Release - ETH 001 / 1006 / OBS 125.1

Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable source that Ms. Yalemzewd Bekele, a lawyer, human rights activist and staff member of the Delegation of the European Commission to Ethiopia, was released without charge on October 26, 2006, after spending a week in custody.

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

New information:

According to the information received, Ms. Bekele, who was arrested on October 19, 2006, in the border town of Moyale (See background information), was transferred to a prison in Addis Ababa on October 25, 2006. She was released on the next day.

However, the whereabouts of another Ethiopian national, Mr. Fasil Assefa, a friend of Mrs. Yalemzewd Bekele, who was also arrested on October 19, 2006, in Moyale, remain unknown.

The Observatory thanks all the persons, institutions and organisations who intervened in favour of Ms. Bekele but calls for the immediate and unconditional release of any other person that would be arbitrarily detained in relation to her case.

Background information:

Ms. Bekele was arrested on October 19, 2006, in the border town of Moyale, from where she was about to escape to Kenya. She was wanted by the police and security forces since October 12, 2006 as a "suspect of heavy crime", in relation to a calendar for non-violent civil disobedience actions, issued on September 11, 2006 by the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD, opposition party).

Ms. Bekele reportedly appeared before the Moyale Court on October 21, 2006, being in particular suspected of disseminating the CUD calendar of action for civil disobedience. Ms. Bekele was placed on remand for five days by the court and then detained in the Moyale police station.

Moreover, at least three persons who tried to help Ms. Bekele to escape were subjected to acts of reprisals by the Ethiopian authorities. Indeed, two diplomats of the EU delegation in Addis Ababa were arrested on October 19, 2006 and immediately expelled from Ethiopia. Moreover, Mr. Fassil Assefa was arrested on the same day at his hotel.

The Observatory recalls that the Ethiopian Government has launched a new wave of political repression following the June and November 2005 demonstrations contesting the results of the May 2005 elections. 86 persons, mostly CUD leaders as well as civil society activists and journalists, are currently on trial in Addis Ababa. On September 11, 2006, on the Ethiopian New Year’s Eve, the CUD issued a calendar calling for 14 different types of non-violent actions of civil disobedience. A special Government task force was reportedly established to investigate the publication and distribution of this document, leading to a new wave of arrests.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Ethiopian authorities urging them to:

1. guarantee under all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Ethiopia;

2. put an end to any kind of harassment, including on the judicial level, against Ms. Bekele, as well as against all other human rights defenders;

3. conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Humans Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote 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 or 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";

4. more generally, ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Ethiopia in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses :

· Mr. Girma Woldegiorgis, President of the Republic, The Presidency, PO Box 23698, Addis Ababa

· Mr Assefa Kesito, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, PO Box 1370, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ; Fax: + 251 11 5517775 / + 251 11 5520874

· Mr Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PO Box 393, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ; Fax: + 251 11 5514300 ; Email:

· Mr. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, PO Box 1031, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;

· Mr. Tim Clarke, Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Commission to Ethiopia, P. O. Box 5570, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ; Fax: + 251 11 6612877 ; Email:

· Mr. Fisseha Yimer, Permanent Mission of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the United Nations in Geneva, 56 rue de Moillebeau, CP 338, 1211 Genève 19, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 919 70 29. Email :;

· Mr. Berhaner Gebre Chirstos, Ambassade d’Ethiopie à Bruxelles, 231 avenue de Tervuren, 1150 Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2.771.49.14. Email:

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


Paris-Geneva, October 27, 2006

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:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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