Programs: Science and Policy
AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program
AAAS Human Rights Action Network
|Date:||22 May 2001|
|Victims:||Mesfin Wolde Mariam; Berhanu Nega|
|Subject:||Government kills 41 students during student academic freedom protests|
|Issues:||Academic and scientific freedom; Freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; Freedom of opinion and expression|
|Type of alert:||New|
|Related alerts:||11 June 2001; 24 May 2002; 14 December 2005; 15 July 2006; 15 July 2006; 15 August 2006|
FACTS OF THE CASE:
Ethiopian security forces raided university campuses in a deadly attempt to quell student protests. On 11 April 2001, Ethiopian security forces attacked students who were holding a protest at Addis Ababa University. During the raid, more than fifty students were injured and one student later died at a hospital. The government cracked down on protesters again on 17-18 April 2001 and reportedly fired live ammunition at hundreds of student and teachers. Human Rights Watch reports, "Witnesses state that the riot police beat civilians with batons though they offered no resistance, and then turned on bystanders, including women and children. Students were dragged out of local churches and mosques, where they had sought refuge, and taken into detention."
During the raid, riot police beat to death or shot 41 individuals, mostly students. Fifty-five students were hospitalized with injuries. The police detained about 2,500 students during the raid. Although many were later released, students who were suspected of having leadership roles in the university student council are still being held incommunicado. The unrest has spread to at least ten other universities and several high schools in Ethiopia, including Alemaya University of Agriculture and Bahir-Dar Polytechnic Institute.
The students were protesting several university policies that limit academic freedom in Ethiopian universities. Students at Addis Ababa University had been engaged in negotiations with the government concerning the government's control over the campus. In February 2001, the government banned student unions and adopted a new charter for the University, ending student participation in the university Senate and several oversight committees. Of particular concern has been the increased presence of security forces on campus. Ethiopia is reported to be the only country in sub-Saharan Africa where a government has set up a police station on campus for the purposes of controlling dissenting students and professors. The recent charter made this police presence legal and permanent.
Although the negotiations between the students and government had made some progress, the government would not agreed to remove security forces from the universities. The students continued to press for the removal of the forces by waging large-scale boycotts and peaceful protests. The government issued an ultimatum that threatened to deploy police against students who did not return to classes. The standoff between the government and students set off the series of clashes that turned violent at Addis Ababa University.
The government has also used the recent unrest on campuses as a justification to round up political activists and journalists who have been critical of the government. Many of these individuals are being held incommunicado. On 8 May 2001, security forces arrested two prominent civil society activists, Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam and Dr. Berhanu Nega. Professor Wolde Mariam, 71, is a founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council. He was fired from his teaching position in 1991 in retaliation for his political activities. Dr. Nega, an economist, is the President of the Ethiopian Economic Association, a non-governmental organization in Addis Ababa. Authorities are claiming that Professor Wolde Mariam and Dr. Nega instigated the recent student protests. Both are engaged in a hunger strike.
(Sources of information for this case include: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Chronicle of Higher Education, and the United Ethiopian Civic Organizations)
RELEVANT HUMAN RIGHTS STANDARDS
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- Article 7: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- Article 9(1): Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.
- Article 10: All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
- Article 14(1): All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him [or her], or of his [or her] rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
- Article 19(1): Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
- Article 22: Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others.
- Article 21: The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Article 12: (1): The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. (2): The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for: (c) The prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases; (d) The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
- Article 05: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- Article 09: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
- Article 20(1): Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Please send telegrams, faxes, airmail letters or emails:
- Urging the government to release all students, government critics and human rights monitors still in detention, including the immediate and unconditional release of Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam and Dr. Berhanu Nega, who appear to have been arrested in connection of the human rights activism;
- Requesting that the Ethiopian government promptly investigate the conduct of security forces in causing the deaths during raids at Addis Ababa University;
- Requesting that the government adhere to the international human rights standards of free expression and honor the principles of academic freedom.
APPEAL AND INQUIRY MESSAGES SHOULD BE SENT TO:
His Excellency Meles Zenawi
Prime Minister's Office
PO Box 1031
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: 011 2511 552020
Mr. Werede-Wold Wolde
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 1370
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: 011 2511 550278
COPIES SENT TO:
Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos
Embassy of Ethiopia
2134 Kalorama Rd. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 328 7950
Please send copies of your appeals, and any responses you may receive, or direct any questions you may have to Victoria Baxter, AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, 1200 New York Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20005; tel. 202-326-6796; email email@example.com; or fax 202-289-4950.
The keys to effective appeals re to be courteous and respectful, accurate and precise, impartial in approach, and as specific as possible regarding the alleged violation and the international human rights standards and instruments that apply to the situation. Reference to your scientific organization and professional affiliation is always helpful.
To ensure that appeals are current and credible, please do not continue to write appeals on this case after 90 days from the date of the posting unless an update has been issued.