News / Africa

US Rights Report Lists Ethiopian Opposition Leader as Political Prisoner

The U.S. State Department's annual human rights reports says Ethiopia is holding several hundred political prisoners, including the leader of one of the country's largest opposition parties. Ethiopia has reacted strongly to past U.S. criticisms of its rights record.

The 2009 human rights report says Birtukan Mideksa, president of Ethiopia's opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice party, was held in solitary confinement for the first six months of the year despite a court ruling that it violated her constitutional rights. The 61-page document says there were credible reports that Birtukan's mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.

Birtukan was among scores of political activists sentenced to life in prison following Ethiopia's disputed 2005 election, then later pardoned. She was jailed again in December, 2008 and ordered to serve out her life sentence after refusing to apologize for saying she had not requested the pardon.

The 35-year-old single mother was recently listed by the U.N. Human Rights Council as a victim of arbitrary detention, and by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. But at news conference late last year, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi staunchly defended her re-imprisonment, saying it was based on 'elementary notions of the rule of law'.

"She had her day in court, was sentenced by this independent court," he said. "This lady was advised by anybody, everybody who could talk to her, including diplomats, elders and even some members of her party that it would be wrong for her to go to prison simply because she wouldn't correct the wrong statement that she made and expose herself to reinstatement of the court's decision. She refused to do so because she was convinced some human rights organizations abroad, her supporters and sympathizers both abroad and here, would spring her out of prison. We knew that was a very dangerous miscalculation."

The 2009 State Department report alleges numerous violations of press and academic freedom in Ethiopia, as well as what are called restrictions of the people's right to change their government peacefully.

With Ethiopia's next national elections less than three months away, the report noted that the ruling party and its allies had won all but three of the seats contested in the 2008 nationwide local elections. The report also questioned the government claim of a 93-percent voter turnout in the 2008 vote, saying no foreign observers had been allowed.

An Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman said no response has yet been prepared to this year's State Department report. But in answer to the 2008 report, the government published a 68-page booklet calling the allegations 'baseless work of rumormongers and political opportunists'. It said much of the information came from non-governmental organizations and opposition groups which survive on U.S. government funding.

Ethiopia's parliament has since approved a law forbidding any NGO that receives more than 10 percent of its funds from foreign sources from  promoting human and democratic rights.

The acting U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, John Yates, Thursday defended the contents of the 2009 report. He said the authors make every effort to verify all information in the document.

"We gather information from lots of different sources, then we here in Addis and our people in the United States try hard to examine and verify reports before putting them into the human rights report," said John Yates. "We consult a lot of people, but we don't accept anything at face value until we do our best to verify, and if we can't verify to some degree, it's not included."

The annual State Department human rights report is mandated by Congress. This year's two-million word document covers conditions in 194 countries.

Introducing the 2009 report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it the most comprehensive record available on the status of human rights worldwide.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs