Thursday, December 11, 2014

International Urgent Action: Justice for Mr. Okello Ochalla -

International Urgent Action:
Justice for Mr. Okello Ochalla
A Plea for Action from his son Obok Okello, supported by the Oakland Institute

Dear Honorable Minister,

Okello-email-fixedMy father, Okello Akway Ochalla, a Norwegian citizen, was unjustly arrested in South Sudan by the Ethiopian Intelligence Service and extradited to Ethiopia in March 2014 on false charges of terrorism and organizing against the government. My father is the former governor of Ethiopia’s Gambella region, the site of mass human rights violations, violence, and forced resettlements of rural communities, as documented by the Oakland Institute,Human Rights Watch, and several other organizations. These atrocities were committed in the name of Ethiopia’s villagization program in order to make way for large-scale land deals in the area. Forced to live in exile and then awarded Norwegian nationality, my father spoke out against the government’s involvement in the 2003 massacre in Gambella. Now, for his continued work for justice and human rights, he has been imprisoned as a terrorist.

It has been nine months since my father was imprisoned. While the family has been provided no information, we get reports of him being denied his request to be in the prison for foreign nationals, of torture, and no possibility of a fair trial. My family has not heard from him and we cannot get reports verifying his wellbeing from the Ethiopian or the Norwegian government. My family and I are deeply concerned about my father’s life, as months pass by while we wait for signs of hope and restoration. Despite my father’s Norwegian citizenship and the unjust nature of his imprisonment, we are not aware of any efforts being made by the Norwegian government to advocate on his behalf. Is it because my father is a Norwegian Ethiopian that the government is looking the other way? Or despite providing nearly USD 40 million in aid to Ethiopia in 2012, it chooses to turn a blind eye to violation of international law and a man’s right to a fair trial?

My father is a good man who has always stood by the truth. Please help me in urging the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to advocate for the freedom on behalf of their citizen, Mr. Okello, both as a government that has played a key role in the fight for justice around the world, and as a state accountable for the welfare of its citizens. Additionally, we urge that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly describe the steps it has taken to ensure they have done everything within their power to demand Mr. Okello Ochalla receive a fair trial and ensure his safety in detention by the Ethiopian Government.

The Oakland Institute is supporting this Urgent Action for Mr. Okello Ochalla, as he heads to another hearing on December 18, 2014. If the Norwegian government does not intervene and demand respect of international law, it is likely that my father will be convicted and sentenced to death for wanting justice for our people in Gambella. Imagine what it is like to lose a parent in this way. I need all the help to get my father back and hope you will join me.

The Ethiopian government has consistently denied human rights abuses in the implementation of its villagization program in the Gambella region (and around the country), as well as its implications in the 2003 massacre, but is actively trying to silence those who shed light on their violent “development” strategy. I ask you to share this information on Facebook, Twitter, and all social media networks to gain as many voices as possible to call for the protection of my father’s life and freedom.

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