WE DEMAND THE UNCODITIONAL RELEASE OF BERTUKAN!
Tel: 27+ 824819541 or 27-827444860 Box c/o 17051 Doornfontien 2028, South Africa
For Immediate Release, December 31, 2008
It is with profound sadness and shock that Ethiopians residing in South Africa have learned the re-arrest of Judge Bertukan Medeksa, the leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP, Andent); and the brutal harassment, intimidation and some injury of the distinguished academic and founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC), Professor Emeritus Mesfin Wolde Mariam.
Miss Bertukan (35) is a single mother and responsible for her frail mother. Bertukan was born and raised in Addis Ababa. Before turning into full time politics, Bertukan was a high court judge who presided over the sensitive case of ex- Defence Minister Seye Abraha. Her verdict on the case and feminist activism brought her into the lime light. In the May 15, 2005 failed election, her newly formed coalition brought a major challenge to the minority regime that came to power through violence in May 1991. The disputed election resulted in the killings of some 200 people and the imprisonment of an estimated 40 000 suspected supporters of the opposition. About 135 elected parliamentarians and supporters, Bertukan included, were imprisoned for 20 months, and a “pardon” was granted after an arduous and delicate negotiation through elders with the minority regime.
Like millions of Ethiopians, Bertukan transcends the ethnic politics of the ruling minority that has been in power for the last 18 years. She comes from the majority ethnic stocks of Ethiopia:- the Oromo and the Amara. She is the only child left for her ailing mother. Her late half brother; Zewge, was a victim of the notorious Red Terror; in which thousands of young people were killed in 1977 by the military. Zewge died when she was only three years old, and his remains are not found to this day. Bertukan’s dynamism and popularity brought her into conflict with the minority regime. After her release from prison in mid 2007, despite overwhelming pressure Bertukan decided to remain inside the country to continue the unfinished business of bringing peaceful change to Ethiopia. Despite immense difficulties and personal risk, selfless Bertukan was able to stitch together a new coalition, the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (Andent). She quickly started to open regional offices in preparation for the 2010 election. Her recent visit to Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries, and the reception she got at government and NGO circles, created great anxiety to the increasingly isolated regime.
The re-arrest of Bertukan to serve life imprisonment is not only a great miscarriage of justice that must be condemned by all parties, but violets the Continuo Agreement and several of the conventions of the African Union. We therefore call upon the signatories of the two conventions to take appropriate interventions. The international community must also stop using double standards.