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Ethiopian Government’s Promise to Release Political Prisoners & Close Notorious Jail Meaningless Without Political Freedoms January 5, 2018

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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“For years, while donor countries like the US have turned a blind eye, thousands of Ethiopians have languished behind bars simply for speaking up against so-called development policies and related human rights abuses, all perpetrated by the Ethiopian regime. The acknowledgement of these political prisoners, their release, and the closure of the horrific Maekelawi police station, if actually carried through, are all long overdue, but not enough.”

Ethiopian Government’s Promise to Release Political Prisoners & Close Notorious Jail Meaningless Without Political Freedoms

The Oakland Institute, January 4, 2018

Kibish, Ethiopia. Credit: The Oakland Institute.

Media Contact: Anuradha Mittal
amittal@oaklandinstitute.org
+1 510-469-5228

Oakland, CA—Until yesterday, the Ethiopian government refused to even acknowledge the presence of scores of political prisoners in the country. Then on January 3, 2018, the government announced that it would release all of its political prisoners and close the notorious Maekelawi police station. The surprise announcement came after years of political suppression that saw the deaths of over 1,000 people and the arrest of over 26,000 in 2016-2017 alone, as well as the imposition of a 10-month state of emergency.

According to Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, “For years, while donor countries like the US have turned a blind eye, thousands of Ethiopians have languished behind bars simply for speaking up against so-called development policies and related human rights abuses, all perpetrated by the Ethiopian regime. The acknowledgement of these political prisoners, their release, and the closure of the horrific Maekelawi police station, if actually carried through, are all long overdue, but not enough.”

The Oakland Institute has exposed human rights abuses linked to land grabs and failed development policies across Ethiopia for over a decade. This has included forced displacement, unlawful arrest, the stifling of basic human rights, and more. Journalists, opposition party members, religious and indigenous leaders, students, and land rights defenders have been imprisoned simply for speaking out against injustice in the country. The Institute has been closely involved in the cases of various land rights defenders and political prisoners, and has campaigned against Ethiopia’s draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

“For years, the Ethiopian government has used its anti-terrorism law to criminalize basic human rights, stifle dissent, and lock up anyone who critiques its policies and actions,” explained Lewis Gordon, Executive Director of the Environmental Defender Law Center and editor of a joint report with the Oakland Institute about the law. “While today’s announcement has the potential to be a positive step forward for many in Ethiopia, it is also imperative that the government repeal the use of this repressive piece of legislation.”

While yesterday’s news has been heralded by many, questions remain about how the government intends to enact these sweeping changes.

“Who is considered a political prisoner? How and when will these releases take place and under what conditions? Going forward, what kinds of political freedoms will be allowed? The right to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the media? How will the perpetrators of crimes that have been committed against Ethiopian citizens be held accountable? These are all details that have not yet been released,” Mittal stated. “In the absence of these details, we remain cautious about this announcement.  We will remain vigilant in the days and weeks to come, and hold the Ethiopian government accountable to swiftly and fully follow through on its promises.”

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Learn more about Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation in our report: Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law: A Tool to Stifle Dissent.

Financial Times coverage of Mr. Okello’s sentence (registration required).

Obok’s letter to the Financial Times in response to their report.


Related (Oromian Economist sources):-

BBC: Ethiopia PM ‘misquoted’ over prisoners

Foreign Affairs Committee: Chairman Royce Statement on Ethiopia Political Prisoners Announcement,Press Release

The New York Times: Ethiopia Says It Will Close Notorious Prison and Free Some Inmates 

BBC Afaan Oromoo: ‘Nama malee manni nama hin dararu’ – Maa’ikalaawii

OPride: Ethiopia needs deeper reforms beyond release of jailed politicians and closure of Maekelawi

OPride: Here is what Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said and what he didn’t say

 

QZ: Ethiopia will have to do a lot more than release political prisoners to end repression

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Geeska Afrika:Oromia (Ethipoia): I prefer death to detention at Maeklawi: Bekele Gerba. #OromoProtests April 1, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Africa, Baqqalaa Garbaa, Because I am Oromo, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Oromia, Oromo.
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Odaa OromooFree Bekele GerbaBekele Gerba translated Martin Luther King’s book  ‘I HAVE A DREAM’  into Oromo language while he was in prison.

 

NAIROBI (HAN) March 31. 2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News- “I prefer death to detention at Maekelawi,” prominent opposition leader Bekele Gerba has told a court after enduring appalling conditions in one of the chambers of hell at the notorious Maekelawi Prison in the Ethiopian capital.

The prison cell is sardine-packed: 30 prisoners in a 10×10 meter area. Because it is too crowded, respiration coupled with body heat drips back onto the prisoners from the ceiling. No need to divulge details of the hell-on-earth place called “Maekelawi” prison, where prominent political prisoners from the recent protests in Oromia are being held.

The horrible conditions led Bekele and other top OFC leaders to lauch a hunger strike, and on the fifth day on Sunday, when most of them were in critical health conditions, a small change was introduced: the number of occupants in Bekele’s cell was cut down to 17. Better than before but still brutal.

According to OFC Deputy chairperson, Mulatu Gemechu, prominent Oromo individuals who are at Maekelawi are Bekele Gerba, Dejene Taffa, Desta Dinka, Gurmesa Ayano, Addisu Bulala, Dereje Merga and Alemu Abdisa

This small area was so crowded not only with the human occupants but also personal belongings as well as sanitation goodies for the occupants who are not allowed to get air except very short timeouts at dawn and dusk.

Political prisoners suffer not only for torture or life in extremely appalling prison conditions. They are also handed lengthy appointments so that they would break down psychologically. The court has adjourned the prisoners case for another 28 days.

In another development, Mulatu said an unprecedented crackdown on Oromo people was in full swing throughout Oromia, and the mass arrests came in despite Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s recent speech sounded promising for the suffering majority. However, on the ground, a brutal massive crackdown is under way as the following list shows:

1. Shashemene, Western Arsi – Close to 1200 people have been taken away as prisoners and no one knows their whereabouts.

2. Chiro, Western Hararghe – Between 800 to 1000 people were hauled away by nine trucks. No one knows their whereabouts.
3. Gujji Zone – 150 people taken away.
4. Ambo, Western Shoa – 103 people taken away
5. Gimbi, Western Wellega – 60 people were arrested and taken to an unknown destination.
6. Qelem, Wellega – 54 people taken away.

7. Horo Gudru, Wellega – 39 people were taken away in one night.

8. Burayu (near Addis) – Two individuals taken away to an unknown destination.

Though Ethiopia is hemmoraging from the political crisis, the government is trying to use the prevalent “drought and famine” as a cover to wipe out dissent in Oromia and beyond.

Read more at: http://geeskaafrika.com/2016/03/31/ethipoia-i-prefer-death-to-detention-at-maeklawi-bekele-gerba/