Third Inquiry Commissioner flees Ethiopia
October 23, 2006: A member of Ethiopia’s Inquiry Commission whose report held Prime Minister Meles Zenawi responsible for massacring 193 civilian Ethiopians last year has fled the country for fear of political persecution.Mitiku Teshome of the Catholic Secretariat in Ethiopia and member of the 10-person Inquiry Commission was one of the eight votes that approved the Meles government had used excessive force to quell protests that erupted following the May 2005 elections rigged by the ruling party in power.
Trained in law, Mitiku was the third official who followed the footsteps of Frehiwot Samuel and Wolde-Michael Meshesha, chair and deputy chair of the Inquiry Commission whose debilitating report unmasked how security forces under the command of the prime minister slaughtered 193 Ethiopians, of which 40 were teenagers, “including a boy and a girl, both 14,” according to AP.
Following the Inquiry Commission’s report released to the Associated Press, Ana Gomes, chief of the European Union (EU) Election Observer Mission to Ethiopia, said it was what her delegation has been saying all along, and blasted European leaders for turning a blind eye to government crimes in Ethiopia. Her denunciations were followed by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith’s blistering attack of the Zenawi regime. “Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s silence speaks volumes.
The regime refuses to comment on the report, most likely because they never expected it to see the light of day. We have a responsibility to hold them accountable for their brutal actions as well as their subsequent efforts to suppress this inquiry,” Smith, who is the chairman of the Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations Subcommittee and author of the “Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006″ (H.R. 5680) – said in a report released by his office. Congressman Smith was joined by Congressman Donald Payne, who is co-author of HR 5680, in condemning the activities of the Zenawi regime.
“For over a year, I constantly argued that the Ethiopian government used excessive force against innocent civilians. Many innocent civilians lost their lives. Parliament established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killings. The Commission interviewed dozens of people and spent months investigating and documenting what they saw and heard. When the time came to submit the report, parliament was adjourned a day early, denying the Commission the opportunity to present their findings. The decision was deliberate in order to force the Commission to change its findings,” Mr. Payne said.
“Over the past week, a friend spoke to both the chair and deputy chairman of the Commission. They clearly stated that they can not turn their backs on all those people who risked their lives to speak to us. They said the truth must come out and Ethiopians must know what happened in June and November,” Mr Payne said in a report also released by his office Friday.