Ethiopia: Arbitrary arrest and detention of four EHRCO members

11/01/2023
Urgent Appeal
Photo: Daniel Bernard via Unsplash

11 January 2023. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Ethiopia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Messrs. Daniel Tesfaye and Bezuayehu Wondimu, two senior human rights experts of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), Bereket Daniel, EHRCO human rights officer, and Nahom Husen, the driver of the organisation. The EHRCO is a non-profit independent human rights protection organisation, member of FIDH and OMCT, which stands for the development of the democratic system, the establishment of the rule of law and the respect of human rights in Ethiopia.

On January 5, 2023, Daniel Tesfaye, Bezuayehu Wondimu, Bereket Daniel and Nahom Husen went to the village of Alem Bank, west of Addis Ababa, to investigate complaints from people whose homes had been demolished in the framework of a series of ongoing illegal evictions and destructions carried out by the government around Addis Ababa. While they were gathering information, the four EHRCO members were arbitrarily detained by police officers, and forcibly disappeared for several hours, before being located at Gelan Gudan Police Station (Alemegena 02 police station).

On the same day, Messrs. Tesfaye, Wondimu, Daniel and Husen were brought to Sebeta court in Addis Ababa. The police alleged none of them held permission letters from Oromiya region police authorities, nor a support letter from EHRCO to carry out these investigations. Yet, when they were arrested by the police, the four EHRCO employees clarified EHRCO’s mandate to investigate human rights violations in Ethiopia and mentioned EHRCO’s registration by the Ethiopian Authority for Civil Society Organisations (ACSO). After hearing both sides, the court adjourned the case to the next day. On January 6, 2023, the court scheduled a new hearing for January 11, 2023 and denied them bail.

At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, the four human rights defenders remained arbitrarily detained in Gelan Gudan Police Station (Alemegena 02 police station).

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that EHRCO members are being targeted for their legitimate human rights work. In 2022, an EHRCO Gambela branch employee faced various threats from regional government officials, which forced him and two of EHRCO’s regional office committee members to relocate for a few months to Addis Ababa.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Daniel Tesfaye, Bezuayehu Wondimu, Bereket Daniel and Nahom Husen, which seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory urges the Ethiopian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Daniel Tesfaye, Bezuayehu Wondimu, Bereket Daniel and Nahom Husen, to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them, and to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the country are able to carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance or fear of reprisals.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Ethiopia to urge them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Daniel Tesfaye, Bezuayehu Wondimu, Bereket Daniel and Nahom Husen, as well as of all human rights defenders in Ethiopia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Daniel Tesfaye, Bezuayehu Wondimu, Bereket Daniel and Nahom Husen and all other detained human rights defenders, as their detention is arbitrary and seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Daniel Tesfaye, Bezuayehu Wondimu, Bereket Daniel and Nahom Husen, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

• H.E. Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Email: info@pmo.gov.et, Twitter: @AbiyAhmedAli, @PMEthiopia;
• H.E. Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Email: info@mfa.gov.et, Twitter: @mfaethiopia;
• H.E. Gedion Timotheos, Minister of Justice of Ethiopia, Email: info@eag.gov.et, Twitter: @MOJEthiopia;
• Mr. Ato Jima Dilbo Denbel, Director General of the Ethiopian Authority for Civil Society Organisations, Email: info@acso.gov.et;
• H.E. Ms. Mahlet Hailu Guadey, Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: info@ethiopianmission.ch;
• H.E. Ambassador Hirut Zemene, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ethiopia to Belgium, Luxembourg and EU institutions, Email: info.brussels@mfa.gov.et, Twitter: @EthiopiaEU.

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Ethiopia in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, January 11, 2023

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: alert@observatoryfordefenders.org
• Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39

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