Open Letter to Commissioner Louis Michel

Concerning the ongoing repression in Ethiopia

Mr. Louis Michel
European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid
1049 Brussels – Belgium

Dear Commissioner,
We are writing this letter to express our puzzlement and indignation in view of the policy of
the European Union concerning the flagrant human rights violation in Ethiopia.
Those of us who happen to have the privilege to live in Belgium have admired your courage
and political engagement while you were the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Your position on the
Iraq war, your stand on human rights and forthrightness had led us to believe that you are a
principled politician. As such, we had welcomed your appointment to the post of the
European Commissioner in charge of development cooperation with a lot of enthusiasm and
hope. We saw the opening of a new era where respect for human rights, democratic principles
and the rule of law will be central to EU's policy on cooperation and development.
However, our enthusiasm has unfortunately given way to disillusionment. As you know, the
Ethiopian government, having refused to accept the verdict of the May 2005 elections, has
proceeded with massive detention of elected opposition deputies, leaders of the opposition,
human rights defenders, journalists, educators, members of local and international NGOs, and
thousands of ordinary citizens. After the finding of the government-backed inquiry
commission was recently made public, the Ethiopian government has admitted that its
security forces have killed close to two hundred unarmed civilians in connection with the
peaceful protests in the months of June and November 2005 but has denied any wrongdoing.
Harassment, arbitrary detention, humiliation and intimidation have become the day to day fate
of thousands of Ethiopians. In January 2006, the government of Ethiopia had announced the
liberation of more than 11,000 political prisoners. No body knows to date the total number of
people who have originally been detained and the exact number of those who are still
languishing in prison.
We would also like to remind your Excellency that it has been a year, on 1 November 2005,
since prominent personalities like Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam, a veteran human rights
defender aged 76, Dr. Berhanu Nega, Mayor-elect of Addis Abeba, Dr. Yakob Haile
Mariam, a former Special Envoy of the United Nations and prosecutor at the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Judge Bertukan Medeksa, a former federal court judge who
was known for her independence, Mrs. Serkalem Nega, a journalist who was forced to return
to prison only days after giving birth, Mr. Netsanet Demisse, director of the Organisation for
Social Justice in Ethiopia, Mr. Daniel Bekele, policy director for Action Aid Ethiopia, Mr.
Kassahun Kebede, executive committee member of the Ethiopian Teachers Association were
detained. Their only crime is their faith in democracy and fundamental human rights.
The policy of the EU in view of the repression in Ethiopia has been to appease the
perpetrators in contradiction with European values. The 155 millions Euros given to the
Ethiopian government on 3 October 2006 is a case in point. We can not but express our total
disbelief at such a 'development' policy, which disregards the basic human rights of the
Ethiopian people. Who is the beneficiary? Can we conceive of development with out respect
for human rights and the democratic participation of the people concerned?
We are convinced that there can be no development worth its name in the absence of respect
for human rights. Therefore, we demand the leaders of the European Union not to follow
double standards when it comes to human rights.
We, members of the Ethiopian Community in Belgium and friends of Ethiopia, will hold a
vigil in front of your office on 6 November 2006 to commemorate the first anniversary of the
detention of individuals mentioned above and the thousands who still languish in jail as well
as the hundreds of Ethiopians who have been killed, maimed and have disappeared.
We will reiterate our hitherto unheeded demand for justice and the release of all prisoners of
conscience in Ethiopia.

Respectfully yours,

Solomon Y. Mekuria
Secretary, The Ethiopian Community in Belgium (ECB)

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at3:28 PM


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