ETHIOPIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
THE PERSECUTION OF WRO. SVETLANA MAMEDOVA
Special Report No. 17 June 6, 1997
1. How Wro. Svetlana Came to Ethiopia
Wro. (Mrs.) Svetlana Mamedova, a Georgian by birth and
originally a citizen of the former Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics, had come to Ethiopia in 1978, together with Ato (Mr.)
Belay Dechassa, whom she had formally married in Moscow in 1976.
Her official residence is in Addis Ababa, Woreda 2, Kebelie 09,
House No. 262/07. Wro. Svetlana had a son by her husband Ato
Belay Dechassa and his name is Bikila.
Article 2 of the Ethiopian Nationality Law of 1930 provides that a lawful marriage of an Ethiopian subject with a foreign woman confers the Ethiopian nationality upon the married woman. Article 3 of this law further provides that the following marriages are deemed lawful.
(a) A marriage contracted in Ethiopia with a foreign woman, in
accordance with the form of an Ethiopian Religion, or with the
form of an Ethiopian Civil marriage, creating between wife and
husband a community of goods.
(b) A marriage contracted abroad of an Ethiopian subject with a foreign woman, in accordance with the law and the forms of the place where the marriage is contracted.
Wro. Svetlana and Ato Belay were formally married in Moscow according to the marriage law of the land and their marriage was registered there on the Book of Register under No. DOZ019899. Since the Ethiopian Nationality Law cited above is still in force and Ato Belay Dechassa had married Wro. Svetlana formally, his wife is automatically entitled to become an Ethiopian national.Notwithstanding such clear provisions of the law she was not immediately granted Ethiopian nationality because it had been decided by the Public Prosecutor of the Derg regime that she could not be granted Ethiopian nationality unless she renounced her Soviet nationality. Hence she fulfilled the condition and submitted to the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs her application for an Ethiopian nationality on January 15, 1985. Accordingly, her application was accepted and she was given an Ethiopian citizenship identity paper, No. 6898/Tn487, confirming her Ethiopian nationality. Thus she finally became an Ethiopian national.Wro. Svetlana used to run her own private business. She has a retail shop of ready made clothes in Addis Ababa, Woreda 2, Kebelie 09, House No. 262/8. Her trade licence for the business has been renewed for the 1996/97 fiscal year. She also used to teach music in Ethiopia.
2. The Injustices Done to Wro. Svetlana
Wro. Svetlana had been living peacefully with her husband Belay and her only child, Bikila, when she received a letter on November 29, 1991 from the Special Security Department of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia. The letter was written on the same date and reads as follows:
Mrs. Svetlana Mamedova
We would like to talk to you about business matters. So, you are hereby summoned to appear before the Special Security Department on November 29, 1991 at 11:00 a. m.
With best regards
As instructed, Wro. Svetlana went to the Special Security
Department escorted by the security man who brought her the
letter. She was detained immediately on her arrival and five days
later, on December 4, 1991, she was deported to the
Sudan.However, after staying abroad for 61 (sixty-days) she
returned to Ethiopia on January 13, 1992. Still, on her arrival,
she was detained at Bole International Air Port and again
deported to Moscow. Wro. Svetlana was determined not to stay
abroad stateless and separated from her husband and son. So, she
came back to Ethiopia on March 10, 1994, but on her arrival she
was again detained and remained under police custody at the
Central Investigation Co-ordination Department, popularly known
Wro. Svetlana remained under custody: from April 18 to September 1, 1996 (for 137 days) at the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department; from September 2 to September 15, 1996 (for 14 days) at Woreda 10 Police Station; again from September 16, 1996 to January 16, 1997 (for 123 days) at the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department; from January 17 to May 5, 1997 (for 109 days) at the Woreda 14 Police Station; from May 6, 1997 to date at the Woreda 3 Police Station. She has therefore suffered for 985 days (two years and eight months) under police custody without ever appearing before a judge. To date, she has never been charged for committing any crime.
Moreover, Wro. Svetlana was forced to stay stateless in foreign countries separated from her husband and son for two years and nine months. All in all, she has been made to remain stateless and without liberty for a total of five years and six months. Wro. Svetlana was taken to the Immigration Department on May 22, 1997 and told that she will be deported for the fifth time. EHRCO has received a report that she might be deported to an unknown country to day.
3. Court Actions to secure Wro. Svetlana Mamedova's liberty
On 12 May 1994, the 1st Woreda Court granted bail to Wro. Svetlana and gave order to the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department to release her. The police defied the order. Citing its file no. 297/87, the Region 14 (Addis Ababa) Public Prosecutor wrote a letter on 17 March 1995 (ref. no. k14/881/279/87) to the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department and asked for an explanation as to why Wro. Svetlana has not been released in accordance with the order of the Woreda Court. The Central Investigation Co-ordination Department did not respond. On 6 September 1996 Wro. Svetlana's Counsel applied to the Federal First Instance Court, 1st Civil Bench, stating that she has been unlawfully detained by the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department and asking the Court to issue a writ of habeas corpus. The Court examined the application (see civil case No. 1426/88) and ordered the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department to bring Wro. Svetlana as well as the investigation file to the Court on September 13, 1996 and to explain why it was detaining her.
However, the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department defied the Court's order and failed to produce her on the adjourned day. The Court again ordered the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department to produce Wro. Svetlana on September 25, 1996 and explain the reason for her detention. The Central Investigation Co-ordination Department defied the Court's order again. Then the Court adjourned the case for January 20, 1997. On January 20, the case was adjourned again for February 3, 1997. On February 3, the case was again adjourned for February 10, 1997. On February 10, 1997 the Court gave the following order:
Wro. Svetlana Mamedova's Counsel has presented an affidavit stating that she was arrested by the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department and has been detained at Woreda 10 Police Station since April 1996. She has been prevented from presenting her case to the Court and also been denied access to counsel. Since this is illegal and a flagrant violation of the provision of Article 17 of the Constitution, the Court orders that the Department produce her before the Court on 24/2/97. It is also ordered that it bring the investigation file and explain the reason why she is being held.
1. On 16/4/97 the Court had ordered the Federal Police Commissioner to arrest the Head of the Investigation Co-ordination Department and bring him to the Court because the latter had repeatedly defied to execute the Courts order and failed to produce at court Wro. Svetlana Mamedova and the investigation file. However, the Police Commissioner, instead of complying with the Court's order and bringing the Head of the Investigation Co-ordination Department or his deputy before the Court, sent a copy of his letter dated 19/4/97 (Ref. no. 3/:p 7/8/17) and addressed to the Investigation Co-ordination Department in violation of the procedure. Hence, in view of the Police Commissioner's failure to comply with the Court's order, the Court orders that his salary for the month of June should be withheld until an alternative order is given. Similarly, since the Head of the Investigation Co-ordination Department, Ato Taddesse Tessemma, has repeatedly failed to obey the Court's order, let his June salary be withheld until an alternative order is given. Let this order be sent to the Ministry of Finance for execution. 2. Let a copy of this order be sent to the Federal Police Commissioner for his execution of the order given on 16/4/97. The case is adjourned for 27 June 1997.
4. The Difficulty Encountered by Bikila due to the Detention and Deportation of His Mother
When his mother was detained on November 29, 1992 and deported to Sudan, Bikila was 15 years old and attending Grade Nine at the Indian National School. Bikila was forced to abandon his school and suffer a lot due to his mother's detention and deportation. On the other hand, his father Ato Belay Dechasa applied to the 7th Bench of Region 14 Zonal Court stating that his wife's disappearance for over 2 years and asking the court to declare his wife's absence. The court's order that Wro. Svetlana should appear before it on July 22, 1993 was printed on the July 8, 1993 issue of Addis Zemen. However, as Wro. Svetlana had been deported at the time, she was not in a position to read the paper and comply with the court's order. According to Article 154(1) of the Civil Code, "Where a person has disappeared and has given no news of himself for two years, any interested party may apply to court to declare his absence." However, Wro. Svetlana was taken by the police from her home, whereshe was living with her husband, on November 29, 1992 whereas Ato Dechasa applied to the Court to declare her absence before July 1993. This means that she was by then absent from home for only a year and seven months.
5. The Illegality of the Police Action and its Violation of Human Rights
Article 17(1) of the FDRE Constitution provides: "No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law." The police from the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department have violated this constitutional provision. Article 19(3) of the FDRE Constitution and Article 29 of the Ethiopian Criminal Code provide that anyone arrested has the right to appear before a court within 48 hours of the arrest. The police who detained Wro. Svetlana did not observe these legal provisions. According to Article 33(1) of the FDRE Constitution, "No Ethiopian national shall be deprived of his or her nationality against his or her will." Article 15(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality." Wro. Svetlana has been deprived of her Ethiopian nationality against her will and arbitrarily. Her Ethiopian citizenship identity paper has been taken away from her. Not only this, her passport, too, was taken away from her and, on September 6, 1994, she was issued a white paper, No. EM699/87, which states: "Emergency document of identity issued to a non-Ethiopian national who cannot obtain or, owing to emergent circumstances, has no time to obtain a national passport or renew an expired one." This action, too, constitutes a violation of the constitutional provisions and Wro. Svetlana's rights. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Ethiopia has ratified, provides that "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulnessof his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful."
Article 12(4) of the same Covenant also provides that "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country." These provisions of the Covenant which has become part of the Ethiopian law have not been observed in the case of Wro. Svetlana.
The application for habeas corpus submitted to the Federal
First Instance Court in accordance with Article 19(4) of the FDRE
Constitution and Article 177 of the Civil Procedure Code did not
produce any tangible result. In view of the Central Investigation
Co-ordination Department's repeated defiance of its order, the
Court did not go one step further and order the release of Wro.
Svetlana Mamedova as is required by Article 179(2) of the Civil
Procedure Code. It merely confined itself to demanding an
explanation from the police. According to Article 13 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights even a
foreign national would not be deported before his/her case has
been decided on by a court. Although Wro. Svetlana is an
Ethiopian national, her case was not treated even according to
The case of Wro. Svetlana and that of Bahtawi Geber-Mesqel (see EHRCO's Special Report No.15) prove that the Ethiopian courts actually have very little power to protect the human rights of Ethiopian nationals. On the other hand, these cases also show that the Federal government's police are above the law and can arbitrarily arrest and detain anyone. In fact, they can even kill anyone on the street without regard for due process, as was shown in the case of Ato Assefa Maru's death (see EHRCO's Special Report No. 14). On the one hand, the Derg's atrocities are condemned day and night; on the other hand, similar violations of human rights are committed. This practice makes it clear that all the fanfare about the brutality of the Derg regime is only for the sake of appearances. It makes one think that the law and the courts are there as show pieces and are not meant for practical application. The government must not tolerate such atrocities against its citizens. It must take the proper measures to ensure respect for the law as well as the rights of its citizens.
Therefore, EHRCO asks the Ethiopian government to get the immediate release of Wro. Svetlana Mamedova, who has been detained for a long period and suffered from the flagrant violation of her rights, and to ensure that her rights as a national of this country are respected. EHRCO also urges all supporters of human rights in general and women's rights in particular to write to the following FDRE government officials and ask for the release of Wro. Svetlana Mamedova as well as her reunion with her family.
His Excellency Dr. Negasso Gidada
His Excellency Ato Meles Zenawi
His Excellency Ato Seyoum Mesfin
His Excellency Ato Mahteme Solomon
His Excellency Ato Kemal Bedri
His Excellency Ato Kinfe Gebre-Medhin