Sunday, December 15, 2013

#HRDay2013: Ethiopian government must reveal who, why, where and how citizens in jail are imprisoned

I always come across through Siye's statement in that he mentioned ‘the prison [in Ethiopia] speaks Oromiffa' - to mean most of the prisoners are Oromos. When my friends and I visited journalist Wubshet Taye before he was moved to Zeway, he told us the same thing. Many Oromos are imprisoned. That's not the question! The question is why are they imprisoned?

Is it because they committed crimes? Is it because they believed Oromia should secede? If so, it's their constitutional right. Is it because they were working with OLF? In fact, had people were allowed to work legally against a system that they don't legitimize then they wouldn't have any reason to do it underground with an ‘illegal group'. And we the people, at least, deserve to know the detail.

Ethiopia has signed the African charter for human and people's rights. The concept of ‘people's rights' is unique to Africa and concerns about the rights of groups including ethnics. It's, therefore, the duty of the government to unconditionally respect these rights and our right to know if they are protected or not.

This is not the only problem. In the last September, on the public demonstration called by UDJ party, a girl appeared with a slogan that reads ‘My father is not a terrorist'. We talked to the girl and no one knows her father and even the case he was jailed. Given the history of government's brutality on its critiques, we can't help analyzing this “terrorist" as one victim of the conspiracies made against innocents.

Ethiopian prisons are like ‘bermuda'. There is no independent institution that knows what's going on in there. It is the government itself that's capable of doing this.

I know this sounds ridiculous to most of you but as people who believe in peaceful struggle, we don't have an option other than trying hard to push the government reveal the prison information. In the end, I hope we will have a little picture of what is happening in Ethiopian prisons.

Therefore, this is my call for Ethiopian social media activists to hold this question up through the months between the past and the coming international human rights days.

Ethiopian prisons must release periodic reports to the public on who (specially groups the prisoners are from), why they are jailed, where and how they are held.

We have the right to know if our prisons are places where citizens are corrected for the mistakes they have made in life; not a place where citizens have to pay for standing differed with ruling party.

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