Ethiopia – Ethiopian regime strikes blow against democracy, human rights – By Mesfin Mekonen

June 13th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Washington, DC ““ The decision by the Ethiopian regime of Meles Zenawi to convict 38 opposition leaders and journalists in a show trial of a variety of trumped up charges, (more…)

Washington, DC ““ The decision by the Ethiopian regime of Meles Zenawi to convict 38 opposition leaders and journalists in a show trial of a variety of trumped up charges, including organizing rebellion against the government, defies international standards of justice and human rights. The defendants, who could be sentenced to death or long jail terms, were unjustly arrested and then convicted by a corrupt judicial system that takes its orders from the government. They are guilty of nothing more than attempting to peacefully protest or report on election improprieties, and call for the respect of fundamental human and democratic rights.

The convictions have been condemned by international human rights and press freedom organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We condemn this verdict which falls within the government’s pattern of judicial harassment to intimidate and silence the private press,”? Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Some members of the U.S. Congress have spoken out, pointing to the Ethiopian government as the true criminals. Representatives Donald Payne (D-N.J.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) recently introduced legislation that seeks to at least put the U.S. on record as opposing the Ethiopian regime’s repression of legitimate dissent.

“I believe, along with many other people in both parties, that the Bush administration has not put enough pressure”? on the Ethiopian government, Smith said when he introduced his legislation. “Ethiopia is a great ancient civilization, whose people suffer from unlawful killings, and beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly those suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the opposition; detention of thousands without charge and lengthy pretrial detention.”?

The words of a handful of courageous members of Congress are not sufficient. The United States, European Union, and the international community must condemn the verdicts and press for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Ethiopia. An international body such as the United Nations should establish a neutral body to investigate the plight of Ethiopia’s political prisoners.

Any government that remains silent in the face of this blatant injustice is complicit. This is particularly true of the United States, which is collaborating with the Ethiopian government to battle terrorism.

Failure to act to speak out for, and to protect the human rights of the Ethiopia’s political prisoners threatens to undermine America’s and the world’s security. The Ethiopian regime is creating the conditions that breed terrorism ““ poverty, corruption, tyranny, censorship of the media, and promoting sectarian violence ““ and the U.S. government’s apparent acquiescence is making a volatile situation worse. The Ethiopian people’s faith in democracy, in their power to enact desperately needed changes peacefully, is rapidly fading, and hope in democracy, once lost, will be very difficult to regain.

For more information, please contact Mesfin Mekonen,
Ethiopian American Council, tel. 202-737-4530 e-mail

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