-Hailu Shawel (m), member of parliament and President of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD)
-Professor Mesfin Woldemariam (m), aged 75, former Chair of Ethiopian Human Rights Council
-Birtukan Mideksa (f) CUD Vice-President, lawyer and former judge
-Dr Berhanu Negga (m), CUD member of parliament, Mayor of Addis Ababa and economist
-Getachew Mengiste (m), senior member of CUD and member of parliament
-Gizachew Shifferaw (m), member of CUD Executive Committee
-Dr Hailu Araya (m) CUD member and former editor of Press Digest and member of parliament
-Dr Yakob Hailemariam (m) CUD member of parliament and former UN special envoy
-Debebe Eshetu (m), CUD public relations officer
-Muluneh Eyual (m) CUD Secretary General
-Daniel Bekele (m) Policy Director of ActionAid (non-governmental organization)
– Hundreds of other members of the CUD
Leading members of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), including those named above, are samong hundreds of people detained after demonstrations against the contested result of the parliamentary elections. The detainees are at risk of torture or ill-treatment. Amnesty International believes those named above and many others are prisoners of conscience, arrested solely for the non-violent expression of their political beliefs.
The arrests follow demonstrations in the capital, Addis Ababa, on 1st & 2nd November, 2005 in protest at the contested results of the parliamentary election which took place on 15th May, 2005. Large numbers of members and suspected members of the CUD, as well as journalists and human rights defenders, are reportedly being systematically taken from their homes by police. Among those detained is CUD President Hailu Shawel, who was reportedly beaten by the police who arrested him.
Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, the 75-year-old former chair of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), was detained on 1st November, 2005. He is a renowned author and human rights defender, who had recently resigned from his EHRCO position to support the CUD’s election campaign. For the past three months, he has been confined to bed due to a spinal condition, for which he requires regular medical attention and physiotherapy. Amnesty International is concerned for his health, as detainees are often treated harshly, particularly in the first few days of detention, made to sleep on a cold cement floor, not allowed to receive food or change of clothing from relatives, and denied medical treatment. It is not clear if Professor Mesfin Woldemariam has been allowed to take pain medication with him. Following his arrest, police reportedly searched his home and took away a number of documents.
The authorities have not confirmed where any of those detained are being held. Some reports indicate that many of them may be held at the headquarters of the Central Investigation Bureau (Maikelawi) in Addis Ababa. None of the detainees are reported to have appeared in court within the 48 hour limit prescribed by the law.
Riot police have reportedly used live ammunition against participants in the demonstrations, which took place in a number of districts of Addis Ababa. Over 30 people have been killed and 150 others are seriously wounded. The demonstrations reportedly began peacefully but violence erupted after police began shooting at protesters. Two police officers are reported to be among the dead.
The arrests followed a series of non-violent protest actions on the 31st October, 2005 called by the CUD who are boycotting the new parliament on account of alleged election fraud by the ruling party, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Some 30 taxi drivers were arrested for honking their horns in the previous day’s protest action. Their place of detention is unknown. The authorities have repeatedly claimed that the CUD is planning ‘a violent conspiracy’, and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had recently accused Hailu Shawel of treason. The CUD has affirmed its commitment to non-violent opposition and protest.
On 8 June 2005 soldiers shot dead some 42 people in Addis Ababa who were protesting at alleged fraud in the parliamentary elections held on 15 May. Thousands of opposition party supporters were also detained in harsh conditions and some were badly beaten. After some weeks all were released on bail after short court appearances. (see UA 261/05, AFR 25/013/2005, 30 September 2005, and follow-up).
Letter by Charles B. Davison sent on November 15, 2005