ETHIOPIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Tel. (251-1) 514489 / 517704 TeleFax: (251-1) 514539
P.O.Box 2432, Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA
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
(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
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
Kefetenya 2, Kebelie 09
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
Head, Special Security Department
· 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
· 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 as
· She remained under police custody for 57 (fifty-seven) days
and was deported for the second time to the Sudan, Khartoum, on
May 6, 1994.
· Officials of the Sudan government did not want her stay in the
country. They kept her at the air port for a day and sent her
back to Ethiopia on May 7, 1994.
· She was arrested on her arrival at Bole Air Port and taken to
the Central Investigation Co-ordination Department. She remained
there under detention for more than one year (505 days).
· Then she was deported to Turkey on September 24, 1995.
· Wro. Svetlana returned to Ethiopia for the fourth time with
the belief that the authorities would reconsider their position
and treat her fairly, but she was again picked up by the police
and detained at the Central Investigation Co-ordination
· 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
* 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
· 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
· 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
· 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
· 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
· On 6 September 1996 Wro. Svetlanas 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 Courts 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 Courts
· Then the Court adjourned the case for January 20, 1997.
· On January 20, the case was adjourned again for February 3,
· On February 3, the case was again adjourned for February 10,
· On February 10, 1997 the Court gave the following order:
1. Wro. Svetlana Mamedovas 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.
2. The Court also wants to know why the order it gave on
September 5,1996 has not been complied with. In order to
determine who is responsible for this failure and take
appropriate action, it is ordered that the Head of the
Investigation Department personally appear before the Court on
the adjourned date and explain the reason why the Courts
order has not been complied with. If he cannot come for reasons
beyond his control, anyone delegated by him and is capable of
giving clarification shall come before the Court on the adjourned
date and shall give an explanation.
· On February 21, 1997, the police again defied the Courts
order and the Court was forced to give another adjournment for
March 11, 1997.
· On March 11, 1997, the case was again adjourned for the eighth
time for March 17, 1997.
· On March 17, the case was adjourned for the ninth time for
April 16, 1997.
· On April 16, 1997, the Court ordered Colonel Immiru Tessemma,
the Federal Police Commissioner, to arrest and bring the Head of
the Central Investigation Department or, if he is not present,
his deputy before the Court on 27 May 1997.
· On May 27, 1997, the Police Commissioner instructed the Head
of the Investigation Co-ordination Department, Ato Taddesse
Messeret, to appear before the Court and explain the reason why
Wro. Svetlana is detained and sent a copy of the letter to the
Court. However, the Head of the Investigation Co-ordination
Department defied the order and failed to appear before the
Court. As a result the Court gave the following order:
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 Courts 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 Commissioners failure to comply with the
Courts 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 Courts 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 mothers detention
· On the other hand, his father Ato Belay Dechasa applied to the
7th Bench of Region 14 Zonal Court stating that his wifes
disappearance for over 2 years and asking the court to declare
his wifes absence. The courts 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 courts 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
· However, Wro. Svetlana was taken by the police from her home,
where she 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
· 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
· 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.
· 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 lawfulness of 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
· 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 Departments 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 this provision.
· The case of Wro. Svetlana and that of Bahtawi Geber-Mesqel
(see EHRCOs 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 governments 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 Marus death
(see EHRCOs Special Report No. 14).
· On the one hand, the Dergs 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 womens 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.
Council of Peoples Representatives
P. O. Box 80001, Tel: (251-1) 55 30 00 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;
His Excellency Dr. Negasso Gidada
President of the FDRE
P. O. Box 1031, Fax: (251-1) 55 20 30, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
His Excellency Ato Meles Zenawi
Prime Minister of the FDRE
P. O. Box 1031, Fax: (251-1) 55 20 30 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
His Excellency Ato Seyoum Mesfin
Minister of Foreign Affairs
P.O.Box 393, Fax: (251-1) 51 43 00, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
His Excellency Ato Mahteme Solomon
Minister of Justice
P. O. Box 1370, Fax: (251-1) 55 07 22, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
His Excellency Ato Kemal Bedri
President of the Supreme Court
P. O. Box 6166, Fax: (251-1) 55 07 28, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
His Excellency Ato Kinfe Gebre-Medhin
Head, Security, Immigration and Refugee Affairs Authority
P.O.Box 5721, Fax: (251-1) 51 59 79, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia