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Ethiopia Round 4 Election Human Right Abuses increases according Human right Watch …

The government says Human Rights Watch has got it wrong. Really?

INDEPENDENT voices in Ethiopia are finding it ever harder to be heard. Suffocated by an irascible government, the country’s newspapers are now the least informative in east Africa. Journalists deemed critical of the prime minister, Meles Zenawi, are pilloried. And they are not alone.

Foreign aid people and diplomats say a law pushed through parliament last month will curtail the activities of local human-rights workers. The new law means that independent local outfits that get more than 10% of their income from abroad will be classified as foreign. Once designated as such, they will not be allowed to engage in anything to do with democracy, justice or human rights. Real foreigners are already banned from doing so. As few home-grown charities and non-governmental organisations can stand on their own feet in a country as poor as Ethiopia, the government will be able to control domestic dissent more tightly.

The task of raising human-rights issues now increasingly falls to foreigners. A particularly bitter tussle is under way over allegations of atrocities by Ethiopian soldiers in the country’s south-eastern Ogaden region. This area abuts the border with turbulent Somalia and is populated mainly by ethnic Somalis traditionally hostile to the government in Addis Ababa, the capital.

Human Rights Watch, a pressure group, accuses Ethiopia of war crimes and crimes against humanity there. It says that Ethiopian troops burned down villages and killed, raped and tortured civilians in a counter-insurgency campaign against the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front after its fighters had killed 74 Ethiopian and Chinese oil-exploration workers in 2007. Ethiopia’s government was so incensed by the description of “systematic atrocities” in the Ogaden that it commissioned a report of its own that dismissed Human Rights Watch’s allegations as hearsay and its methods as slapdash.

The government report found “no trace” of serious human-rights violations. People reported to have been killed or tortured were said to have been found alive and well. Villages marked down as torched were said to be unscathed. The sole admitted instance of torture was said to have resulted in a court-martial. According to the Ethiopian report, Human Rights Watch was one-sided, since it failed to document the guerrillas’ thuggery. Perhaps unwittingly, said the Ethiopians, it had made itself a propaganda tool of the separatists.

The Ethiopian investigation did not, however, examine all of Human Rights Watch’s accusations. Some executions listed by the group go unchallenged or are blamed unconvincingly on the guerrillas. The report skims over the Ogaden’s humanitarian emergency, which Médecins Sans Frontières, a French-based charity, lists as one of the world’s ten worst. The Ethiopian report flatly denies that the government blockaded separatist strongholds during a famine, thus starving civilians. The Ethiopians also lambast Human Rights Watch for not visiting the Ogaden, knowing that it was they who blocked the visit. They claim that the Ogaden has been open to anyone, yet most independent journalists have been banned from travelling there freely. Several aid organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, have been kicked out. Aid workers there speak only anonymously, for fear of expulsion.

The government has a general election to win next year. A wave of arrests of political dissenters, including a prominent opposition leader, Birtukan Mideksa, suggests the government wants to keep all its opponents in check.

A simple way for it to win confirmation of its claim that Human Rights Watch’s accusations are false would be to let independent journalists, both foreign and Ethiopian, visit the Ogaden and see for themselves.

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Fear over Ethiopia poll media law

2010-03-23 22:15

Addis Ababa – A new media code that sets guidelines for coverage of Ethiopia’s elections in May has drawn fire from embattled media staff, who face fines and jail time if found guilty of violations.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia approved the framework two weeks ago, ahead of the May 23 polls, but journalists are already voicing their disapproval and fears over its restrictions.

The code bans journalists from carrying out interviews of voters, candidates and observers during election day, while it also prohibits predictions ahead of the announcement of results.

Transgressors face one year in jail for reporting on the latter.

“We stand against every article that is stipulated in the law. It simply puts an unreasonable amount of burden on any journalist,” Anteneh Abraham, head of the Ethiopian National Journalists Union, told AFP.

‘Rebellion and terrorism’

“We simply can’t work under those conditions. The strict restrictions have instilled fear in all media workers,” he added.

Further restrictions have also been placed on coverage from inside polling stations during the same day, in particular the limited access granted for photography and video footage.

However, an article on security has sparked the most concern due to what is seen as ambiguity.

“Media workers must refrain from reports that may incite rebellion and terrorism,” according to the article.

It bans the “preparation, publishing and distribution of reports that foment political instability and chaos along ethnic, religious, linguistic … lines.”

“It’s way too dangerous for anyone,” a reporter told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“I will simply avoid covering the elections as it is not worth the potential trouble,” he added.

Anteneh said he doubted the legality of the government’s decision to allow an electoral board to come up with a media law, and slammed its authorities for adopting the code “in secret” without consulting all stakeholders.

– SAPA

Human Rights Watch Report

Ethiopia is on a deteriorating human rights trajectory as parliamentary elections approach in 2010. These will be the first national elections since 2005, when post-election protests resulted in the deaths of at least 200 protesters, many of them victims of excessive use of force by the police. Broad patterns of government repression have prevented the emergence of organized opposition in most of the country. In December 2008 the government re-imprisoned opposition leader Birtukan Midekssa for life after she made remarks that allegedly violated the terms of an earlier pardon.

In 2009 the government passed two pieces of legislation that codify some of the worst aspects of the slide towards deeper repression and political intolerance. A civil society law passed in January is one of the most restrictive of its kind, and its provisions will make most independent human rights work impossible. A new counterterrorism law passed in July permits the government and security forces to prosecute political protesters and non-violent expressions of dissent as acts of terrorism.

Political Repression and the 2010 Elections

As Ethiopia heads toward nationwide elections, the government continues to clamp down on the already limited space for dissent or independent political activity. Ordinary citizens who criticize government policies or officials frequently face arrest on trumped-up accusations of belonging to illegal “anti-peace” groups, including armed opposition movements. Officials sometimes bring criminal cases in a manner that appears to selectively target government critics, as when in June 2009 prominent human rights activist Abebe Worke was charged with illegal importation of radio equipment and ultimately fled the country. In the countryside government-supplied (and donor-funded) agricultural assistance and other resources are often used as leverage to punish and prevent dissent, or to compel individuals into joining the ruling party.

The opposition is in disarray, but the government has shown little willingness to tolerate potential challengers. In December 2008 the security forces re-arrested Birtukan Midekssa, leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, which had begun to build a grassroots following in the capital. The government announced that Birtukan would be jailed for life because she had made public remarks that violated the terms of an earlier pardon for alleged acts of treason surrounding the 2005 elections. The authorities stated that there was no need for a trial as the move was a mere legal technicality.

In July the Ethiopian government passed a new anti-terrorism law. The law provides broad powers to the police, and harsh criminal penalties can be applied to political protesters and others who engage in acts of nonviolent political dissent. Some of its provisions appear tailored less toward addressing terrorism and more toward allowing for a heavy-handed response to mass public unrest, like that which followed Ethiopia’s 2005 elections.

Civil Society Activism and Media Freedom

The space for independent civil society activity in Ethiopia, already extremely narrow, shrank dramatically in 2009. In January the government passed a new civil society law whose provisions are among the most restrictive of any comparable law anywhere in the world. The law makes any work that touches on human rights or governance issues illegal if carried out by foreign non-governmental organizations, and labels any Ethiopian organization that receives more than 10 percent of its funding from sources outside of Ethiopia as “foreign.” The law makes most independent human rights work virtually impossible, and human rights work deemed illegal under the law is punishable as a criminal offense.

Ethiopia passed a new media law in 2008 that improved upon several repressive aspects of the previous legal regime. The space for independent media activity in Ethiopia remains severely constrained, however. In August two journalists were jailed on charges derived partly from Ethiopia’s old, and now defunct, press proclamation. Ethiopia’s new anti-terror law contains provisions that will impact the media by making journalists and editors potential accomplices in acts of terrorism if they publish statements seen as encouraging or supporting terrorist acts, or even, simply, political protest.

Pretrial Detention and Torture

The Ethiopian government continues its longstanding practice of using lengthy periods of pretrial and pre-charge detention to punish critics and opposition activists, even where no criminal charges are ultimately pursued. Numerous prominent ethnic Oromo Ethiopians have been detained in recent years on charges of providing support to the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF); in almost none of these cases have charges been pursued, but the accused, including opposition activists, have remained in detention for long periods. Canadian national Bashir Makhtal was convicted on charges of supporting the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in July, after a trial that was widely criticized as unfair; he was in detention for two-and-a-half years before his sentence was handed down, and he was unable to access legal counsel and consular representatives for much of that period.

Not only are periods of pretrial detention punitively long, but detainees and convicted prisoners alike face torture and other ill-treatment. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have documented consistent patterns of torture in police and military custody for many years. The Ethiopian government regularly responds that these abuses do not exist, but even the government’s own Human Rights Commission acknowledged in its 2009 annual report that torture and other abuses had taken place in several detention facilities, including in Ambo and Nekemte.

Impunity for Military Abuses

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) has committed serious abuses, in some cases amounting to war crimes or crimes against humanity, in several different conflicts in recent years. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any meaningful efforts to hold the officers or government officials most responsible for those abuses to account. The only government response to crimes against humanity and other serious abuses committed by the military during a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in Gambella in late 2003 and 2004 was an inquiry that prosecuted a handful of junior personnel for deliberate and widespread patterns of abuse. No one has been investigated or held to account for war crimes and other widespread violations of the laws of war during Ethiopia’s bloody military intervention in neighboring Somalia from 2006 to 2008.

In August 2008 the Ethiopian government did purport to launch an inquiry into allegations of serious crimes in Somali Regional State, where the armed forces have been fighting a campaign against the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front for many years. The inquiry was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lacked independence, and concluded that no serious abuses took place. To date the government continues to restrict access of independent investigators into the area.

Relations in the Horn of Africa

In August the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission issued its final rulings on monetary damages stemming from the bloody 1998-2000 border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Nonetheless the two countries remain locked in an intractable dispute about the demarcation of the heavily militarized frontier. Eritrea continues to play a destabilizing role throughout the Horn of Africa through its efforts to undermine and attack the government of Ethiopia wherever possible. The government of President Isayas Afewerki hosts and materially supports fighters from Ethiopian rebel movements, including the Oromo Liberation Front. Eritrea has also pursued a policy of supporting armed opposition groups in Somalia as a way of undermining Ethiopia’s support for the country’s weak Transitional Federal Government.

Key International Actors

Ethiopia is one of the most aid-dependant countries in the world and received more than US$2 billion in 2009, but its major donors have been unwilling to confront the government over its worsening human rights record. Even as the country slides deeper into repression, the Ethiopian government uses development aid funding as leverage against the donors who provide it-many donors fear that the government would discontinue or scale back their aid programs should they speak out on human rights concerns. This trend is perhaps best exemplified by the United Kingdom, whose government has consistently chosen to remain silent in order to protect its annual £130 million worth of bilateral aid and development programs.

Donors are also fearful of jeopardizing access for humanitarian organizations to respond to the drought and worsening food crisis. Millions of Ethiopians depend on food aid, and the government has sought to minimize the scale of the crisis and restrict access for independent surveys and response.

While Ethiopia’s government puts in place measures to control the elections in 2010, many donors have ignored the larger trends and focused instead on negotiating with the government to allow them to send election observers.

A significant shift in donor policy toward Ethiopia would likely have to be led by the US government, Ethiopia’s largest donor and most important political ally on the world stage. But President Barack Obama’s administration has yet to depart from the policies of the Bush administration, which consistently refused to speak out against abuses in Ethiopia. While the reasons may be different-the current government is not as narrowly focused on security cooperation with Ethiopia as was the Bush administration- thus far the practical results have been the same. The events described above attracted little public protest from the US government in 2009.

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Afrik.com

Ethiopia: Repression Rising Ahead of May Elections

Human Rights Watch is pleased to invite you to the launch of a new report, “’One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure’: Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia,” to be held in Nairobi on Wednesday, March 24, 2010.

I
n May 2010, Ethiopia will hold its first national election since the controversial polls in 2005. Using firsthand testimony and documentation collected over the past decade, ?One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure? examines the shrinking space for opposition parties, independent civil society, and the media, and assesses the potential impact of human rights abuses on the electoral process in 2010. In the report, Human Rights Watch calls on the Ethiopian government to take urgent steps to improve the electoral environment by immediately releasing political prisoners; supporting independent efforts to investigate and publicly report on abuses, including by international electoral observers; and ceasing attacks and intimidation on political opposition, independent civil society, and the media.

What: Human Rights Watch report release

“’One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure’: Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia”

Who: Georgette Gagnon, Africa director, Human Rights Watch

When: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.

Where: Chester House, 1st Floor, Room 4, Koinange Street, Nairobi, Kenya

Source: Human Right Watch (HRW)

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Fears over Ethiopia’s press code for poll coverage (By Aaron Maasho (AFP))

Ethiopian dictator is wining before the Vote and promised to jail the opposition soon after ..

It is My Election !

I am the Election itself !

I am the winner !

How can I lose since it is My own Election !

And  I will  Never Ever Lose !

Do you Understand ??? That is it what I call “Electoral Democracy”.

They Lost thus   Jail  is  a Must !!!

Listen to Me Now … my puppets I made You I am Your Bose ..I have hand picked you…

Do you understand?  Yes this is  “Parliamentary Democracy”  my  makings …

We are there for another 30 years …hahaha !!!!

We do not need observers and their Radios

Now Let us  jam it call Bob Marley Please …

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc7_RaJh8rY

I do not Need Observer at my own election.

Let them observe their own.

They never  invite me to observe their sham dumped  election ? Look What they say about my election of  2005:_

It is time the EU and US realise that the current regime in Ethiopia is repressing the people because it lacks democratic legitimacy “

Ana Gomes

EU election observer_

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Marquee Ethiopia Election Matchup Pits PM vs Former Comrade

VOA Peter Heinlein | Addis Ababa 17 March 2010

Ethiopia’s May 23 elections for parliament have produced some interesting match-ups, with several prominent government officials facing stiff competition.  One contest pits Prime Minister Meles Zenawi against a former comrade in arms, Aregash Adane.
Aregash Adane seems an unlikely challenger to one of Africa’s most respected leaders. Invited for an interview about her bid to unseat the prime minister, she arrives on foot. No aides, no driver, no car.
“I’m only a few kilometers away,” she explains, “and I like to walk”.
Aregash Adane knows Meles Zenawi well. They are both from Adwa, in the northern Tigray region. The legislative seat they are contesting represents the town. She is three years older than the 54-year-old prime minister, but says they have close family ties.
“Adwa is both his home and my home. His family and my family are very close. They are friends. We are neighbors,” she added.
Mr. Meles and Ms. Aregash began their political careers as comrades in a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).  They fought together to overthrow the murderous Dergue regime led by the Communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.  When the Dergue collapsed in 1991, the TPLF seized power.
Mr. Meles became leader of both the TPLF and the new ruling coalition called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).  Ms. Aregash was the senior female member of the decision-making central committee.
But in 2001, a power struggle split the TPLF.  Mr. Meles crushed his opponents.  The rival faction, including Aregash Adane, was banished to the political wilderness.
Ms. Aregash says since then, Mr. Meles has followed Leninist principles, establishing himself as the head of a one-party Revolutionary Democratic state.
“It’s a dictatorship,” she noted.  “Revolutionary Democracy is a philosophy of communism or socialism. It was designed by Lenin to create a certain period where they could develop and transit to socialism, so the ideology itself is very dictatorial.”
Ms. Aregash says her challenge to the prime minister is not personal, but policy-driven.  She argues that after 19 years in power, the EPRDF’s promise of democratic socialism has failed to materialize.  She calls Revolutionary Democracy an ideology of the past.
“The EPRDF government has failed in the sense that it didn’t build or create democratic institutions in the country,” she explained.  “There is no era of socialism, at least in the immediate future, so the ideology which Meles is still following is, I believe wrong, so I challenge him.”
The former guerrilla fighter says voters in Adwa are responding to her message, but she doubts Mr. Meles and the ruling party will give up power through the ballot box.  She says Ethiopia’s elections are stage-managed affairs designed to produce a desired outcome while giving the impression of multi-party democracy.
“If people voted against EPRDF, they are not ready to accept it, so they have to create an environment where the opposition couldn’t get a majority,” she said.  “The only thing it’s trying to do is portray he’s creating an environment where the election has been held democratically.”
The May 23 election will be the first parliamentary poll since the disputed 2005 vote, which gave the ruling party a solid majority. Allegations of fraud led to violent demonstrations in which nearly 200 protestors were killed. Scores of opposition leaders were tried and sentenced to life in prison for their part in the protests, but later pardoned.
Ethiopia’s most recent elections, the 2008 local council polls, also gave the ruling party an overwhelming victory. After most opposition parties boycotted, the EPRDF and its allies won all but three of 3.6 million seats being contested

Ethiopia’s May 23 elections for parliament have produced some interesting match-ups, with several prominent government officials facing stiff competition.  One contest pits Prime Minister Meles Zenawi against a former comrade in arms, Aregash Adane.
Aregash Adane seems an unlikely challenger to one of Africa’s most respected leaders. Invited for an interview about her bid to unseat the prime minister, she arrives on foot. No aides, no driver, no car.
“I’m only a few kilometers away,” she explains, “and I like to walk”.
Aregash Adane knows Meles Zenawi well. They are both from Adwa, in the northern Tigray region. The legislative seat they are contesting represents the town. She is three years older than the 54-year-old prime minister, but says they have close family ties.
“Adwa is both his home and my home. His family and my family are very close. They are friends. We are neighbors,” she added.
Mr. Meles and Ms. Aregash began their political careers as comrades in a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).  They fought together to overthrow the murderous Dergue regime led by the Communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.  When the Dergue collapsed in 1991, the TPLF seized power.
Mr. Meles became leader of both the TPLF and the new ruling coalition called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).  Ms. Aregash was the senior female member of the decision-making central committee.
But in 2001, a power struggle split the TPLF.  Mr. Meles crushed his opponents.  The rival faction, including Aregash Adane, was banished to the political wilderness.
Ms. Aregash says since then, Mr. Meles has followed Leninist principles, establishing himself as the head of a one-party Revolutionary Democratic state.
“It’s a dictatorship,” she noted.  “Revolutionary Democracy is a philosophy of communism or socialism. It was designed by Lenin to create a certain period where they could develop and transit to socialism, so the ideology itself is very dictatorial.”
Ms. Aregash says her challenge to the prime minister is not personal, but policy-driven.  She argues that after 19 years in power, the EPRDF’s promise of democratic socialism has failed to materialize.  She calls Revolutionary Democracy an ideology of the past.
“The EPRDF government has failed in the sense that it didn’t build or create democratic institutions in the country,” she explained.  “There is no era of socialism, at least in the immediate future, so the ideology which Meles is still following is, I believe wrong, so I challenge him.”
The former guerrilla fighter says voters in Adwa are responding to her message, but she doubts Mr. Meles and the ruling party will give up power through the ballot box.  She says Ethiopia’s elections are stage-managed affairs designed to produce a desired outcome while giving the impression of multi-party democracy.
“If people voted against EPRDF, they are not ready to accept it, so they have to create an environment where the opposition couldn’t get a majority,” she said.  “The only thing it’s trying to do is portray he’s creating an environment where the election has been held democratically.”  The May 23 election will be the first parliamentary poll since the disputed 2005 vote, which gave the ruling party a solid majority. Allegations of fraud led to violent demonstrations in which nearly 200 protestors were killed. Scores of opposition leaders were tried and sentenced to life in prison for their part in the protests, but later pardoned.
Ethiopia’s most recent elections, the 2008 local council polls, also gave the ruling party an overwhelming victory. After most opposition parties boycotted, the EPRDF and its allies won all but three of 3.6 million seats being contested

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US criticizes Ethiopia’s “jamming” of Voice of America

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The United States condemned Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles’ decision to jam Voice of America’s Amharic Service, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

The U.S. also condemned Meles’ comparison of their programming to Radio Mille Collines, a radio station that projected racist propaganda and hate during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

“Comparing a respected and professional news service to a group that called for genocide in Rwanda is a baseless and inflammatory accusation that seeks only to deflect attention away from the core issue,” said State Department acting spokesman Gordon Duguid.

“The Prime Minister may disagree with news carried in Voice of America’s Amharic Service broadcasts; however, a decision to jam VOA broadcasts contradicts the Government of Ethiopia’s frequent public commitments to freedom of the press,” Duguid added.

The U.S. said the Ethiopian Constitution states that all citizens have the right to freedom of expression “without any interference” and that this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, “regardless of frontiers.”

Ethiopian Shadow Puppet electoral 3 round Debates

Chinese Shadow Puppet Theater type Electoral

Debate 1

Ethiopian Electoral Puppet Show

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Ethiopian opposition parties threaten election boycott

News Africa news

Ethiopia’s main opposition coalition Wednesday threatened to pull out of the 23 May parliamentary elections, citing intimidation of party supporters and its inability to field candidates against the ruling party, PANA reported from here.

The eight political parties, under the Forum for Democratic Dialogue (Forum), led by Dr. Merara Gudina, said they were considering pulling out of the parliamentary race, if the harassment of supporters continued ahead of the polls.

“We cannot give the electorate a false promise that we will compete fairly in the upcoming elections,” said Engineer Gizachew Sheferew, the deputy chair of the forum.

The Forum is considered one of the most formidable challengers to the ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF) under the leadership of Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister.

The EPRDF said the opposition parties were only interested in building a case for a post-election violence.

“We are unable to conduct the normal process of a democratic election, which includes the registration of candidates, the registration of voters,” Bulcha Mideksa, head of the party’s Foreign Relations Committee, told PANA.

“There is no possibility of us talking to the people. It is impossible to hold political rallies because the government will not allow us,” said Mideksa.

The opposition politicians spoke hours after the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) extended the registration of voters for an additional five days.

The Forum, however, said the five days were not enough to register more voters.

At least 27 million voters have registered for the elections, out of an estimated 32 million eligible to vote.

“We want to inform the public that we are not operating according to a normal political scenario of a free and fair election,” Mideksa added.

“There is a mini-war against us. There are places where our candidates cannot register, they are being intimidated and the government has blocked us from changing the candidates who have not registered for the elections,” the party leader said.

Prof. Beyene Petros, of the United Ethiopian Democratic Force, a member of the Forum, said opposition parties had about 50 per cent of their candidates blocked from registering for various elective positions during the upcoming elections.

“The best gift the government can give to the people of Ethiopia is to organise free and fair elections, free of intimidation,” Gudian told a news conference.

Ethiopia is set to hold its parliamentary elections on 23 May and the party with a majority of the seats in the 545-seat parliament forms the next government after the elections.

The Forum said it would form a government of national unity, bringing together all the opposition groups, including rebel groups in the country’s Southern region.

Addis Ababa – Pana 18/02/2010

UN Sanctioned & stigmatized Eritrea … IC Continues to deny Genocidal Woyane A Judgment day…?



Eritrean pleads not guilty to aiding terrorists

By LARRY NEUMEISTER | Posted: March 9, 2010 2:53 pm |

Evidence collected by the United States against an East African charged with providing support to a Somali terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida includes lengthy statements he made to authorities, a prosecutor told a judge Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher LaVigne made the revelation during a plea proceeding for Mohamed IbrahimAhmed in Manhattan. Ahmed’s lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Ahmed, 35, a citizen of Eritrea, was brought to the United States on Saturday from Nigeria on charges that he supported al-Shabaab, a violent extremist group in Somalia.

Prosecutors say he gave the organization 3,000 euros and studied weapons and explosives at a training camp. They say he bought an AK-47 rifle, ammunition and two grenades in April in Somalia. Al-Shabaab was designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group in 2008.

LaVigne told U.S. District Judge Kevin P. Castel that evidence the government will turn over to the defense in the case includes extensive statements Ahmed made in Nigeria, along with items recovered from him.

The prosecutor said Ahmed’s statements were in six reports that amounted to 10 to 13 pages. As the prosecutor spoke, Ahmed nodded his head as he listened to a translator. The government wouldn’t disclose details on Ahmed’s statements.

His apparent cooperation with authorities seemed evident in court. At the end of the proceeding, which lasted only a few minutes, Ahmed leaped from his chair and headed toward the door leading to the cell block next to the courtroom. The marshals who accompanied him did not appear alarmed by his rapid movement.

Court papers indicated Ahmed might have been held by authorities since November, when officials say he was found in possession of documents reflecting bomb-making instructions. The indictment also said his crimes stretch from at least January 2009 through last November.

U.S. authorities would likely welcome any information Ahmed can provide about al-Shabaab.

An indictment charging Ahmed with providing material support to the organization and receiving training from the group said a former leader of al-Shabaab who trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan prior to 2001 had called for foreign fighters to go to Somalia to join al-Shabaab in a “holy war” against the Ethiopian and African Union forces in Somalia.

The indictment said al-Shabaab’s recruitment efforts had led men from other countries including the United States to go to Somalia to engage in violent jihad _ holy war.

The indictment said al-Shabaab was believed to have provided protection and safe haven for al-Qaida operatives wanted for a 2002 hotel bombing in Kenya and the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that resulted in 224 deaths, including 12 Americans.

It said al-Shabaab in April declared it was responsible for mortar attacks against a U.S. congressman visiting Somalia. A year before that, al-Shabaab leaders declared that their fighters would “hunt the U.S. government” and warned that the U.S. and Ethiopia should keep its citizens out of Somalia, the indictment said.

Al-Shabaab is the most active group of violent extremists targeting Somalia’s weak U.S.-backed transitional government. The indictment said it has carried out assassinations of civilians and journalists and had distributed a videotape depicting the slow decapitation of an accused spy.

Somalia, an impoverished East African nation of about 10 million people, has not had a functioning government for more than a decade.

Federal prosecutors said al-Shabaab, hoping to impose strict Islamic law throughout Somalia, has claimed responsibility for suicide bombing attacks in recent years, including five simultaneous suicide bombings targeting government, Ethiopian and United Nations facilities in October 2008.

Woyane Man Charged with Terrorism in U.S. Court (the article above)

Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:54 pm

If you recall few days ago The New York Times made a deliberate error in its reporting of the terrorism suspect held in New York as being from “Eritrea.” And as usual the evil-slave woyanes hell bent to smear Eritreans run with it, flooding the cyberspace, including this forum, with their childish propaganda to smear the good name of their former masters — the Eritreans.

But now that the terrorism suspect is identified as an Ethiopian national, most probably from Tigray, the woyane propaganda guns are silenced. You slave-woyanes got to be careful what you wish for because essentially that it will come back to bite you in the a$$ – and here it has…..

Sabrina Schroff, the man’s lawyer in the United States, says that the Ethiopian native denies all the accusations. The New York Times identifies him as Eritrean, but the Swedish Foreign Minister holds that he is originally from Ethiopia.



U.S. report accuses Eritrea of systematic abuses

Bartamaha (Nairobi):– The United States has intensified its criticism of Eritrea, saying the Red Sea state systematically abuses human rights and is a destabilizing influence in the Horn of Africa.

In its annual human rights country report, released late on Thursday, the U.S. State Department accused Eritrea of sponsoring terrorism in the Horn of Africa, and acting as a source and conduit for arms to insurgents in Somalia.
It said Asmara oversaw unlawful killings by its security forces, routine beatings and torture, arbitrary arrests, and severely restricted freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association and religion.
“(Throughout 2009) consistent and systemic gross human rights violations persisted unabated at the government’s behest,” the report said.
Citing a June report by the U.N. Munitions Monitoring Group, it said the Red Sea state was guilty of sponsoring terrorism in the Horn of Africa.
The State Department report went on: “The government acted as a principal source and conduit for arms to antigovernment, extremist, and insurgent groups in Somalia.”
Asmara says there is no concrete evidence for the allegations, accusing Washington of inventing statistics and interfering in the region, and blames years of intrusive U.S. foreign policy as a cause of the conflict in Somalia.
RELATIONS STRAINED
Ties between the United States and Eritrea have been severely strained by a series of accusations and counter-accusations.
In February, the U.S. embassy suspended its consular services and last week issued a travel warning, referring to a rise in anti-U.S. sentiment among Eritreans. Eritrea then accused Washington of trying to create chaos in the country..
Asmara has still not officially recognized the U.S. ambassador and the state-owned media are running a sustained campaign against what they say are decades of U.S. persecution.
The United States sees Eritrea as an enemy in the fight against Islamist radicalization, alleging support for the al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al Shabaab.
U.S. prosecutors said this week an Eritrean arrested in Nigeria was brought to New York to face charges after receiving bomb-making training from al Shabaab.
The United States bankrolled Eritrea’s regional rival Ethiopia during its long occupation of Eritrea, a memory that still rankles among Eritreans when ties with Washington start to go cold.
The occupation ended in the early 1990s when the outnumbered Eritreans fought Ethiopia and won independence.
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(Editing by David Clarke and Andrew Dobbie)

Source:- Reuters


UN Position

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Eritrean Position

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  • Eritrean response to sanctions

The UN Security Council has today passed a shameful resolution imposing sanctions against Eritrea. The unjustifiable measures imposed on Eritrea include: an arms embargo; the inspection and seizure by Member States in their territory of such cargo to and from Eritrea; and, the imposition of a travel ban, and the freezing of assets of, Eritrea’s political and military leadership who may be blacklisted by a Committee.

As Eritrea has strongly emphasized in the past weeks, this brazen act is neither based on fact nor on the provisions of international law. It constitutes a travesty of justice and amplifies the dangers inherent in a unipolar world.

The fact of the matter is this resolution was originally conceived and feverishly executed by the United States. Britain, and especially Uganda, were co-opted as sponsors of the resolution for purposes of deceitful packaging. The US Mission to the UN further tried to invoke a resolution of the African Union to disguise the real culprit. But in the end, this cover did not work. As it happened, the US Ambassador to the UN was ultimately forced to come out of the closet and cajole UN Member States to adopt the resolution willy-nilly.

Setting aside the misguided policies of the US Administration in the Horn of Africa region and the loathsome personal agenda of the US Ambassador to the UN who could not hide her obsession to “punish Eritrea” and “break its arrogance”, what are the accusations leveled against Eritrea? How do these accusations square with the provisions of the UN Charter? Does the
heavy-handed process pursued in this case conform to the modalities and precedents of the UN Security Council in imposing sanctions against a Member State?

1.     It must be stressed that the accusations against Eritrea for involvement in Somalia have never been substantiated or verified. Many Member States objected to the draft resolution in the early days precisely for these reasons though they acquiesced to US pressure later. The Somalia Monitoring Group had previously accused Eritrea for “supplying arms to those opposing the TFG”. This clause was later dropped quietly and the revised version indicts Eritrea for “providing political, financial, and logistical support to armed groups engaged in undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia”. As pointed out earlier, these allegations were, again, not explained or substantiated. Indeed, how can Eritrea provide logistical support to armed groups in Somalia when it does not have a contiguous border with that country? The allegation of financial support is equally tenuous. Eritrea has neither the political will nor the financial clout to bankroll armed groups in Somalia. As for the accusations of political support, it is well-known that Eritrea has not recognized the TFG for cogent and well-thought out reasons. This was also the case with the externally established previous TFGs installed in Mogadishu without the consent of the Somali people. Eritrea’s impartial and balanced position emanates from its profound desire to contribute to a durable and sustainable solution to the crisis in Somalia. These political considerations aside, the fundamental legal issue at hand is whether this matter of purely sovereign national jurisdiction can be misconstrued as a subject of UN Security Council concern. Is it the mandate of the Security Council to punish any Member State on account of the political views it holds or the diplomatic choices it makes? Has the Security Council ever imposed sanctions against one or more countries because they have not recognized Kosovo, Abkhazia, or South Ossetia? Does controversy on matters of this nature empower the UN Security Council to take punitive measures against a defenseless country arbitrarily?

2.    The resolution refers to the “decision of the 13th Assembly of the African Union in Sirte, calling on the Council to impose sanctions against Eritrea”. Again, this assertion is replete with distortions and half-truths. As underlined earlier, the resolution was co-sponsored by Uganda in its individual capacity. It was not tabled, but on the contrary, vehemently opposed by Libya which is the current Chair of the AU and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. More importantly, the UN Security Council’s function is not to rubber-stamp resolutions adopted by a regional organization when invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter to impose sanctions against a Member State but to do so independently and only on the basis of incontrovertible facts and law.

3.    In a feat of unprecedented cynicism, the UN Security Council Resolution recommends other punitive measures against Eritrea on account of the U.S. fabricated “border dispute with Djibouti”. For seven long years now since the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission gave its final and binding Award on the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia in April 2002, the Security Council has refused to shoulder its responsibilities to ensure the respect of the arbitration decision in accordance with the provisions of the Algiers Peace Treaty that was largely drafted and explicitly guaranteed by this same body. This has encouraged Ethiopia to violate its treaty obligations, the UN Charter and international law to continue its occupation of Badme and other sovereign Eritrean lands. This same Security Council is now singing to a different tune, simply because it is played by Washington, to threaten Eritrea with punitive measure for a non-existent border conflict.

Security Council Resolution 1907(2009) is thus not based on law and incontrovertible facts. The United States has simply employed its preponderant influence to ram through unjustifiable sanctions against a small country. What is shameful is that the United States has been allowed to use the platform and authority of the United Nations to perpetrate injustices against the people and Government of Eritrea; for the second time in recent history. What is shameful is that other major powers in the UN Security Council cannot go beyond expressing their disappointment, mostly in private meetings, to check the excesses of Washington. What is shameful is that the United States can turn the tables and victimize an innocent nation for the very crimes that it is responsible for in the first place. Because the truth is, the United States is mostly responsible for the mayhem and suffering that is bedeviling Somalia today. Indeed, it is common knowledge that as intractable as the Somali crisis is, there were real hopes of a turnaround for the better in 2006. For reasons that defy reason, the Bush Administration then acted to roll back those promising developments to instigate and support Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia. That single debacle claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Somalis, made half a million people homeless and aggravated the humanitarian crisis in Somalia to unprecedented levels. But then, the Security Council is not taking action on the basis of justice and legality. It is taking action on the basis of the existing power balance in a largely unipolar world. This does not bode well for international justice and peace. This is why today is a shameful day for the United Nations.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Asmara
23 December 2009

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Woyane Position

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AU Position

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Somalia backs UN sanctions on Eritrea

MOGADISHU (Somalilandpress) –The Somali envoy to the United nations security council, Elmi Ahmad Du’ale, has said the sanctions imposed on Eritrea by the Security Council on 23 December were “proof” that the country aided terrorism.

The Security Council on Wednesday imposed sanctions Eritrea over providing military support to Islamist insurgents battling the Somali government.

“The sanctions were based, first and foremost, on proof that Eritrea supports terrorism and extremist groups opposed to the Somali government, which have been the stumbling block to stability in Somalia” Du’ale said in a strong drawl in an interview with Hornafrik local radio in Mogadishu on Thursday.

Ethiopia Freedom is not Free

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No Freedom of Press!

No Human Right!

No Freedom of Expression!

Freedom House

Citing harassment by the ruling party, the opposition decided to boycott local elections in 2008. Also during the year, revised draft and actual laws regulating the press and civil society provided a reinforced legal basis for government oversight and control. The political climate was further polarized by ongoing tension in several restive provinces, relations with Eritrea, and Ethiopia’s military engagement in Somalia. A drought and rising food prices proved to be complicating factors.

One of the few African countries to avoid European colonization during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Ethiopia ended a long tradition of monarchy in 1974, when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in a Marxist military coup. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam subsequently established a brutal dictatorship that lasted more than 15 years. He was overthrown in 1991 by a coalition of guerrilla groups led by forces from the northern Tigray region. The main rebel group, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), formed a new regime, and EPRDF leader Meles Zenawi became interim president.
During the ensuing transitional period, the EPRDF government fostered the emergence of democratic institutions, and a new constitution took effect in 1995. The EPRDF dominated that year’s elections, which were boycotted by most of the opposition, and Meles became prime minister. He began a second five-year term after the May 2000 elections, which the EPRDF won in a landslide victory over the weak and divided opposition. Opposition parties and some observers criticized the government’s conduct of the vote.

A dispute over the border with neighboring Eritrea, which had gained formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a long guerrilla conflict, resulted in open warfare from 1998 until 2000. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) was established in the wake of the bloody fighting to draw a new border. It announced its decision in April 2002, laying out a boundary that assigned the town of Badme to Eritrea. The commission’s judgments were supposed to be binding on both sides, but Ethiopia rejected the EEBC decision.

The May 2005 elections for the powerful lower house of Parliament resulted in a major increase in opposition representation. The EPRDF and its allies won 327 seats, while the two main opposition parties took 161 seats, up from 12 in the previous Parliament. The governing coalition also won elections for eight of nine regional parliaments. Notwithstanding their significant gains, opposition parties argued that interference and fraud in the electoral process had deprived them of outright victory. Street demonstrations led to violence, excessive use of force by the authorities, and widespread arrests. At least 193 people were killed and more than 4,000 were arrested, including leading opposition figures who were later charged with capital offenses. Under considerable pressure from human rights groups, the government ultimately pardoned and released those defendants in 2007.

At the end of 2006, Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia, routing Islamist groups that had taken control of Mogadishu and the southern parts of the country. The offensive enabled Somalia’s fragile Transitional Federal Government to establish a presence in Mogadishu, but clashes between Ethiopian forces and Somali militias continued through 2007 and 2008. The prospect of renewed violence in the border dispute with Eritrea presented another area of concern. In November 2007, the EEBC demarcated the boundary by map coordinates in a ruling accepted by Eritrea but rejected by Ethiopia. The UN Security Council voted to end its peacekeeping mission in July 2008. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian military also sought to quell ongoing unrest in the eastern Ogaden region.

The government maintained its tight control over the country’s officially pluralist political institutions in 2008. Citing harassment by the ruling party, the opposition decided to boycott local elections during the year. Revised draft and actual laws regulating the press and civil society created the potential for expanded government interference, and there was violence and repression in several provinces with a significant opposition presence. These problems were exacerbated by rising food prices and a drought that threatened as many as eight million people, according to the United Nations.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Ethiopia is not an electoral democracy. However, the presence of a significant elected opposition at the national level since 2005 does mark a possible step forward in the development of the country’s democratic political culture. Prior national elections had resulted in allegations from opposition parties and civil society groups of major irregularities, including unequal access to media, lack of transparent procedures, a flawed election law, and a partisan National Electoral Board.

The opposition claimed fraud again in 2005, and European Union and other observers stated that the elections did not meet international standards, citing problems including faulty voter-registration lists and significant administrative irregularities. However, observers led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter concluded that despite its serious problems, the balloting essentially represented the will of the Ethiopian people.

The country’s legislature is bicameral, consisting of a 108-seat upper house, the House of Federation, and a 547-seat lower house, the House of People’s Representatives. The lower house is filled through popular elections, while the upper chamber is selected by the state legislatures. Lawmakers in both houses serve five-year terms. Executive power is vested in a prime minister, who is chosen by the House of People’s Representatives. The 1995 constitution has a number of unique features, including a federal structure that grants certain powers and the right of secession to ethnically based states. However, in 2003, the central government acquired additional powers to intervene in states’ affairs when public security is deemed to be at risk.

More than 60 legally recognized political parties are active in Ethiopia, but the political scene continues to be dominated by the EPRDF. Citing intimidation and arrests of its candidates, opposition parties boycotted local elections in April 2008, which predictably resulted in a large margin of victory for government supporters. Opposition parties have long argued that their ability to function is seriously impeded by government harassment, although observers also note that some opposition parties have at times used rhetoric that could be interpreted as advocating violence or otherwise failed to comport themselves in a manner consistent with a democratic political culture.

The government has taken a number of steps to limit corruption, but it has also been accused of participating in corrupt practices. In 2007, former prime minister Tamrat Layne and former defense minister Seye Abreha were convicted on corruption charges. Ethiopia was ranked 126 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index.

The news media are dominated by state-owned broadcasters and government-oriented newspapers. Opposition and civic organizations have criticized slanted news coverage. The Committee to Protect Journalists in 2007 cited the Ethiopian government for backtracking on press freedom issues. It noted increased imprisonment of journalists, with many reporters going into exile by choice or coercion. This trend continued in 2008, as the government forced two more magazines out of circulation using laws against the disturbance of public order. Also during the year, Parliament adopted a new media law after years of debate. The measure barred government censorship of private media and the detention of journalists, but it allowed prosecutors to seize material before publication in the name of national security. Furthermore, it gave the government broader powers to pursue defamation cases against the media.

A number of privately owned newspapers exist, but they struggle to remain financially viable and face intermittent government harassment. In 2006, licenses were awarded to two private FM stations in the capital. Internet usage is confined mainly to major urban areas.

Constitutionally mandated religious freedom is generally respected, although religious tensions have risen in recent years. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is influential, particularly in the north. In the south, there is a large Muslim community, made up mainly of Somalis, Oromo, and Afari.

Academic freedom is restricted. In recent years, student strikes to protest police brutality and various government policies have led to scores of deaths and injuries as well as hundreds of arrests. Student grievances include perceived government repression of the Oromo ethnic group. Many students were killed, injured, or arrested during protests against the May 2005 election results.

Freedoms of assembly and association are limited. A number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active, but they are generally reluctant to discuss issues and advocate policies that may bring them into conflict with the government. The government closely regulates NGO activities and has introduced draft legislation that it claims would provide heightened financial transparency among NGOs and enhance their accountability to stakeholders. This legislation was under final consideration by parliament at the end of 2008. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have severely criticized the proposed law, arguing that it would codify provisions designed to control and monitor civil society groups while punishing those that do not have the government’s favor.

According to the Workers’ Group of the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are severe restrictions on the rights of trade unions in Ethiopia. The labor laws authorize only one trade union in companies employing more than 20 workers. Government workers in “essential industries,” a term that is broadly defined, are not allowed to strike. The Confederation of Ethiopian Unions is under government control. The law governing trade unions states that a trade organization may not act in an overtly political manner, and some union leaders have been removed from their elected offices or forced to leave the country. All unions must be registered, and the government retains the authority to cancel union registration.

The judiciary is officially independent, although there have been few significant examples of decisions at variance with government policy. The efficacy of police, judicial, and administrative systems at the local level is highly uneven. Some progress has been made in reducing a significant backlog of court cases. Human Rights Watch in 2006 reported that the government used intimidation, arbitrary detentions, and excessive force in rural areas in the wake of the 2005 election-related protests.

The government has tended to favor Tigrayan ethnic interests in economic and political matters. Politics within the EPRDF have been dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Democratic Front. Discrimination against and repression of other groups, especially the Oromo, have been widespread.
The government recently established a women’s affairs ministry, and Parliament has passed legislation designed to protect women’s rights in a number of areas. In practice, however, women’s rights are routinely violated. Women have traditionally had few land or property rights, especially in rural areas, where there is little opportunity for female employment beyond agricultural labor. Violence against women and social discrimination are reportedly common. Societal norms and limited infrastructure prevent many women from seeking legal redress for their grievances. While illegal, the kidnapping of women and girls for marriage continues in parts of the country. General deficiencies in education exacerbate the problems of rural poverty and gender inequality. According to the NGO Save the Children, Ethiopia has one of the lowest rates of school enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa.

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2009 Annual Report for Ethiopia

Amnesty  International

Restrictions on humanitarian assistance to the Somali Region (known as the Ogaden) continued. The government engaged in sporadic armed conflict against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and both forces perpetrated human rights abuses against civilians. Ethiopian troops fighting insurgents in Somalia in support of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) committed human rights abuses and were reported to have committed war crimes. Security forces arrested members of the Oromo ethnic group in Addis Ababa and in the Oromo Region towards the end of the year. Independent journalists continued to face harassment and arrest. A number of political prisoners were believed to remain in detention and opposition party leader Birtukan Mideksa, who was pardoned in 2007, was rearrested. A draft law restricting the activities of Ethiopian and international organizations working on human rights was expected to be passed by parliament in 2009. Ethiopia remained one of the world’s poorest countries with some 6.4million people suffering acute food insecurity, including 1.9 millionin the Somali Region.
Background

The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission completed its mandate in October, despite Ethiopia failing to implement its ruling, and the UN Security Council withdrew the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in the wake of Eritrean obstruction of its operations along the Eritrea/Ethiopia border.

Thousands of Ethiopian armed forces remained in Somalia to support the TFG in armed conflict against insurgents throughout most of the year. Accusations of human rights violations committed by Ethiopian forces continued in 2008. Insurgent factions stated that they were fighting to force Ethiopia’s withdrawal from Somalia. A phased plan for Ethiopian withdrawal was included in a peace agreement signed by the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia-Djibouti and TFG representatives in late October. Ethiopian forces began to withdraw late in the year, but had not withdrawn from Somalia completely by the end of the year.

The government faced sporadic armed conflict in the Oromo and Somali regions, with ONLF members also implicated in human rights abuses against civilians. Ethiopian opposition parties in exile remained active in Eritrea and in other countries in Africa and Europe.
“Ethiopian forces attacked the al-Hidya mosque in Mogadishu killing 21 men…”

Divisions split the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party, leading to the emergence of new opposition parties, including the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP) led by former judge Birtukan Mideksa. She was one of more than 70 CUD leaders, journalists and civil society activists convicted, then pardoned and released in 2007.

Suicide bombers attacked Ethiopia’s trade mission in Hargeisa, Somaliland, on 29 October killing several Ethiopian and Somali civilians.
Prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners

A number of political prisoners, detained in previous years in the context of internal armed conflicts or following contested elections in 2005, remained in detention.
Bekele Jirata, General Secretary of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement party, Asefa Tefera Dibaba, a lecturer at Addis Ababa University and dozens of others from the Oromo ethnic group were arrested in Addis Ababa and parts of the Oromo Region from 30 October onwards. Some of those detained were accused of financially supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
Sultan Fowsi Mohamed Ali, an independent mediator, who was arrested in Jijiga in August 2007 reportedly to prevent him from giving evidence to a UN fact-finding mission, remained in detention. Tried for alleged involvement in two hand grenade attacks in 2007, he was sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment in May 2008.
On 15 January Birtukan Mideksa, Gizachew Shiferaw and Alemayehu Yeneneh, then senior members of the CUD, were briefly detained by police after holding party meetings in southern Ethiopia. Birtukan Mideksa was rearrested on 28 December after she issued a public statement regarding the negotiations that led to her 2007 pardon. Her pardon was revoked and the sentence of life imprisonment reinstated.
Prisoner releases

Many released prisoners faced harassment and intimidation, with some choosing to leave the country.
Human rights defenders and lawyers Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie were released on 28 March. They had been detained since November 2005 together with hundreds of opposition parliamentarians, CUD members and journalists. Unlike their co-defendants in the trial who were pardoned and released in 2007, Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie remained in detention, having refused to sign a document negotiated by local elders. They mounted a defence and were convicted by the Federal High Court of criminal incitement (although the presiding judge dissented) and sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment. When it became evident they would not be released, even after they appealed, they chose to sign the negotiated document, and were subsequently pardoned and released after serving 29 months of their sentence.
Charges of conspiring to commit “outrages against the Constitution” faced by Yalemzewd Bekele, a human rights lawyer who had been working for the European Commission in Addis Ababa, were dropped, without prejudice, before trial.
Abdirahman Mohamed Qani, chief of the Tolomoge sub-clan of the Ogaden clan in the Somali Region, was detained on 13 July after receiving a large public welcome when he returned from two years abroad. He was released on 7 October, and his relatives who had also been detained were reportedly released several days later.
CUD activist Alemayehu Mesele, who had suffered harassment since his release from prison in 2007, fled Ethiopia in early May after he was severely beaten by unknown assailants.
The editor of the Reporter newspaper Amare Aregawi was severely beaten by unknown assailants on 31 October in Addis Ababa. He had previously been detained by security officers in August.

In September, the government announced that it had released 394 prisoners and commuted one death sentence to life imprisonment to mark the Ethiopian New Year.
Freedom of expression

Independent journalists continued to face harassment and arrest.

At least 13 newspapers shut down by the government in 2005 were still closed. Independent journalists were reportedly denied licences to operate, although others did receive licences. Serkalem Fasil, Eskinder Nega and Sisay Agena, former publishers of Ethiopia’s largest circulation independent newspapers, who had been detained with CUD members, were denied licences to open two new newspapers.

In February the Supreme Court upheld a decision to dissolve the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) and hand over its assets to a rival union formed by the government, also known as the Ethiopian Teachers Association. This action followed years of harassment and detention of union members. In December the union, under its new name, the National Teachers’ Association, had its application for registration as a professional organization rejected.

On World Press Freedom Day (3 May) Alemayehu Mahtemework, publisher of the monthly Enku, was detained and 10,000 copies of his publication impounded. He was released after five days without charge and copies of the magazine were later returned to him.

In November a Federal High Court judge convicted editor-in chief of the weekly Enbilta, Tsion Girma, of “inciting the public through false rumours” after a reporting mistake. She reportedly paid a fine and was released.
Human rights defenders

A draft Charities and Societies Proclamation was revised several times by the government in 2008, but remained threatening to the rights of freedom of assembly, association and expression.

Its provisions included severe restrictions on the amount of foreign funding Ethiopian civil society organizations working on human rights-related issues could receive from abroad (no more than 10 per cent of total revenues). It would also establish a Civil Societies Agency with sweeping authority over organizations carrying out work on human rights and conflict resolution in Ethiopia. It was expected to be passed into law by Parliament in early 2009.
Ethiopian troops in Somalia

Ethiopia maintained a significant troop presence in Somalia which supported the TFG until the end of the year. Ethiopian forces committed human rights abuses and were reported to have committed war crimes. Ethiopian forces attacked the al-Hidya mosque in Mogadishu killing 21 men, some inside the mosque, on 19 April. More than 40 children were held for some days after the mosque raid before being released .

Many attacks by Ethiopian forces in response to armed insurgents were reported to have been indiscriminate and disproportionate, often occurring in densely civilian-populated areas.
Internal armed conflict

The government continued counter-insurgency operations in the Somali Region, which increased after attacks by the ONLF on an oil installation in Obole in April 2007. These included restrictions on humanitarian aid which have had a serious impact on conflict-affected districts of the region. The government did not allow unhindered independent access for human rights monitoring.

Reports, dating back to 2007, of beatings, rape and other forms of torture, forcible conscription and extrajudicial executions in the Somali Region were investigated by a government-contracted body but not by an independent international body.
Torture and other ill-treatment

Reports of torture made by defendants in the trial of elected parliamentarian Kifle Tigeneh and others, one of several CUD trials, were not investigated.

Conditions in Kaliti prison and other detention facilities were harsh – overcrowded, unhygienic and lacking adequate medical care. Among those detained in such conditions were long-term political prisoners held without charge or trial, particularly those accused of links to the OLF.
Mulatu Aberra, a trader of the Oromo ethnic group accused of supporting the OLF, was released on 1 July on bail and fled the country. He had been arrested in November 2007 and reportedly tortured and denied medical treatment for resulting injuries while in detention.
Death penalty

While a number of death sentences were imposed by courts in 2008, no executions were reported.
In May the Federal Supreme Court overturned earlier rulings and sentenced to death former President Mengistu Haile Mariam (in exile in Zimbabwe) and 18 senior officials of his Dergue government. The prosecution had appealed against life imprisonment sentences passed in 2007, after they were convicted by the Federal High Court of genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated between 1974 and 1991.
On 6 April a court sentenced to death five military officers in absentia. They served under Mengistu Haile Mariam, and were held responsible for air raids in Hawzen, in the Tigray Region, which killed hundreds in a market in June 1980.
On 8 May a court in Tigray Region found six people guilty of a bus bombing in northern Ethiopia between Humora and Shira on 13 March and sentenced three of them to death.
On 21 May the Federal Supreme Court sentenced eight men to death for a 28 May 2007 bombing in Jijiga in the Somali Region.
On 22 May a military tribunal sentenced to death in absentia four Ethiopian pilots , who sought asylum while training in Israel.

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Freedom of the Press 2009 – Ethiopia

Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 25 (of 30)
Political Environment: 33 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 18 (of 30)
Total Score: 76 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.

Conditions for press freedom improved slightly in 2008, following the government’s November 2005 crackdown on opposition political parties and the civil society groups and media outlets that were perceived to support them. A controversial draft law to regulate civil society was introduced during the year, and while it did not directly affect the press, it had a chilling effect on all nongovernmental actors and increased concerns about government persecution. Separately, the government reversed an earlier decision and granted licenses to two of the publishers arrested in 2005. While many Ethiopian journalists have gone into exile, arguably the most important figures remain in the country, providing some hope for a reinvigorated press. Currently, however, the critical perspectives held by many newspapers before the 2005 crackdown have yet to resurface.

The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but this right is often restricted in practice. The Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation was passed into law in December 2008 after years of consultation and debate. The legislation is not exceptionally restrictive, but it has been criticized by the private media and press freedom groups for imposing constraints on the practice of journalism and harsh sanctions for violations. The most controversial provisions were included in the penal code that took effect in May 2005. Of greater concern are the selective approach the government takes in implementing laws and the lack of an independent judiciary. Journalists have few guarantees that they will receive a fair trial, and charges are often issued arbitrarily in response to personal disputes.Court cases can continue for years, and many journalists have multiple charges pending against them. Laws provide for freedom of information, although access to public information is largely restricted in practice, and the government has traditionally limited coverage of official events to state-owned media outlets, albeit with slight openings that began in 2006. In late October 2008, the prime minister abruptly announced a major cabinet reshuffle, including the closure of the Ministry of Information. The precise effects of this move were still unclear at the end of the year.

The broad political crackdown that began in November 2005, in which several dozen journalists and politicians were arrested on charges ranging from treason to subverting the constitution, continued to have negative implications for the media during 2008. Of the 15 journalists released during 2007, seven subsequently sought asylum abroad, and others such as Sisay Agena, Eskinder Nega and Serkalem Fasil have found it difficult to obtain licenses to resume their work. In August 2008, Amare Aregawi, editor of the English- and Amharic-language weekly Reporter, was imprisoned for an article on a labor dispute at a government-run brewery in Gonder. He also received anonymous threats after running a series of articles alleging that associates of billionaire businessman Sheikh Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi had mismanaged his investments. On October 31, Aregawi was severely beaten outside his son’s school. There were several incidents of harassment and arrests related to media coverage of the politically charged hit-and-run trial of pop singer Teddy Afro, a government critic whose songs were seen as opposition anthems during the 2005 postelection period. The government continued to crack down on political reporting, especially involving the Ginbot 7 opposition movement. Several journalists remained imprisoned at year’s end, and reporters continued to be arrested on charges dating back several years. Two Eritrean journalists from Eri-TV who were reportedly arrested by Ethiopian forces in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in 2006 continue to be held at an undisclosed location in Ethiopia. Foreign journalists and those working for international news organizations have generally operated with fewer restrictions than their local counterparts; however, they regularly practice self-censorship and face harassment and threats from authorities.

The state controls all broadcast media and operates the only television station. In 2007, a new broadcasting authority was created, and the first licenses were finally awarded to two private FM stations in the capital, Addis Ababa. In June 2008, the first private, foreign-language FM station, Afro FM, was granted a license; it will broadcast in English, French, and Arabic. Dozens of print outlets publish regularly and offer diverse views, although following the November 2005 crackdown only a limited number of newspapers – none of which challenge the federalist constitution or ethnic makeup of the government – were allowed to continue publishing without interruption. Since 2005, the most important new entrant in the print market has been the private paper Addis Neger. This paper now enjoys the highest circulation. Publishers Dawit Kebede and Wosonseged Gebrekidan were authorized to start two newsweeklies, the Awramba Times and Harambe, in 2008. However, both papers faced regular government intimidation, and the government brought up old charges against Dawit. In 2005, authorities had largely targeted the Amharic-language private press, banning or shutting down more than a dozen opposition-inclined papers that together accounted for more than 80 percent of Amharic circulation. Most newspapers struggle to remain financially viable and to meet the minimum bank balance that is required to renew their annual publishing licenses.

In past years, access to foreign broadcasts has occasionally been restricted. This pattern continued into 2008 with the jamming of Deutsche Welle and Voice of America (VOA) signals, though the government denies blocking the stations. The U.S. State Department reported that the sustained jamming of VOA’s Amharic and Afan Oromo services largely ended in March. Diplomatic ties with Qatar were broken over the Qatar-based satellite station Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the insurgency by the Ogaden Liberation Front in southern Ethiopia.

Owing to an extremely poor telecommunications infrastructure, internet access is limited primarily to the major urban areas; less than 0.5 percent of the population could make use of this medium in 2008, but its popularity is growing with the proliferation of internet cafes. As more citizens, faced with an increasingly restricted traditional media environment, turned to the internet for information, the government responded accordingly. There are reports that the government monitored e-mail, and starting in 2006, blocked access to opposition websites and blogs, including news websites run by Ethiopians living abroad. Since 2004 the government has been using a unique e-government platform. Known as WoredaNet, meaning a network of local districts, it connects different nodes of the government, from the central to the local level, and has been used extensively by political cadres to instruct local administrators through videoconferencing. The Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation remained the only internet service provider during 2008.

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