On Friday April 20, 2018, a Fist Instance court judge and a prosecutor in East Harerge Zone Bedenno Wereda were arrested by the Command Post.
Prosecutor Tereffa Dessie and First Instance Court judge Abinnet Taddesse were arrested Friday evening after the judge, Abinnet Tadesse, ordered the release of three individuals who were detained at the Wereda police station by the Command Post.
According to Oiplatform sources, the three individuals were detained at the station. The prosecutor was ordered by the judge to explain the reason for the arrests. The prosecutor explained to the judge saying that “he knew nothing about the crimes the three individuals were accused of and that the police brought no evidence of wrongdoing against the detained individuals.”
The prosecutor then told the judge that since no evidence of any wrongdoing was submitted by police, he couldn’t continue with the case. As a result, the judge ordered the release of the three individuals.
After the release of the three individuals, the prosecutor was called to the Wereda police station. Judge Abinnet Tadesse was also told to show up at the woreda police station. They were questioned by officials from the Command Post as to why they released the three individuals. The prosecutor (Tereffa) explained the situation and what exactly happened. However, the Command Post officials claimed that the court had no power to decide on individuals arrested by the command post and decided to detain both the Jude and the Prosecutor at the Wereda Police Station.
On Saturday morning, after a phone call from Oromia Justice Bureau to the command post officials in the wereda, the prosecutor Tereffa Dessie was released. However, the judge is still in custody.
The command post has been targeting Oromia officials both at local and regional levels. In the past, Head of Oromia Justice Breau Communication head Mr. Taye Dandea and Oromia Police Commander were arrested.
OiPlatform is closely following the matter.
Ethiopia has been accused of serious violation of human rights especially in the context of the first state of emergency. A report by the US State Department says “arbitrary deprivation of life, disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces; denial of a fair public trial; infringement of privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, internet, assembly, association, and movement are some of the most significant human rights issues in the country. The report underlines that human rights violators act with impunity: “The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed human rights abuses…. Impunity was a problem; there was an extremely limited number of prosecutions of security force members or officials for human rights abuses during the year.” “arbitrary deprivation of life, disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces; denial of a fair public trial; infringement of privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, internet, assembly, association, and movement are some of the most significant human rights issues in the country. The report underlines that human rights violators act with impunity: “The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed human rights abuses…. Impunity was a problem; there was an extremely limited number of prosecutions of security force members or officials for human rights abuses during the year.”
The Department had also accused Ethiopia of similar violations in its report published in March 2017. In that report, it was indicated that Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other unlawful or politically motivated killings, disappearance, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention, denial of fair public trial, arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, freedom of speech and press, freedom of movement, internally displaced persons, protection of refugees, and stateless persons, corruption and lack of transparency in government etc were some of the major problems in the country.
On April 10, 2018, the US Congress passed a resolution (Resolution 128) without objections calling for respect for human rights, rule of law and democracy in Ethiopia. In summary, the resolution calls for “lifting of the state of emergency; ending the use of excessive force by security forces; investigating the killings and excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions; releasing dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights;…” The resolution also calls on the government “to repeal proclamations that can be used to harass or prohibit funding for organizations that investigate human rights violations, engage in peaceful political dissent, or advocate for greater political freedoms; prohibit those displaced from their land from seeking judicial redress; permit the detention of peaceful protesters and political opponents who legally exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association; and limit peaceful nonprofit operations in Ethiopia.” The resolution also urges: “(1) protesters in Ethiopia to refrain from violence and from encouragement or acceptance of violence in demonstrations, and (2) all armed factions to cease their conflict with the Ethiopian government and engage in peaceful negotiations.”
Human Rights groups have been highlighting the dire human rights conditions in Ethiopia. In its 2017/2018 report Amnesty International found out that Torture and other ill-treatment, Arbitrary arrests and detentions, Unfair trials, restriction on Freedom of expression, Extrajudicial executions, Impunity of the police and army.
Human Rights Watch also, said, the brutality of security forces, forced displacement, lack of freedom of expression and association, the prevalence of torture and arbitrary detention, are some of the major problems that Ethiopians face in the hand of their own government.
Ethiopia has just elected a new prime minister who is from Oromo, the hotbed of the protests in the past three years. The new prime minister promised change. On April 19, 2018, the prime minister nominated his new cabinet members who were confirmed by the parliament. Six ministers from the predecessor have kept their ministerial positions, even though some of them were moved to another department.