Programs: Science and Policy
AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program
AAAS Human Rights Action Network
|Date:||18 February 1998|
|Subject:||Imprisoned surgeon in serious condition|
|Issues:||Freedom of association and assembly; Freedom of opinion and expression; Right to health; Right to liberty and security of the person|
|Type of alert:||Update|
|Related alerts:||11 January 1996; 30 April 1998; 14 January 1999; 9 June 1999|
FACTS OF THE CASE:
There is grave concern for the health and well-being of prisoner of conscience Dr. Asrat Woldeyes. A former professor and dean of the medical faculty at Addis Ababa University, Dr. Asrat is a pioneer of medical education in Ethiopia and an internationally renowned surgeon. He has been imprisoned since July 1994 and is serving a five-and-a half year prison sentence.
Dr. Asrat's health has significantly worsened during his detention. He is currently being held at Tiku Ambesa Hospital, where the facilities are reportedly inadequate. Dr. Asrat suffers from high blood pressure and his diabetes is compounded by delays in providing him with adequate medical attention. Dr. Asrat reportedly has suffered loss of vision due to his condition.
In July 1994, Dr. Asrat was accused of inciting violence for political ends, despite his well-documented commitment to non-violent activity. Dr. Asrat was arrested for the first time in July 1993 for his affiliation with the Al-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO), a non-violent political opposition party. He was released on bail after six weeks, but was arrested a second time in July 1994 for allegedly inciting armed uprising against the government. The charges against Dr. Asrat appear to be politically motivated. Dr. Asrat was offered his freedom in exchange for ending his criticism of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government; he refused.
In 1997, the AAAS passed a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of scientists who are prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia, including Dr. Asrat. This year the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program honored Dr. Asrat at its annual science and human rights reception, held in conjunction with the AAAS Annual Meeting, which was attended by more than 5,000 scientists from around the world.
The continued detention of Dr. Asrat and the denial of access to adequate medical attention constitute serious violations of international human rights standards, including those enumerated in the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of which Ethiopia is legally bound to uphold as a State Party. They include:
Under the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified by Ethiopia on 11 June 1993):
- Everyone has the right to freedom of expression (Article 19.2);
- Everyone has the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly (Articles 21 and 22); and
- Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person, and to freely take part in public affairs and political life (Articles 9 and 25).
Under the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratified by Ethiopia on 11 June 1993):
- Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Article 12.1); and
- Everyone has the right to conditions which assure to all medical attention and service in the event of sickness (Article 12.2.D).
(Sources of information on this case include the Ethiopian News Forum, friends and family members of Dr. Asrat, and Amnesty International)
Please send telexes, telegrams, faxes, or airmail letters:
- Urging the government of Ethiopia to respect its obligations under the international human rights covenants to which it is a State Party;
- expressing concern regarding Dr. Asrat's physical and medical condition; and
- requesting that the government of Ethiopia release Dr. Asrat immediately and unconditionally so that he may obtain appropriate medical care.
APPEAL AND INQUIRY MESSAGES SHOULD BE SENT TO:
Dr. Negaso Gidada
President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Et
Office of the President
P.O. Box 1031
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Salutation: Your Excellency
COPIES SENT TO:
Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic
Prime Minister's Office
P.O. Box 1031
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos
Embassy of Ethiopia
2134 Kalorama Road, NW
Washington, DC 20008