Fear of torture or ill-treatment of jailed teachers in Ethiopia – Amnesty International

July 3rd, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Four Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA) members who were arrested in December 2006, are now known to have been (more…)

Four Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA) members who were arrested in December 2006, are now known to have been released in March, but three have since been rearrested. The fourth ETA official, Tilahun Ayalew, is in hiding. Amnesty International believes that the three teachers who are being detained are prisoners of conscience detained for participating in legal ETA trade union activities. They are at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

They have reportedly been accused of being members of an armed opposition group, the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). This is the same charge levelled against them when they were arrested in December, but the court that ordered their release in March said it had found no evidence to support the charge.

Anteneh Getnet and Meqcha Mengistu were both arrested at their homes on 30 May. A third ETA member, primary school teacher Woldie Dana, was arrested at his home on 4 June. Woldie Dana was also detained in December 2006 and released on March 22 on the orders of the court.

The three men are being held at Kaliti Prison in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Tilahun Ayalew went into hiding on 28 May on hearing that government security agents were coming to arrest him. The agents arrested his wife instead, but released her the following day. Tilahun Ayalew, was also arrested in December 2006 and released on 22 March. When he was arrested in December, without a warrant, he was taken to a forest, tortured for four days and then beaten until he passed out. He was transferred to the Addis Ababa Police Commission on 26 December. An Addis Ababa court ordered his release on 28 December. However, the police rearrested him and he remained in detention until he was released on 22 March. As a result of the torture he now has difficulty walking.

Anteneh Getnet and Meqcha Mengistu have also reportedly stated that they were tortured when they were detained from December to March. They claim 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.

Meqcha Mengistu is a father of four, a secondary school teacher and local ETA chairperson in the East Gojjam area. He is also a member of the ETA Committee responsible for the implementation of an HIV/AIDS education programme (EFAIDS). He was arrested on 17 December and was beaten severely many times in an attempt to make him admit to EPPF membership.

Anteneh Getnet was elected to the ETA Addis Ababa Regional Council in August 2006. He was arrested in December 2006 and after his release in March he is reported to have said that he had regularly been tortured by being suspended by his feet and hands, face downwards, with his chest touching the floor, and left in this position overnight. This has left him with severe problems with his arms, legs and back. He was told that he would not be released if he did not admit to being an EPPF member.

The ETA is the largest trade union in Ethiopia, with half a million members. It is affiliated to the worldwide trade union umbrella organisation the International Trade Union Confederation, and to the global federation of teachers’ trade unions, Education International. The ETA has been critical of government education policies, including regional language teaching policies and teachers’ conditions of service. The authorities have attempted to replace the ETA by setting up a rival pro-government union with the same name. Hundreds of teachers and ETA members across the country have been detained or arbitrarily dismissed since the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power in 1991, reportedly because they failed to support the party, but all were eventually released.

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