslim.

Ethiopia's constitution bars the government from interfering in religious affairs and calls for a secular state.

This month, Ethiopia's new Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the government respected religious freedom, but said some acts of religious extremism had been uncovered in some parts of the country.

He said extremism would not be tolerated and the government would take necessary measures to prevent such acts.

Ethiopia: Police officer, two Muslim protesters killed - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

October 22, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - Police in Ethiopia killed two Muslim protesters in Gerba town in South Wollo Zone of the Amhara Regional State, according to local sources.
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Muslims celebrate Eid in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (BBC)
Other civilians were also injured during the clash with members of the federal police on Sunday. One police officer was killed, while another was injured after being attacked by a group of protesters.

Witnesses say the clash took place during the Muslim Council elections. Police said the situation is now under control and perpetrators have been taken into custody.

South Wollo police described those killed as Muslim “extremists”.

The Muslim community in Ethiopia has recently intensified their protests against what they allege is government interference in religious affairs; an allegation Addis Ababa denies.
Addressing the parliament Ethiopia’s newly elected prime minister, Haile Mariam Desalegn, last week warned against any hidden political activities made under the pretext of religion.
The latest killing of the two raises the total Muslim protesters recently killed by government security forces to at least six.
Police forces killed four Muslims in Asossa town of Oromia Regional State in May.
In July police arrested 71 Muslim protesters while the Africa Union summit was taking place in Addis Ababa. Police then arrested people it said were organising and funding the “extremist group”.
The protesters were accused of attempting to disrupt the continental assembly.

Ethiopian Muslims are estimated to make up 35 percent of the country’s 81 million dominantly-Christian population.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eritrean Afars outcry over forced displacement - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 20, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - An Eritrean opposition group alleged Saturday that the government in Asmara is forcibly displacing members of the Afar ethnic minority from their ancestral lands.
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The Ethiopia-based Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) said that the Eritrean regime is carrying out targeted displacement in Galalo, a city in northern part of Dankalia. The aim, the opposition group say, is to change the population of the area by settling Tigrigna speakers, who are the dominant group in Eritrea.
RSADO said that government agents are currently grabbing Afar-owned land with promises of large amounts of money if they sell their property. Those who refuse to sell are forced to do so by the government and army, the exiled group say.
This is not the first time for the regime to carry out public displacement against the Afars who also are known as Dankils, according to the group.
“We urgently appeal to international community and human rights organizations to stop the dictatorial regime in Asmara from displacing and cleansing Afar people putting up on him a possible pressure” RSADO said in a statement.
“We urge the United Nations Security Council to implement its 2010 (1970) sanctions to save the life of innocent Eritrean civilians ahead of them more suffering Red Sea Afar” it added.
The Red Sea nation is one of the most repressive countries in the world. In protest to extreme political repression, tens and thousands of Eritreans have fled to neighbouring countries.
Eritreans who have fled the country are considered traitors by the regime. When refugees are deported back to Eritrea they face prosecution, lengthy jail terms in harsh prison facilities or a possible punishment of death.
Earlier this month RSADO said Eritrea and Yemen had signed a “security arrangement” aimed to deport thousands of Eritrean refugees, mostly ethnic Afar fishermen who sought asylum in the Gulf state.

Alarm over Ethiopian domestics

KUWAIT CITY, Oct 20: Owners of offices, which recruit housemaids from Ethiopia, have complained about the Ethiopian Embassy’s alleged failure to solve several issues concerning the housemaids, reports Al-Anba daily quoting sources.

Sources revealed the embassy has closed its doors on housemaids who escaped from their sponsors; giving them no option but to roam around the streets. Sources said several domestic labor offices have expressed disappointment over the embassy’s inability to play its role efficiently; thereby, making the housemaids, sponsors and offices lose their rights. Sources added the owners of domestic labor offices and the Kuwaiti sponsors often engage in heated arguments due to their failure to determine the whereabouts of absconding housemaids.

Sources said the absconding Ethiopian housemaids are often seen roaming around the streets in different parts of the country because their embassy does not provide them with a suitable shelter. Sources revealed more than 700 Ethiopian housemaids are said to be roaming around — a phenomenon which might spread contagious diseases and lead to dire consequences especially if some of them decide to return to their sponsors.

The owners of domestic labor offices called for the intervention of the embassy to address the problem and to protect the rights of all parties. They warned the embassy must take into consideration the rising rate of crimes committed against housemaids, in addition to the human rights issues raised against Kuwait due to this phenomenon which has tarnished the image of the country in the international community.

They argued the problem has worsened due to the absence of proper administration procedures in the embassy and its failure to abide by the stipulations of the contracts they signed with the domestic labor offices. They also urged the embassy to immediately take the necessary measures to protect the rights of all parties involved — the housemaids, their sponsors and the domestic labor offices.