Ongoing arbitrary detention of five leaders of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association - ETH 001 / 1007 / OBS 133

23/10/2007
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) about the ongoing arbitrary detention of five teachers and leaders of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA).

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention on the following situation in Ethiopia:

Brief description of the situation:

According to the information received, Messrs. Anteneh Getnet, a member of the ETA Addis Ababa Regional Council, Meqcha Mengistu, local ETA chairperson in the East Gojjam area as well as a member of the ETA Committee responsible for the implementation of an HIV/AIDS education programme (EFAIDS), and Woldie Dana, another ETA leader, were arrested in May and June 20071. In addition, Mrs. Wibit Legamo, the wife of Mr. Woldia Dana, and Mr. Berrhanu Aba-Debissa, another ETA member, were arrested in August 2007.

They are all still being held in detention at the Kaliti Prison, in Addis Ababa, and would have been denied bail. In addition, they are reportedly due to appear in court on November 27, 28 and 29, 2007. They were allegedly accused of being members of the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF), an armed opposition group.

The Observatory fears for the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Anteneh Getnet, Meqcha Mengistu, Woldie Dana, Berrhanu Aba-Debissa and Mrs. Wibit Legamo as they are at risk of being subjected to torture or ill-treatment while in detention, and fears that the accusation against them might only aim at discrediting and sanctioning their activity in favour of human rights in Ethiopia.

The Observatory indeed recalls that ETA members have been harassed and repressed for many years (see 2006 Annual Report of the Observatory).

Background information:

In December 2006, Messrs. Anteneh Getnet, Meqcha Mengistu and Woldie Dana, along with Mr. Tilahun Ayalew, another ETA official, had already been arrested2, before being released in March 2007. They had also been accused of being members of the EPPF but a court had ruled on March 22, 2007 that it had found no evidence to support the charge.

On May 28, 2007, Mr. Tilahun Ayalew went into hiding on hearing that government security agents were coming to arrest him. The agents arrested his wife instead, but released her the following day. Arrested in December 2006, without a warrant, he was transferred to the Addis Ababa Police Commission on December 26, 2006. On December 28, 2006, an Addis Ababa court ordered his release but the police rearrested him and he remained in detention until he was released on March 22, 2007. As a result of the torture he now has difficulty walking.

Messrs. Anteneh Getnet and Meqcha Mengistu also reported that they were tortured during their previous detention, and claimed that they were coerced into signing false confessions that they had links with the EPPF. The court rejected these “confessions”, but did not investigate their allegations of torture.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Ethiopia, urging them to:

i.Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Anteneh Getnet, Meqcha Mengistu, Woldie Dana, Berrhanu Aba-Debissa and Mrs. Wibit Legamo;

ii.Release them immediately and unconditionally as their detention is arbitrary as it merely aims at sanctioning their trade union activities;

iii.Put an end to all acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in Ethiopia;

iv.Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v.Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Ethiopia.

Addresses:

- H.E. Ato Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, P.O. Box: 1031, Fax: (251-1)1 55 2020, Tel. (251-1) 122 6767 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- Dr Sintayehu Woldemikael, Minister of Education, Ministry of Education, PO Box 1367, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Fax: +251 11 5511355
- H.E. Ato Assefa Kesito, Minister of Justice, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia P.O. Box: 1370, Fax: (251-1)15 52 0874 / + 251 11 5517775, Tel. (251-1) 551 5099 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- H.E. Ambassador Teshome Toga, Speaker, House of People’s Representatives, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, P.O.Box: 80001, Fax: (251-1)1 55 0900, Tel. (251-1) 1241013 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- H.E. Ato Degfe Bula, Speaker, House of Federation, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, P.O.Box: 80001, Fax: (251-1)1 55 0722, Tel. (251-1) 124 2301 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- H.E. Ato Girma Woledegiorgis, President, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, P.o.Box: 1031, Fax: (251-1)1 55 2020, Tel. (251-1) 551 8850 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- H.E. Ato Siraj Feregesa , Minister of Federal Affairs, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, P.O. Box: 1370, Fax: (251-1)5 52 0000, Tel. (251-1) 552 0000 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- H.E. Dr. Misrak Mekonen, Speaker, Amhara National Regional State Council. P.O. Box: 312, Fax: (251-1) 058 220 1068, Tel. (251-1) 058 220 2252 Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.
- H.E. Commissioner Workneh Gebeyehu Commissioner, FDRE Federal Police Commission P.O. Box 199, Fax (251-1) 153 4253, Tel. (251-1) 551 2744 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- H.E. Comissioner Befekadu Seboka Commissioner, Addis Ababa Police Commission, P.O. Box 5647, Fax (251-1) 155 0360, Tel. (251-1) 156 0115 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- H.E. Ambassador Kassa G/Hiwot, Commissionor, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, P.O. Box: 1165, Fax: (251-1)6 45 9290, Tel. (251-1) 645 9228 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- H.E. Ato Abay Tekle, Ombudsman, FDRE P.O. Box: 2459, Fax: (251-1)6 45 9229, Tel. (251-1) 663 5090 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- H.E. M. Fisseha Yimer, Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue de Moillebeau 56, P.O. Box 338, 1211 Geneva 19, email: mission.ethiopia@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Ethiopia in your respective country.

***
Geneva - Paris, October 23, 2007

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line: E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80 Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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ETH 001 / 1007 / OBS 133
Arbitrary detention / Judicial proceedings /
Fear of torture or ill-treatment
Ethiopia
October 23, 2007

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