AAAS's statement on Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat and Dr Mohammed A. Tuko

Subject: AAAS's statement on Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat and Dr Mohammed A Tuko

American Association for the Advancement of Science Human Rights Action Network (AAASHRAN)

ETHIOPIA--Teachers' association chairman, and electrical engineer arrested

CASE NUMBERS: ET9613. Taye W/Semayat --teachers' association chairman

ET9616.Tuk-electrical engineer

ISSUES: Right to security of person; Freedom of opinion and expression; Right to due process; Fear of torture or ill-treatment; Freedom from arbitrary arrest

FACTS OF THE CASE: AAAS is concerned about the arrest of Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat, chairman of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association, and Mohamed Abdo Tuko, assistant professor of electrical engineering. Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat was arrested on 30 May 1996 and has been charged with illegal anti-government activities. He has been held in solitary confinement since his detention and has been denied access to legal representation.

Mohamed Abdo Tuko was arrested in February 1995. He is a member of the Council of Islamic Affairs and may be a prisoner of conscience.

Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat was arrested upon his return from an extensive business trip to Europe. He was accompanied by Andre Du Mont of the Dutch National Teachers' Association and Emmanuel Fatuma of the African Teachers' Association when he was arrested at Bole International Airport. Fatuma and Du Mont were travelling to Ethiopia to investigate reports of restrictions on trade union activities, and it is believed that Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat's association with them may have led to his arrest. Authorities have not yet offered proof to warrant the charges against Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat, even in view of an illegal search of his elderly father's house at Nazareth. Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat appeared before the Federal First Instance Court, Second Criminal Division, three times. On 1 June, he was remanded for 14 days, and on 13 June this was extended for 11 additional days.

During his third court appearance on 24 June he was not brought before the judge. Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat has been denied legal counsel despite an agreement made by the Head of the Central Investigation Bureau to allow him to meet with his lawyer after 14 June 1996. Officials cite the unavailability of his investigator as the reason for this denial.g

In April 1993, Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat was one of 42 professors from Addis Ababa University fired after writing a letter of protest against the government's violent reaction to a student demonstration in January 1993. (AAASHRAN alerts regarding the mass dismissal in 1992 were issued on 17 November 1993 and 18 may 1994.)

In addition, AAAS has recently learned of the case of Dr. Mohamed Abdo Tuko, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Addis Ababa University and member of the Council of Islamic Affairs. He was detained following a violent incident at the main Anwar Mosque in Addis Ababa in February 1995. Dr. Mohamed Abdo Tuko is one of 34 people, most of whom are Council members, being tried in connection with this incident. It is alleged that he was involved in organizing violent opposition to the government in a clash between a pro- government mosque faction and Council supporters. Dr. Mohamed Abdo Tuko ardently denies any support of violence.

The arbitrary detention of Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat and Dr. Mohamed Abdo Tuko and the denial of access to legal representation, constitute serious violations of international human rights standards, including basic protections provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Ethiopian Constitution, and the Ethiopian Criminal Procedures Code.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted without objection by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948:

* The rights to life, liberty, and security of person, and to be free from arbitrary arrest or detention (Articles 3 and 9);

* the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal (Article 10);

* the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19); and

* the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Article 20).

The African Charter on Human and People's Rights, adopted by the Organization of African Unity on 17 June 1981:

* Freedom from all forms of exploitation, including torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment (Article 5);

* the right to liberty and security of person, and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detainment (Article 6);

* the right to express and disseminate opinions (Article 9); and

* the right to free association.

The U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the First U.N Congress on 30 August 1955:

* Any prisoner shall be given all reasonable facilities for communicating with his family and friends, and for receiving visits from them and from his legal advisor (Articles 92 and 93).

The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE):

* All persons in custody, including sentenced prisoners, have the right to conditions which respect human dignity, and shall have the opportunity to communicate with and to be visited by their spouses or partners, relatives and friends, lawyers and medical practitioners (Article 21).

The Ethiopian Criminal Procedure Code:

* Any person detained on arrest or on remand shall be permitted forthwith to call and interview his advocate (Article 61). (Sources of information are Amnesty International, The Ethiopian Human Rights Council, and The Indian Ocean Newsletter, 15 June 1996.)

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telexes, telegrams, faxes, or airmail letters:

* expressing concern about the arrest and detention of Dr. Taye Wolde Semayat and Dr. Mohamed Abdo Tuko;

* urging that they be released unless charged with a recognizable crime; and

* urging that they receive humane treatment while in custody and be allowed access to family, legal representation, and medical attention should it become necessary.


Dr. Negaso Gidada, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,

Office for the President

P.O. Box 1031

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Fax: 011-25-11-55-20-30

[Salutation: Your Excellency]

Meles Zenawi

Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Prime Minister's Office

P.O. Box 1031

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Fax: 011-25-11-55-07-22

[Salutation: Your Excellency]

Mr. Mahteme Solomon

Minister of Justice

P.O. Box 1370

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Fax: 011-2511-55-07-22

[Salutation: Dear Minister]

Mr. Kuma Demeksa

President of Oromia

Oromia Regional State Council

P.O. Box 62298

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

[Salutation: Dear President]

Please send copies of your appeals, and any responses you may receive, or direct any questions you may have to Elisa Munoz, AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, 1200 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20005; tel. (202)326-6797; email: EMUNOZ@AAAS.ORG on the internet system; or fax: (202)289-4950.

The keys to effective appeals are to be: courteous and respectful; accurate and precise; impartial in approach; and as specific as possible regarding alleged violations and the international human rights standards and instruments that apply to the situation. Reference to your scientific organization and professional affiliation are always helpful.

To ensure that appeals are current and credible, please do not continue to write appeals on this case after 90 days from the date of posting unless an update has been issued.