Meles Zenawi’s systematic murder, extermination, torture, forcible re-settlement, confinement, forced labour, destruction of homes and widespread systematic attack of the public is a crime against humanity. Among the many factors that have been conducive to human rights abuses since 1991 are the lack of independent judicial system. Sixteen years have passed since Meles Zenawi’s crimes against humanity began and yet he has not been held accountable. Party affiliated judges have unbridled power, local TPLF officials use their position to achieve personal gain, conduct vendettas and law enforcement TPLF authorities abuse their power by, for instance, inflicting torture on any individual they dislike.
Absence of justice and independent authority is conductive to widespread mass arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and executions while at the same time denying victims of human rights violations recourse to impartial tribunals whereby they could challenge their detention and present a defence in the course of a fair and pubic trial. All too often, without any trials or following summary trials, death sentences are imposed and swiftly carried out, particularly on peaceful Oromo speaking Ethiopians. The frequently arbitrary nature of the Meles’ administration, so-called federal government permits, among other things, the summary execution of prisoners previously sentenced to imprisonment without the chance of having further judicial hearings, and results in vastly disparate sentences being handed down in different parts of the country.
While I was under detention both at Ma’ekalwi and Kaliti, I used to hear several horror stories of deaths as a result of torture where the body was never returned to the family for burial. There were many cases in which prisoners were released with severe physical injuries after having been severely tortured and died some days later as a consequence. Frequently, torture victims have been denied adequate medical treatment. As in the case of Dr Berhanu Nega, Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam and Eng. Hailu Shawel, access to specialized medical treatment including hospital treatment has been denied or delayed for long periods.
How would you react if you see a middle-aged man, a father of some beautiful children, a beloved husband and once a respected person in your neighbourhood bound his wrists, pushed violently from one guard to another, being punched, kicked, and beaten indiscriminately all over his body? This is one of the many scenarios of what happened to Kinijit leaders.
Several prisoners, including some of those already released, have untreated wounds – endured torture – becoming septic and malodorous through lack of medical attention and poor hygiene. In Kaliti, the psychological suffering is the worst -humiliation and self-disgust. Sometimes, the anxiety and fear rise when hearing the screams of other prisoners being tortured and being kept ignorant of their fate. Some Kinijit prisoners have experienced feelings of insecurity and vulnerability aggravated by dark solitary confinement and blindfolding for long periods. Kaliti’s extremely poor hygiene and insufficient sanitary facilities, compounded by severe overcrowding, have encouraged the spread of skin disease, scabies and lice. These are the conditions under which our leaders have been living in since they were arrested in October-November 2005.
Compatriots!Regardless of these horrible conditions, our leaders in Kaliti prison never asked for mercy. They were approached by Meles Zenawi who is terribly worried about his already poor reputation, lack of donors’ money and increasing the isolation from the international community. As a result, he has abandoned his harsh and stubborn conditions of previous negotiations and he is in desperate need for face saving. Our leaders know the limits of dictatorship but Meles doesn’t know the limits of their endurance. Now he has given up. He has made a call for final negotiation which the prisoners have repeatedly rejected and re-negotiated.
Whatever outcomes of any negotiation, it is not done out fear of death penalty or long imprisonment. Our leaders know what is best for the democratization, peace and stability of Ethiopia, and most of all, they know what has to be done to maintain the unity of Kinijit. I know all Kinijit leaders personally because I have been privileged to work with them. I know their determination, endurance and loyalty to the Ethiopian people. It is the right time to show respect and loyalty to them. Strongly committed we should accept whatever decision they make on half of the millions that have voted for them.
Young Ethiopians have played a prominent role and some even have given their lives in the movements for peace and justice under Kinijit party. We need to support students and young workers - the two major forces in the broad alliance that is needed to deal a decisive blow to the backward ethnic politics of the current TPLF political leaders. Ethiopians at home and abroad will be standing behind their leaders united and they will keep their loyalty until the fight against TPLF dictatorship is won.