EU demands unconditional release of all political prisoners

EU Press Release
At the close of this week's plenary session in Strasbourg, Parliament as usual adopted three human rights resolutions: on the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia since the 2005 elections, the situation in Bangladesh ahead of the elections scheduled for early 2007 and the deterioration in human rights in Iran over the past year.

Ethiopian government slammed for actions since 2005 elections
In its resolution on Ethiopia, Parliament looks at the crisis following the 2005 elections and the serious human rights violations that have taken place in the country since then, including the reports of continuing arrests, harassment, arbitrary detention and intimidation of opposition politicians, civil society activists, students and others. In the circumstances, MEPs deplore the invitation to the Ethiopian prime minister to address the European Development Days being held this month in Brussels.

Unconditional release demanded for all political prisoners
According to the resolution, "111 opposition party leaders, journalists and human rights defenders are still in custody and are facing trial on charges including 'outrage against the Constitution', 'inciting, organising or leading armed rebellion' and 'attempted genocide'". A number of "post-election political detainees" are listed by name.
Against this background, MEPs call on the Ethiopian Government "to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners, whether journalists, trade union activists, human rights defenders or ordinary citizens, and to fulfil its obligations with respect to human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law". They also call on the Government to disclose the total number of persons detained throughout the country, to allow visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross and to allow all detainees access to their families, legal counsel and any medical care that their health situation may require.
MEPs also deplore the expulsion of two EU officials, Bjorn Jonsson and Enrico Sborgi, from Ethiopia "on the alleged grounds that they tried to help Ms Yalemzewd Bekele, a lawyer and women's rights campaigner, working for the European Commission in Addis Ababa, to get out of the country".

Call for publication of report on killing of 193 people
The resolution refers to the Ethiopian government-backed Commission of Inquiry set up in November 2005 to investigate the killing of 193 citizens following demonstrations in June and November 2005. However, it points out that members of the Commission of Inquiry have been pressured by the Ethiopian Government to alter the findings and three of them have left the country after refusing government orders to do so.
The European Parliament therefore "calls on the Ethiopian Government to publish unamended and in its entirety, and without any further delay, the final report of the Commission of Inquiry; calls for the relevant courts to be supplied with the report, and urges them to take due account of it so that fair trials can be conducted".

EU invitation to Ethiopian prime minister criticised
In a strong message from MEPs to a fellow EU institution, the resolution "deeply regrets the EU Commission's invitation to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to address the European Development Days" (being held from 13 to 17 November 2006 in Brussels), "especially on governance issues, a decision which sends out the wrong signal with regard to EU policy on respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance".

Lastly the resolution points out that Ethiopia is a signatory to the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement, "which stipulates that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an essential element of ACP-EU cooperation". It therefore "asks the Commission and Council to closely monitor the situation in Ethiopia, and considers that development cooperation programmes under the Cotonou Agreement should be contingent on respect for human rights and good governance".

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at7:57 PM


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