Source: Federal News Service

HEADLINE: PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOSEPH T. ELDRIDGE DIRECTOR,

WASHINGTON OFFICE LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS BEFORE

THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE

ON AFRICA RE: HUMAN RIGHTS IN AFRICA

Ethiopia Almost exactly five years ago, the brutal Mengistu regime in Ethiopia, notorious for having one of the bleakest human rights records on the continent, fell to a coalition of ethnic based insurgency groups under the umbrella of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), ending fifteen years of terror.

At the time, there was much hope that the country was finally entering a period of democracy and respect for human rights. And in fact, much progress has been made, including an effort to hold accountable those responsible for atrocities under the Mengistu government. But troubling accounts of repression and human fights violations by the new government have been emerging, as illustrated by the story of Mr. E, a twenty- year old car mechanic of Amharic ethnicity. Like so many of their fellow citizens, Mr. E's family suffered greatly under the Mengistu government. His older brother had been arrested and viciously tortured for opposition activities and eventually fled the country. Mr. E's father had been arrested on many occasions for questioning. The family was relieved when the regime fell and looked forward to peace.

After graduating from high school in 1994, Mr. E joined the All Amhara People' s Organization, a major opposition group. In February 1995, Mr. E was stopped on the street by police for a random search. When the police found Mr. E's party identification, they arrested him and locked him in a tiny brick cell where he was held with two other men incommunicado and without charge for eight months. Though he was only eighteen and had just joined the, organization, guards questioned Mr. E about the long term plans of the All Amhara People' s Organization. Mr. E was fed only small amounts of bread and water; no sanitary provisions were made. Within a short time his health began to deteriorate.

By the end of eight months, Mr. E was so ill that the guards decided to allow his parents to take him home. As he was leaving the prison, Mr. E finally received notice of the charges against him and a summons to appear in court. As Mr. E recuperated at home, his neighbors reported that they were being questioned by unknown men in civilian clothes as to Mr. E's activities and whether he was receiving any visitors. Fearing that he would once again be arrested and held indefinitely, Mr. E fled Ethiopia and arrived in the United States in February 1996.