The strategy used to dismantle Addis Neger will not succeed on UDJ – Press Release(UDJ)

December 25th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

It is to be recalled that the Extra-Ordinary Congress called by Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) and scheduled to be held at the Imperial Hotel, on 29 November 2009, was disrupted by a group of people dismissed from UDJ for disciplinary reasons. (more…)

It is to be recalled that the Extra-Ordinary Congress called by Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) and scheduled to be held at the Imperial Hotel, on 29 November 2009, was disrupted by a group of people dismissed from UDJ for disciplinary reasons. UDJ and the Imperial Hotel management had called on the Bole Sub-City Police Department for protection. No help had come from the police. The denial of the protection was clearly intentional. It is also to be recalled that the following day—30 November 2009—UDJ had given a press conference explaining the nature of the disruption and the intentional failure of the police to protect the party from illegal acts.

The Extra-Ordinary Congress was recognized by the Addis Ababa City Administration and duly given a written permit for it to be held. Copies of the written permit were, as per the law, sent to the relevant security and police offices. To be sure, UDJ delivered, by hand, a copy of the written permit to the Gerji Police Command, in whose jurisdiction the Imperial Hotel is found. The security and the police were fully and officially informed about the meeting. They were also fully informed on the disruption that was going on for, at the beginning, there were some uniformed police men on the scene but they were quickly withdrawn. We were also informed that there were other police and security persons in plain clothes inside and outside the hotel and watching what was going on.

PROCLAMATION No. 3/1991: PROCLAMATION TO ESTABLISH THE PROCEDURE FOR PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION AND PUBLIC POLITICAL MEETING, Article 10 on the “Responsibility of Security Officers” says the following:

In order to safeguard individual rights, and protect the individual from harm and property damage as well as to safeguard the public, security officers, by their presence in any peaceful demonstration or public political meeting, have the responsibility to safeguard the people’s rights and peace and security.

Failure of the security and police forces to respond to UDJ’s request for protection is a clear violation of the above law.

As if the November 29 disruption were not enough, the same people that disrupted the Extra-Ordinary Congress, came to the UDJ Headquarters on December 6, beat the guard, opened the gate by force and forced themselves into the offices and disrupted the meeting of the National Council that was about to begin. This time again, UDJ called for police help from the Kirkos Sub-City Police Department but no help came. This time again, the absence of police help was intentional.

The excuse the Kirkos Sub-City Police were giving for not providing protection was that “they did not want to interfere in the internal matters of the party”. This is obviously a lame excuse. There is no “internal matter” in the case. The matter is between the party and a group of people who are no longer members of the party. These people have been dismissed from the party according to the rules of the party and according to Proclamation No. 573/2000, Article 30, Sub-Articles 1 and 2. Sub-Articles 1 and 2 read as follows:

1) A member of a political party may be expelled from membership to be determined in accordance with the bylaws of the political party.

2) Where a member is expelled from party membership contrary to the bylaws of the party, the member may file a petition at the Federal High Court within three months from the date of the notification of such decision of expulsion.

The names of the expelled individuals, together with the documents justifying their dismissal, were sent to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) and to the Kirkos Sub-City Police Department, for UDJ is found in the Kirkos Sub-City.

If the dismissed individuals had felt that they had been unduly dismissed from the party, there are clearly stated legal avenues they could have taken against UDJ but they did not choose to take those avenues. Rather, they have chosen to take the illegal and disruptive route and there seems to be no rule of law to restrain them. They are carrying out their disruptive activities with impunity, as if there is no rule of law in the city.

Therefore, those duly dismissed from UDJ are not members of the party and the police have no real ground for seeing the problem as an “internal matter”. It is only obvious that the matter is not an “internal” one. We believe that the law enforcement bodies know what the law says and what is expected of them. UDJ has gone to a great length to explain, in person, to the police officials that the matter is not “internal”. It has provided copies of the bylaws of the party as well as the relevant federal laws to help them better understand the nature of the problem and their responsibilities. But, for some reason, they are not willing to enforce the law and to carry out their responsibilities.
Another matter of concern for UDJ is the behavior of Ethiopian Television. In the past, it would not come to UDJ activities unless it was invited in writing. After the dismissal of the people from the party, Ethiopian Television seems to have formed a close alliance with the said people and has started to accompany them to UDJ meetings uninvited. Whenever, the group came to UDJ with disruptive intent, it brought ETV with it. For example, when, on November 29, the group went to the Imperial Hotel and occupied it inside and outside, in the early hours before the UDJ meeting was to start, Ethiopian Television was there with it, giving it coverage and announced its activities during the evening broadcast. When, on December 6, the group forced itself into the UDJ Headquarters, ETV came with it in full gear and gave them full coverage and broadcast its activities on its evening programme. Again, on December 20, when the group came to the UDJ office for its usual disruptive activities, it brought Ethiopian Television with it. On the other hand, ETV rarely says a word about the activities of UDJ and whenever it says something, it is usually negative.

Why is it that the police are failing to provide legal protection– as they are clearly required to do so by the law– to the operations of a legally operating party? Why is it that the police are not taking appropriate measures against people who disrupt officially sanctioned meetings? Why is it that the Ethiopian Television is working so closely and so regularly with the dismissed group? We have suspicions that are political in nature. We suspect that there is something behind the “failure” of the police to see that which is obvious and their refusal to come to UDJ’s assistance when it needs legal protection as provided by the law.

Unable to get legal protection from the police, UDJ decided to take the matter to court. It lodged criminal charges against the dismissed individuals at the Bole and Kirkos sub-city police departments, as the law requires. At the beginning, the Gerji Police Command of the Bole Police Department accepted our case, heard and recorded statements from the leadership of the party and wrote out summons to be delivered to each of the accused. The police gave the summons—13 in number– to UDJ’s legal counselor for delivery to the addressees. As the counselor had delivered 5 of the 13 summons, he was called by the police and told that the summons should be delivered with police escort. He went to the police command to get the police escort. Once at the police command, the story changed and he was asked to hand over the remaining summons (copies of which are still with UDJ) and told that the summons were issued wrongly, that the police had acted outside of their jurisdiction and that the matter could not be pursued further. It was an extra-ordinary story.
According to Article 16 of the Criminal Code Procedure, the police cannot refuse to investigate a criminal charge brought to them. After investigation, the police and the prosecutor have to bring the case to the court of justice. If a case is not brought before the court, it is be because of conditions clearly stated in Articles 39 and 42 of the Criminal Code Procedure, namely: if the accused dies; if the accused is under the age of 9; if there are no witnesses; if the accused has immunity from prosecution; if there is government order to discontinue the prosecution… None of the above conditions apply to our case.

If the prosecution is discontinued for any of the above reasons, the police or the prosecutor are required by Article 43 of the Criminal Code Procedure, to inform the plaintiff of the decision in writing, for the latter has the right to appeal to a higher court within 15 days of the notification. This has not been done by the police or by the prosecutor. The Police and the prosecutors at the Bole Sub-City Police Department have now effectively aborted our case and have not provided us with any acceptable reason based on the law. This is again another violation of the law and a clear example of the absence of the rule law.

At the Kirkos Sub-City Police Department, the investigating police and the prosecutor had received statements from the plaintiff, listened to plaintiff witnesses, written to the Electoral Board of Ethiopia asking for some clarification, received that clarification from NEBE fully and informed UDJ that everything was ready to take the case to court. Then, suddenly, everything came to a halt. Here, too, our case was aborted without any explanation. Here, too, the law was violated and the absence of the rule of law further demonstrated.

It is now 12 months since our leader, Birtukan Mideksa, has been languishing in prison. UDJ decided to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the illegal imprisonment of our leader by holding a candlelight vigil with the people at the Meskel Square. We submitted a letter to the Addis Ababa City Administration, as required by law, notifying them about our plan and requesting their cooperation. The verbal response we received from the City Administration is hard to believe. They told us that they could not cooperate with us because, according to the changes brought about by BPR, Meskel Square is now outside of the jurisdiction of the City Administration and is managed by another body. When asked who manages Meskel Square now, the City Administration said it did not know to whom it was given; we ourselves have to find out. This is an unnecessary and illegal game of hide and seek.
Article 6, Sub-Articles 1 and 2 of PROCLAMATION No. 3/1991: PROCLAMATION TO ESTABLISH THE PROCEDURE FOR PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION AND PUBLIC POLITIAL MEETING, say the following:

1) Upon receiving a written notice of a peaceful demonstration or public political meeting, the municipal or Awraja administrative officer has the responsibility to make all the necessary preparations in order to maintain peace and security and so that the daily life of the people is not disrupted.

2) Where the municipal of Awraja administrative office is of the opinion that, for reasons referred to in Article 6, sub-article 1 of this proclamation, it is preferable for the peaceful demonstration or public political meeting to be held at some other time or place, it shall so notify the organizers, in writing, within 12 hours of the time of submission of their notice. However, the municipal or the Awraja administrative office cannot say that the peaceful demonstration or public political meeting cannot take place at any time or at any place.

It is hard to believe that Meskel Square is outside of the control of the City Administration. Even if, for some extra ordinary reason, the place is outside of the city’s management, it is also hard to believe that the city does not know who is managing it. Whatever the reason the City Administration gives, according to the law cited above, it should be given in writing. It has not done so. Therefore, it is breaking the law not only by denying us our right to hold a peaceful public gathering at a public place but also by not giving the proper explanation for the denial of our right as a party.

UDJ is a duly accredited, multi-national party entitled to legal protection. As seen in recent events, the government has failed to provide the legal protection UDJ needed. Aware of this absence of government protection, the group of individuals dismissed from the party has been emboldened to continue its disruptive activities against the party. In fact, it seems that the government is using this group to weaken and dismantle UDJ. Given the blatant absence of legal protection for UDJ and the close working relationship between ETV and the dismissed group whenever it comes to disrupt UDJ activities, it seems that the government is itching to see a situation where a confrontation develops into violence that it could take as a pretext for arresting the UDJ leadership and for closing the party.
The government’s multi-faceted campaign to weaken and dismantle UDJ is in full gear now, especially as we approach the 2010 election. It has illegally imprisoned our leader. It has denied our party legal protection. It has crudely aborted our effort to take the violation of our political rights to court. It has prevented us from meeting with the people peacefully at public places like Meskel Square. In the regions, UDJ members are beaten, falsely accused and imprisoned, harassed and prevented from carrying out party activities under the threat of death. Their businesses are closed and their properties destroyed . Citizens who rent their houses to UDJ for use as offices are intimidated and forced to cancel rent contracts.

The strategy being followed by the government to weaken UDJ reminds us of the strategy used to dismantle the popular private newspaper Addis Neger. In both cases, the campaign was multi-facetted, intense, vicious and prolonged. Unfortunately, Addis Neger succumbed to the vicious campaign; UDJ will not. No matter how intense and vicious the campaign, UDJ will withstand it and come out stronger and continue to play a vital role in the political life of this country. It will continue to call for justice and the rule of law, as well as for the release of our leader Birtukan and other political prisoners. The strategy used to dismantle Addis Neger will not succeed on UDJ. We call upon the EPRDF Government, the Ethiopian People and the International Community to take note of our resolve.

Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ)
25 December 2009
Addis Ababa

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