Saturday, January 21, 2006
A note to CUD leadership and the neo-chauvinists from a concerned Oromo. Part II
My problem is, however, why did it take these lawyers so long to realize that there is something called "professional ethics" although we have had one of the oldest Penal Code in Africa and the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention of political prisoners is not new to our history? If we leave the Haile Selassie and the Derg era out of this discussion and focus only on events which took place in Ethiopia since 1991, there were tens of thousands of Ethiopians who were detained, tortured, imprisoned, disappeared and even sentenced to death for committing political crimes which is not forbidden in international law. Although EHRCO has made numerous comments about these abuses, none of these Ethiopian practicing lawyers ever invoked "professional ethics" and came forward to defend the victims of political repression as projected and implemented by EPRDF. To the contrary it was foreign human rights NGOs who were making noises and coordinating the dispatch of protest letters to the government of Ethiopia and still not a single Ethiopian lawyer was forthcoming to participate in that campaign. What exactly triggered the invocation of this principle at this particular time when the brutality of EPRDF has been known all the way from 1992 onwards? How come these lawyers did not invoke the principle when tens of thousands of peaceful and innocent Oromos were imprisoned or killed by EPRDF security and law enforcement officials and now they invoke it when few CUD leaders are detained? What is the key word here? Is it the number of detainees, social/ethnic background of the detainees or causes of detention? I still fail to understand. Numbers wise, the number of those Oromos who were killed or imprisoned are hundreds of times more than those detained CUD members. I don't see any difference in their social background either. The Oromo victims were also as peaceful as the CUD ones although in both cases the government told the world that they were violent or advocated violence. Then what is that key element which triggered the invocation of the principle now in 2005? I suspect it is the ethnicity of the detained CUD leaders that matters a lot! I stand to be corrected if I am wrong. Let me try to refresh the memory of these lawyers who are now invoking the "professional ethics" to defend CUD leaders by providing them with some of the very recent incidents of human rights abuses which took place in Ethiopia. It seems "they were not aware of" (or they did not care) that it took place. The examples I am referring to are limited to those abuses committed against the Oromos and people of the South both as individuals and/or as groups. a)In 1992, and following an agreement reached at the then Transitional parliament, OLF took the initiative to encamp its fighting forces in the hope that the agreed upon terms of consolidation of the future Ethiopian army would be implemented properly. TPLF did not follow a suite and as a result only the OLF fighters were disarmed and sent to Didessa valley where most of them perished. These OLF fighters numbering between 15 and 20 thousand, were detained in Didessa make shift prison and doomed to death as a result of torture or malaria. Not a single voice of concern was heard from any of the current lawyers who are now invoking "professional ethics". These Oromos did not die in the process of disintegrating Ethiopia but rather they came in 1991 from the bush all the way to Finfinne to cement the foundation of the new democratic Ethiopia by participating in the Transitional Government. They did not die with weapons in their hands either. They were peaceful, un-armed young boys and girls who only wanted peace, freedom and equality among the people of Ethiopia. Then, why didn't these lawyers invoke the principle and come to their defense? b)As residents of Finfinne we all witnessed the very recent peaceful demonstration organized by Macha - Tulama where thousands of Oromos from the capital and periphery participated protesting against the transfer of the seat of Oromiya from Finfinne to Adama. Although the demonstration was sanctioned by the government and was totally peaceful, EPRDF security forces opened fire and killed several and arrested thousands. Quite a number of elderly Oromos were wounded, mistreated and thrown in to jail. Macha - Tulama was banned and its assets were confiscated and given to the state without due process of law. Yet none of these practicing lawyers invoked "professional ethics" to defend these innocent Oromos who were thrown to jail (some are still in detention without charge or trial as we speak) or those sentenced to long term imprisonment. Why? c)Another recent incident was that of the detention, torture and later expulsion of more than 300 Oromo students from the nations' University simply because they raised their voices of concern against specific policies of EPRDF. These peaceful students were detained at Kolfe and Kotobe make shift detention centers during which they were severely tortured. Some 28 of these students are still kept behind bars at Aqaqi prison, the very place where most of CUD supporters are kept, on behalf of whom the lawyers are now invoking "professional ethics". I never heard of any of these practicing lawyers coming in the defense of these innocent students invoking the "professional ethics". Why? Was it because of ignorance or arrogance? Why didn't it ever cross their minds that these innocent Oromo students also deserve the defense of practicing lawyers, on the same footing with the CUD members they are now proudly telling us representing? d)What about the very recent incident of the mass killing in Gambella region where EPRDF security forces killed hundreds of innocent civilians which created an uproar at the international level? The incident took an international magnitude but none of the practicing Ethiopian lawyers ever came forward to defend these people invoking the principle of "professional ethics" even though EHRCO did write a lot about it. Why? Don't these Gambella victims fall within the definition of "the people" that the lawyers are now "defending" at national courts? They were also peaceful citizens who only demanded their rights. e)And the mass killing of innocent Sidama civilians who were murdered cold-blooded by EPRDF security forces simply because they were protesting against the change of the status of the city of Awassa? Why didn't these lawyers invoke professional ethics and come to defend the rights of those who were detained and tortured?