Since the beginning of this week, numerous students and partisans of opposition political parties have protested in the streets following the provisional results of the May 15 legislative elections, which turned out in favour of the incumbents. These activists denounce the massive embezzlement and fraud that compromised the whole electoral process. Such protests have taken place despite their prohibition for one month immediately following the elections by the outgoing Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.
On Monday, June 6, 2005, a student demonstration was strongly repressed by the Police, resulting in one death people and ten injured. Yesterday, while Ethiopian authorities publicly authorized the police to take « appropriate measures against those with the intention to disrupt the peace », police opened fire on the crowd in various districts of the capital in order to disperse the demonstrators. Based on the available information, estimates are of at least 22 dead people and one hundred injured. The FIDH and EHRCO condemn the Ethiopian authorities' violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights concerning the right to life, and consider some police to have committed summary executions according to international human rights provisions.
Today, the Ethiopian capital is «under siege», tanks, armoured vehicles and others heavily armed cars full of militaries round on the main roads of the city in order to dissuade people from protesting. Protesting this situation, taxi and bus drivers, as well as many private and public employees are on strike.
The FIDH and EHRCO also stress the fact that the serious violence of the past days has meant major violations by the national authorities of foundamental liberties, in flagrant disregard of the international human rights treaties ratified by Ethiopia.
Moreover, on June 2, the editor-in-chief of four private newspapers were summoned by the Police. There is evidence of serious threats and intimidations against these persons for having covered objectively these events in their daily newspapers. On June 7, the licences of 5 independent reporters, notably Voice of America and Deutsche Welle were revoked. The same day, one of the main opposition leaders, Hailu Shawel, President of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), was placed under house arrest. Human rights defenders generally are particularly targets of the authorities. Yesterday, one member of EHRCO, Chernet Taddesse, was arrested by the police at his home during the night. His whereabouts have not been yet revealed. The same night, the house of Yared Hailemariam, an other member of EHRCO, was searched by the Police.
The FIDH and EHRCO urge Ethiopian authorities to :
1- guarantee the physical and psychological protection of the population, in accordance with the binding provisions of international human rights
2- in this vein, immediately reveal the whereabouts and the fate of Mr. Chernet Taddesse, member of EHRCO
3- mount an independent investigation commission to bring to light police violence against demonstrators and to find those responsibles
4- allow for the prosecution of the perpetrators of summary executions and others serious violations of human rights pursuant to international provisions on the rights to a fair trial
5- conform strictly to the binding international instruments of human rights, especially guarantee freedom of opinion, expression and protest
6- conform to the principles set out in the UN Declaration of 1998 on the Human Rights Defenders