THE ETHIOPIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL (EHRCO)

PRESS RELEASE

July-August, 1995

1. INTRODUCTION

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) was established in October 1991 by 32 Founding Members from academia, business and the professions. It is an independent and non-partisian non- governmental organization. Its principal objectives are the promotion of:

1. the democratic process

2. the rule of law and due process

3. respect for human rights

Apart from struggling for the objectives outlined above, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council fights against ethnic or any other type of prejudice and animosity, religious intolerance, violence and armed struggle. EHRCO is totally committed to peaceful struggle against any type of dictatorship which is a violation of the fundamental civil rights of the people. It is also committed to rule of law, and stands against rule of persons whatever their rationale for the monopoly power may be.

So far the Ethiopian Human Rights Council is the only organization that monitors and reports human rights violations by the functionaries of the regime in power. It has produced seven reports and a 170- page book entitled: DEMOCRACY, RULE OF LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN ETHIOPIA: RHETORIC AND PRACTICE in April 1995. The eighth report of the Council will be out soon. These reports and the book detail all kinds of human rights violations, from extrajudicial killing to torture, involuntary disappearances, illegal detention and gagging the private press, to harassment of political opponents.

Ethiopia is still a country where extrajudicial killings are common. Torture by tightly tying the arms with electric wire has incapacitated the arms of many young people, including women. Involuntary disappearances are a regular phenomenon. Harassment of the private press, inordinate fines and imprisonment that Ethiopian journalists suffer, on one hand, and the harassment of newspaper vendors, now especilly outside Addis Ababa, and the harassment of even the readers of the private press,on the other, have made journalism the most dangerous profession next to political opposition groups. Illegal detention, that is detention without any court order, is in the thousands and many have remained in prison without a day in court for months or even years.

There are also tens of thousands of persons who have been dismissed from their jobs against the civil service laws, many even without their right of pension. Some of the important human rights violations that EHRCO has reported from 1991 to June 1994 are summarized in the table below.

TYPE OF VIOLATION CASES NO.

Extrajudicial killings ---------------- 184

Wounded --------------------------- 43

Forced disappearances ---------- 98

Torture ------------------------------- 36

Arbitrary detention --------------- 8389

Disobeying court orders ---------- 33

Violations of right to work ------16801

Violations of pension rights -----4357

Violations of property rights ------501

Prisoners of War --------------------- 57

It must be stressed that the figures in the table are cases that are recorded by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council. There could be much larger number of cases that are not reported either because of distance or of paralyzing terror from which most Ethiopians suffer. An example of this paralyzing terror is the case of the recent massacre in the Anwar Mosque in Addis Ababa. In spite of the fact that the Ethiopian Human Rights Council encouraged relatives of victims to come forward and report the dead and the wounded, the response has been a shocking silence for the most part.

2. THE REGIME`S RESPONSE TO ETHIOPIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

The regime successfully managed to stop any assistance to the Ethiopian Human Rights Council by arm-twisting the Embassies and donor agencies. Ambassadors were told by very high officials that giving assistnce to the Ethiopian Human Rights Council will be considered an unfriendly act. Since the publication of EHRCO`s book cited above, the regime has caused by illegally blocking EHRCO`s account in the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, one more testimony of the fact that the regime has no respect for laws.This is an attempt to kill EHRCO by strangulating it financilly. The Western World which never tries of pretending to stand for the fundamental principles of democracy and human rights is totally behind the gross violations that are committed against the Ethiopian people and against the Ethiopian Human Rights Council.

When EHRCO`s account was blocked there was absolutely nothing to enable it to continue its normal operation. EHRCO could not even pay the salaries of its employees, let alone pay the enormous telephone bills and rent. Moreover, EHRCO had to pay nearly 10,000 Birr (approximately US $ 1600) for the court. It is, nevertheless, gratifying to note that the Ethiopian people showed their unwavering commitment to the Ethiopian Human Rights Council. Even beggars and street vendors, small boys, pensioners and other groups contributed what they could to make EHRCO continue to function in spite of the blocking of its account. That is how it still functions. The Ethiopian Human Rights Council expresses deep appreciation to Ethiopians in Switzerland and Germany for their generous contributions in this hour of need.

3. CONCLUSION

The situation in Ethiopia is dangerous. A short-sighted view of divide and rule that deliberately creates tensions between ethnic groups is gradually poisoning the Ethiopian society. The time to observe the real conditions in Ethiopia, for understanding the pressing issues of democracy, the rule of law and human rights and for assessing the storm beneath the apparently calm surface is now.

The Ethiopian people are human beings like any in the West. They have much more than animal needs to satisfy. The notion that the Ethiopian people need only food is based on a total and perhaps a deliberate misunderstanding of the real cause of food insecurity and famine which is dictatorial rule. The Western World, especilly the United States, continues to use Ethiopia only as a means to its own end which is the security its petroleum interests in the Arabian Peninsula and the Arabian Gulf.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council stands committed to principles that serve all humanity. When a portion of humanity uses another portion only as a means, it is undermining the moral basis of the universality of the principles that unite humanity. Therefore, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council calls upon all persons of good will everywhere, especially in Europe and North America, to make their voices heard against the internal and external forces of evil that are preparing Ethiopia to be the Somalia, or the Rwanda, or the Liberia of the future.

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