Thursday, October 19, 2006

AP: Judge says Ethiopia forces killed 193S

AP: Judge says Ethiopia forces killed 193
Staff and agencies
18 October, 2006
By ANTHONY MITCHELL, Associated Press Writer
NAIROBI, Kenya - Ethiopian security forces massacred 193 people _triple the official death toll — during anti-government protests following elections last year, a senior judge appointed to investigate the violence said Wednesday.

Ethiopian officials refused to comment on the claims."There is no doubt that excessive force was used," said Wolde-Michael, who left the country last month after receiving anonymous death threats, leaving his wife and five daughters behind. He is now claiming asylum in Europe and would not disclose his exact whereabouts out of fear for his safety.

A draft of the inquiry team‘s report, which was to have been presented to the Ethiopian parliament in early July and has since been obtained by the AP, says among those killed were 40 teenagers, including a boy and a girl, both 14. The two were fatally shot.The government claimed at the time that 35 civilians and seven police were killed in November and that in June, 26 people were killed.

Ana Gomes, who was the European Union ‘s chief observer during the May 2005 elections, told the AP the report "exposes the lie" that the Ethiopian government is moving toward democracy.

Wolde-Michael and the other commissioners spent six months interviewing more than 600 people, including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, police officers, witnesses, and other government officials.The inquiry‘s mandate was to determine whether excessive force was used.

In early July, shortly before completing its report, the team held a vote and ruled eight to two that excessive force was used."Many people were killed arbitrarily," said inquiry chairman and supreme court judge Frehiwot Samuel, who is also believed to have fled Ethiopia, was heard saying on the video. "Old men were killed while in their homes and children were also victims of the attack while playing in the garden.

"But two of the commission members said the government responded appropriately."I consider the motives of the protesters was to overthrow the government," Elias Redman, vice president of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Council, said on the video. "I therefore fully support the action taken by the police.

"The prime minister said at the time that demonstrators were trying to overthrow his government in an Ukraine-style revolution. Prior to the unrest he had banned all demonstrations and announced on state television he had put security forces under his direct control.Wolde-Michael, who was appointed a judge by the current government in 1994, said the inquiry team came under intense pressure once the ruling party learned of its findings.Electricity to their offices was cut and at one point their office was surrounded by security forces, he said. The team was also summoned by the prime minister, two days before the report was to be released, and told to reverse its findings, Wolde-Michael added.Wolde-Michael said police records he saw showed 20,000 people were rounded up during the anti-government protests.Of them more than 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers are on trial for treason and attempted genocide.Meles was once thought to be one of Africa‘s more progressive leaders. However his reputation suffered in the aftermath of the elections. The EU and U.S. Carter Center expressed serious concerns over the vote.In January of this year, Britain withheld $87 million in aid because of concerns about the government‘s handling of the unrest.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and more than half of its 77 million people live on less than $1 a day.

Source: Jackson News Tribune


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