Mistreatment of imprisoned journalists and advocates in Ethiopia

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mr. Michael Tobias Babisso, Consul General

Consulate General of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

5080-3080 Yonge St

Toronto ON M4N 3N1

Dear Mr. Tobias,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is troubled by the illegal detention of journalists and other dissenting voices in Ethiopian state prisons, particularly in light of reports that these individuals have been denied basic needs and subjected to physical abuse.

According to a report released by Human Rights Watch, the Maekelawi Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector has been the site of several miscarriages of justice. Individuals exercising their right to free expression are often denied legal council, visits from their family, and are physically harmed. Respite from such ill-treatment is used as a bargaining tool by officials at Maekelawi to extract false confessions that are later used against the defendants in formal legal proceedings.

These forced confessions not only lack legal validity, but also serve as a form of intimidation against others exercising their right to free expression. As a democracy, Ethiopia should embrace open conversation and debate surrounding its elections and government in order to fairly represent all of its citizens. These violations of the rights of detainees not only breach international laws, but Ethiopia's own constitution, requiring officials to protect anyone detained from such brutal conditions.

CJFE urges the Ethiopian government to take immediate steps to cease unlawful detention, prevent the extraction of forced confessions, and improve legal safeguards for journalists and political prisoners in the country.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: His Excellency David Usher, Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Republic of Djibouti, and Permanent Observer of Canada to the African Union.
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs.