CIVICUS urges a swift and fair trial in Ethiopia.
4 October 2006 ““ CIVICUS, joined by voices from over 20 countries, today wrote to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi, urging him to fulfil his promise of a swift and fair trial for civil society activists detained since November 2005.
On 5 October, the mass treason trial within which Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie, both Global Call to Action against Poverty coordinators, are charged will resume after a two-month court recess. Their trial began on 2 May 2006, together with over 100 opposition members and journalists.
“We urgently appeal to the government of Ethiopia to use this moment for an urgent and thorough review of their cases, and to consider dropping the hefty charges levelled against these two courageous activists,”? said Clare Doube, Manager of CIVICUS’ Civil Society Watch programme.
Daniel and Netsanet are highly respected throughout the civil society sector in Ethiopia for their tireless advocacy on human rights, poverty reduction and social justice. Despite their peaceful work, they currently face the charge of “outrage against the constitution or constitutional order,”? which carries a possible sentence of death or life imprisonment. Both have repeatedly been denied bail, even after appealing to the highest court.
While emphasising the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, the government of Ethiopia has consistently assured the international community of a quick and legitimate trial for Daniel and Netsanet. In its letter of appeal, CIVICUS urged the Prime Minister to live up to this promise.
“Civil society in Ethiopia is actively engaged in development and poverty reduction work,”? said Doube. “There is no doubt that the continuing detention of these courageous civil society activists discourages work vitally important to the welfare of the people of Ethiopia.”?
CIVICUS also reminded the government of its commitments to freedom of association and expression, as guaranteed to the people of Ethiopia in their national constitution, and the numerous international and regional conventions to which Ethiopia is a signatory.
For more information on CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, please visit www.civicus.org or www.civilsocietywatch.org, or contact the CIVICUS Civil Society Watch programme at firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 11 833 5959 x. 127.