US Rights Report Lists Ethiopian Opposition Leader as Political Prisoner – Peter Heinlein ( VOA Addis Ababa )

March 12th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

The U.S. State Department’s annual human rights reports says Ethiopia is holding several hundred political prisoners, including the leader of one of the country’s largest opposition parties. (more…)

The U.S. State Department’s annual human rights reports says Ethiopia is holding several hundred political prisoners, including the leader of one of the country’s largest opposition parties. Ethiopia has reacted strongly to past U.S. criticisms of its rights record.

The 2009 human rights report says Birtukan Mideksa, president of Ethiopia’s opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice party, was held in solitary confinement for the first six months of the year despite a court ruling that it violated her constitutional rights. The 61-page document says there were credible reports that Birtukan’s mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.

Birtukan was among scores of political activists sentenced to life in prison following Ethiopia’s disputed 2005 election, then later pardoned. She was jailed again in December, 2008 and ordered to serve out her life sentence after refusing to apologize for saying she had not requested the pardon.

The 35-year-old single mother was recently listed by the U.N. Human Rights Council as a victim of arbitrary detention, and by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. But at news conference late last year, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi staunchly defended her re-imprisonment, saying it was based on ‘elementary notions of the rule of law’.

“She had her day in court, was sentenced by this independent court,” he said. “This lady was advised by anybody, everybody who could talk to her, including diplomats, elders and even some members of her party that it would be wrong for her to go to prison simply because she wouldn’t correct the wrong statement that she made and expose herself to reinstatement of the court’s decision. She refused to do so because she was convinced some human rights organizations abroad, her supporters and sympathizers both abroad and here, would spring her out of prison. We knew that was a very dangerous miscalculation.”

The 2009 State Department report alleges numerous violations of press and academic freedom in Ethiopia, as well as what are called restrictions of the people’s right to change their government peacefully.

With Ethiopia’s next national elections less than three months away, the report noted that the ruling party and its allies had won all but three of the seats contested in the 2008 nationwide local elections. The report also questioned the government claim of a 93-percent voter turnout in the 2008 vote, saying no foreign observers had been allowed.

An Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman said no response has yet been prepared to this year’s State Department report. But in answer to the 2008 report, the government published a 68-page booklet calling the allegations ‘baseless work of rumormongers and political opportunists’. It said much of the information came from non-governmental organizations and opposition groups which survive on U.S. government funding.

Ethiopia’s parliament has since approved a law forbidding any NGO that receives more than 10 percent of its funds from foreign sources from promoting human and democratic rights.

The acting U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, John Yates, Thursday defended the contents of the 2009 report. He said the authors make every effort to verify all information in the document.

“We gather information from lots of different sources, then we here in Addis and our people in the United States try hard to examine and verify reports before putting them into the human rights report,” said John Yates. “We consult a lot of people, but we don’t accept anything at face value until we do our best to verify, and if we can’t verify to some degree, it’s not included.”

The annual State Department human rights report is mandated by Congress. This year’s two-million word document covers conditions in 194 countries.

Introducing the 2009 report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it the most comprehensive record available on the status of human rights worldwide.

  1. kkk
    | #1

    Dinkem

  2. Cynic
    | #2

    This report is out.Fine.Then what? What does The U.S congress do after that? Is this the usual talk? The usual lip service? America in its pulpit? Sermonizing?
    Where is the holy practice? Where is the right measure against our dictator and America’s SOB?
    If this is the usual talk, where,in the heaven’s name, is the unusual walk?

    Meles is here to answer my questions.
    M-’No walk,nowhere,my friend,nowhere’
    C-’Are you saying that the U.S govt doesn’t take any practical measure against you?’
    M-’What? measures? Are you crazy? them? taking measure against us? you must be martian!..No…We have an excellent relationship with our American friends!Brilliant connection with Brits..’
    C-’So what is this report? What do you make of it?
    M-’Bah! it is nothing.Inconsequential,as far as we are concerned.’
    C-’Why is it published against you then if, as you say,you have such a good relationship with the U.S?’
    M-’Well, that is kind of a tricky thing for the U.S.You might say they have some image problem.Some people accuse them of supporting dictatorships,including ours.They are,I think,trying to make up for that.I understand their position.A small price to pay on our part,I have to say…’
    C-’ The opposition seem to be happy because of the report.Any comments on that?’
    M-’pious hope.That is what the opposition are clinging to.Pious hope.Typical.But I have to tell these so called opposition people not be damn fools.I tell them to work with us,I mean under us.Americans know how determined we are. They also know how invaluable we are for their interest.They are secure with us.We are secure with them.So what is the fuss?..The so called report is a talk only for today.No body will remember it tomorrow’

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    the us knew everything all the way. Some say the West is collecting the data so they can use it to destroy ethiopia into pieces, while they are giving aid to Zenawi. How Ironic, but may be true, we all wait to see.

  4. REGA-BEL
    | #4

    To synic
    and
    Anonymous:

    Both of your statememts doesnt pointedly addressed the substantive element of the original article – the release of U.S. Human Report. While cynic is right in asuming that the report does not meant anything, his interpolation of dramatical question and answer with meles is simply no worth of consideration for reading. It is simply out of the topic, in which one act as a third party and more, if, any, is one own prerogatives over the opinion described by Mr. Heinlein.

    Concerning the opinion advanced by Anonymous, (Comment No. 3) the romour you attempted to spread about America’s plan to “distroy Ethiopia in to pieces” and the collection of information for that purpose, is false and rubbish statement. America always explore ways and means and, if succeeded, establish a pupit government serving its interest. That is the main purpose and America is not known by distroying a country to the point that distroyed country won’t exist anymore. This is true even on Germany, Japan, Iraq and any other nations you come accross to remember. So Fellow Ethiopian: BE CARE FULL ON CHOOSING YOUR WORDS and it is better to choose the diplimatic language than going astry as you please.

  5. Ferenj lebaw
    | #5

    GELDHOF, ADMIT YOUR WORK. DAMN IT. THE VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT WAS TELLING THE WORLD THAT THE US AND BRITS ARE DOING HIDEOUS CRIMES BEHIND AID GROUPS. HE ADDED THAT THEY DOING IT DURING THE HATIAN EARTH QUAKE. THEY ARE CONTROL FREAKS AND CAN’T LIVE W/O IT (DICTATORS OF THE WORLDZ!)GOING TO THE US HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT, THE US GOV IS ACTING LIKE THEY ARE WORKING AGAINST THE ETHIOPIAN GOV. ACTUALLY, THEY WOULD LOVE TO COLLECT MORE SO CALLED HIDEOUS GOV. CRIMES AGAINST EPRDF SO THEY DISMANTLE ETHIOPIA INTO PEICES WITH THE INFO THEY GATHER.THAT IS WHY THEY ARE QUITE. THEY NEED AS MUCH COLLABORATING INFO TO USE IT FOR A BREAK UP OF ETHIOPIA. THEY ALSO HAVE TO PREACH WITH MELES ETHNIC HATE STORIES IN THE WORLD MEDIA. THEY CREATE AND MASTERMIND THEM. THEY CREATE CRISIS HERE AND THERE, OGADEN, GAMBELLA,ETC. THE PEOPLE ALWAYS CLAIMING GENOCIDE MIGHT ALSO BE THE COLLABORATORS THEMSELVES. KILL FEW PEOPLE AND CLAIM THERE IS GENOCIED. “SAD GHOSTS”. AT THE END, IF THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL WHICH I DOUBT WILL, THEY WILL FRY MELES IN HAIG FOR DINNER.JUST LIKE THE YOGOSLAV PRESIDENT. AT LEAST THAT HAS BEEN THEIR PLAN UNLESS THEY CHANGE IT. WHITE GHOSTS SHOULD KNOW THEIR TACTICS ARE GETTING OLD AND DOES NOT WORK IN ETHIOPIA. MAYBE BY FORCE. THE ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS QUARREL EVEN IF YOU MAKE FAKE BOARDERS.

  6. Yinegal
    | #6

    Cynic

    @Cynic I like the DRAMA. It sounds very familiar and alike.

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