The Penalties of Truth and Leadership – The Courage and Bravery of Judge Birtukan Medikssa – By Shakespear Feyissa

January 16th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

“Under a government which imprison any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also prison” Henry David Thoreau.

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“Under a government which imprison any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also prison” Henry David Thoreau.

In her last article prior to her arrest for rendering a legally and factually accurate statement regarding the so called amnesty or pardon, Judge Birtukan Midekssa stated: “I don’t believe I have been subjected to all these unjustifiable threats and intimidations for word interpretation, or deceitfulness, or violation of the law…the intended message is clear. It is to warn me and others who are engaged in peaceful non-violent struggle not to obey the Constitution, but rather to take direction and command from individuals, or the ruling party only. I cannot agree or accept this notion.”

Who is Judge Birtukan Midekassa? Judge Birtukan Midekssa is a 34 years old Chairwoman of a newly formed, replacing the former Kinijit (“CUD”), Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (“UDJ”). She is currently in prison to serve a life sentence without any court order or due process of law following her recent warrantless arrest. Judge Birtukan was a former Federal judge and an attorney. Prior to her arrest following the 2005 election in which the CUD won majority of the seat in the general election, Judge Birtukan Medikassa was the vice-chairperson of the CUD.

Because of her background as a prominent judge and practicing attorney, Judge Birtukan Medikassa is familiar with the law of the land. Clearly, she had presided over numerous cases as a judge and also represented many clients diligently as an attorney. One can accurately argue that Judge Birukan follows the letter of the law strictly, and interprets the law in accordance with the Constitution. Consequently, when one of the most powerful man in Ethiopia, the former Defense Minister Seye Abraha, accused of a bogus corruption charges and appeared before her, despite the relentless coercion and pressure from her superiors to convict him without sufficient evidence, Judge Birtukan did what her oath, her profession, and her position mandates of her-she released the Minister unconditionally and dismissed the charges against him.

The penalties of such an audacious act, courage, and valor are severe. Moreover, standing up for what is right, truth, and just in a country where the consequences may include imprisonment, torture, or even death is unusual and rare in Ethiopia’s long history of jurisprudence. Especially under the current atrocious government, few dare to guard truth, honor, and the duty their office confers upon them for fear of harsh penalty and reprisal. Judge Birtukan showed courage and stood for truth notwithstanding being sent prison, terminated from her job, or serious bodily harm, and even credible death threats.

As stated above, Judge Birtukan’s knowledge and familiarity with Ethiopian law is undisputed given the fact that she attended law school, did very well in her studies, became a Federal court judge, and then later practiced law. Thus, when she was asked about how the government granted them “amnesty” or “pardon” following their arrest and trumped up charges of genocide and treason, she told the truth based her on expertise of the law, and first-hand familiarity facts surrounding the issue. The undeniable fact of the matter is that there was no “amnesty” or “pardon”, but only a negotiated or mediated reconciliation. This fact, the lack of “amnesty” or “pardon” cannot be legally or otherwise contested. In a sense, no one, including Judge Birtukan, can alter, amend, or revise or reveres this fact because this is entirely and absolutely the truth.

Amnesty and Pardon are two different concepts and apply differently. For instance, the regular English dictionary defines Amnesty as: “a general pardon for offenses esp. for political offenses against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction.” (Emphasis added). The legal/law definition of Amnesty is not too far apart from the regular definition, it states, in part: “the action of a government by which all persons or certain groups of persons who have committed a criminal offense—usually of a political nature that threatens the sovereignty of the government (such as Sedition or treason)—are granted Immunity from prosecution. Amnesty allows the government of a nation or state to “forget” criminal acts, usually before prosecution has occurred.”

Accordingly, amnesty is something that is often granted prior to a prosecution, trial, or a conviction, and, certainly, before sentencing. In the case of Judge Birtukan Medikssa and CUD leadership, they were arrested, charged, tried (refused to defend themselves, and recognize the court as legitimate), convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment. This is a fact. This is the truth. This is exactly what happened. Then, there is no amnesty that was granted to the CUD leaders including Judge Birtukan Medikassa when they were released after signing a disputed and possibly forged document. Above all, this is precisely and accurately what Judge Birtukan explained.

Still, the government states and insists that CUD leaders were released due to a pardon. To illustrate, pardon is regularly defined as: “to release (a person) from punishment; exempt from penalty.” Pardon is legally defined as follows: “to use the executive power of a Governor or President to forgive a person convicted of a crime, thus removing any remaining penalties or punishments, and preventing any new prosecution of the person for the crime for which the pardon was given. A pardon strikes the conviction from the books as if it had never occurred, and the convicted person is treated as innocent.” This argument by the government fails to hold water because, as Judge Birtukan clearly stated, the Board of Pardon in Ethiopia has set strict procedures for a pardon to be granted to one convicted of a crime.

The procedure of pardon in Ethiopia requires that the convicted person, the family, or his/her attorney of record to formally plea, in writing, to the executive branch, in this case the Board of Pardon, the grounds and basis for pardon. Then, the formal plea or request was reviewed by the Board and it is either accepted or rejected. In the case of Judge Birtukan and CUD leaders, the undeniable fact is that the CUD leaders never applied, plea, request, demand, or otherwise contact the Board of Pardon for their release. Also, their family members never made such a request on behalf of their relatives, not even a single family member. Further, the CUD leaders not at all wrote or communicated with the Board of Pardon stating their intent to be considered for pardon. Obviously, the CUD leaders did not have any legal representation or an attorney, therefore, no lawyer/s made a request for their release to the Board of Pardon. This is the truth that Judge Birtukan clarified and described in Sweden in response to a question, and later in her letter.

Judge Birtukan, further explained, by refuting the government’s fictitious contention that the release was a pardon after a plea of forgiveness and accepting of full responsibility by CUD leadership for the heinous crime the government committed to be simply untrue and unsupported by any fact or evidence. She, therefore, accurately asserted that their release was not an amnesty or a pardon that was granted by a government, but it is a product of the pressure and weight on the government by the Diaspora, the International community, and the effort of the mediators (elderly) desire to bring about peace and reconciliation to the country. Conversely, the government continued to believe and insist in its own made-up story that it granted a pardon to CUD leaders, therefore, any claim to the contrary will result in revocation of the pardon that was never existed. Of course, the revocation of the pardon and implementing of the life sentence was contingent upon Judge Birtukan Medikassa’s retraction and written apology to the government. The Judge refused to participate in the government’s sham theatre that defies either law or fact. In response, the government put Judge Birtukan to prison in an extremely inhumane manner without court order, an opportunity to respond, and depriving her of any access to the outside world, in isolation, except her mother and her 4 years daughter.

In sum, the grave injustice that is being committed against Judge Birtukan for refusing to give in to the government’s constant intimidation and threats are unconscionable. The lack of justice and humanity against hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians under the current rogue regime is disturbing. The frequent reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights watch and even the U.S. Department of State’s annual report indicates the lack of fundamental rights in Ethiopia. Although the case of Judge Birtukan Midekssa managed to solicit international rage and response, the unfair and illegal imprisonments and torture of many Ethiopians under the current regime with impunity begs for an immediate, urgent, and critical response from all corners of the world. The International communities, Organizations, civil and Human rights organizations, and governments should be outraged against these types of clear contravention of the law. The inhumanity and brutality against Judge Birtukan and numerous Ethiopians held captive without semblance of due process by the dictatorial regime of Ethiopia should be immediately released.

Ethiopia should not be a prison for just and innocent men and women.

  1. sema
    | #1

    Birtuka Mideksa is the sole responsible for desruction of former Kinijit after Dr. Bre.
    That why she lost popularity to the big zero at home and abroad.
    She is a criminal infront of Ethiopia people.
    Dont you think that the government choose the right time for her arrest?

  2. wolikati
    | #2

    ሲማ እንደተሰበረ ሬከርድ የወያኔን ስትራተጂ ትደጋግማለህ; አንደኛውን ወጣና ወያኔ ነኝ በልና አቋምህን ተናገር::

    ብርቱካን ወንጀለኛ ነች የሚል ሰው የወያኔ ፍርድን የተቀበለ ድንጋይ ራስ ብቻ ነው አርፎ እቤቱ ቁጭ ቢል ይሻለዋል:: ሕግም ፍርድም ምን እንደሆነ የማያውቅ ሰው; ሰው ሲወንጅል እንሰሳነቱን እንጂ እውቀቱንም ሰውነቱን አያውቅም::

    እንደአበደ ውሻ አትናከስ ያበደከው ገና ወያኔ ነኝ ብለህ ሻቢያ ጋር ስትቀላቀልና ኢትዮጵያ የምትባል የለችም ብለህ የተነሳህ ቀን ነው:: ከዛ ጀምሮ አለች አንድ ናት ከሚሉ ጋር ጠብ ይዘሃል; አልፈህም አለች አንድ ናትም እወዳታለውም ማለት ጀምረሃል; የቀረህ ለህዝቧ ያለህ ጥላቻህ ነው::

    እንግዲህ የወደድካት ሃበቷን እንጂ ህዝቧን አይደለም:: አፍህን ከምትከፍት ዝም ብለህ ብዝበዛህን ብትቀጥል ይሻልሃል; የሌባ ልብ አድርቅ ሆንክ::

  3. Hiwot
    | #3

    Sema-dummy Woyane or ye woyane ashker.Shut up!

  4. dima
    | #4

    sema
    I was going to call you MORON but even the word moron dosnt really reflect who you are. You are wild donkey wth two legs

    BIRTUKAN IS OUR HERO

  5. gutema
    | #5

    sema you must be woyane

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