The Case of Disapearance

ThegovernmentoftheEthioipianPeoples'RevolutionaryDemocraticFront (EPRDF) is consistently and flagrantly violating the basic human and democratic rights of the Ethiopian people.  

    SOCEPP is just one of the many human rights bodies which have over the years registered and condemend these violations. For quite sometime, there was the tendency to compare the records of the present government with that of the fallen one (of the Derg) and to declare "things have improved" on the rather flimsy and debatable presumption that it is "better" if the massacres are few, the killings reduced and the violations kept out of public sight. That such a comparison does injustice to the victims of the crimes of the present regime is now more or less accepted by many quarters and the governrnent of Meles Zenawi is being judged on its own merits.And the verdict is harsh. Demagogy and orchestrated motions notwithstanding, the EPRDF government has a dismal record on human rights.the case of the disappeared is one aspect of the continuing problern, the relentless subjugation of the vast majority of the people, the denial of rights, the, use of force as the legitimizing base of power, the arbitrary and ruthless repression, the prevailing climate of fear, of anxiety, the absence of real peace.

      In Ethiopia, the exact number of people who have been detained by the government and who have subsequently disappeared is not known. Some put the figure in the hundreds while others claim it is less than two hundred. Amnesty International has reported that it has received reports of dozens of disappearance cases. However, we can safely say that many political dissidents have indeed disappeared and a pattern can be discerned from the EPRDF practice/position on the matter.

     The disappeared were in many instances abducted or kidnapped by EPRDF security forces. In most case, these security men are dressed in civilian clothes and use both official and unofficial cars for their mission. The government denies any knowledge of their actions and attibutes it to action by "dentified armed men". Many Ethlopians Attribute murders and assassination attempts to these government agents even when the government publicly accuses "other forces" of being behind such actions.

     The disappeared are held incommunicado in the many "ghost houses" and secret prisons in the cities and towns. Some are kept in the secluded underground prisons of Tigrai where the EPRDF rules supreme and far from prying eyes.

     The disappeared are, in most instances, feared dead.- Ihe fear emanates from the EPRDF's denial of any knowledge of the whereabouts of the political prisoners. For example, in the cases of Abebe Aynekulu, Tsegaye Gebre Medhin, Yishak Debretsion, Sitotaw Hussein, Belete Amha,Yosef Ayele, Teklai G.Sellasie, Berhe, Tulu (this one forcefally repatriated from the Sudan), etc.. the EPRDF has denied ever holding them captive though several witnesses testify to the contrary. Relatives of the disappeared fear that their kin are dead either from torture or from an arbitrary decision by the authorities.

        None of the disappeared were ever brought before a court of law.

     Despite denials, it is now common knowiedge that the EPRDF operates very many "ghost houses" (private residences turned into prisons and torture centers) in Aadis Abeba and other towns and has, in the provinces,turned government establishments/houses into secret prisons. Many of the inmates of these prisons and ghost houses become the disappeared .

       A closer look at the EPRDF practice shows a conscious and systematic pattern of hounding, harassing and repressing serious political dissent. Such actions are undertaken by "goons" or secret squads controlled by the top men of the ruling Tigrai people`s librationt front (the TPLF is on of the dominating the EPRDF). These are extra legal , death squad type forces who operate in secrecy and with impunity. They terrorize, they abduct, they excute. 

     The EPRDF depends on these secret 06,07,etc...).In the following pages we present a partial list of the disappeared we focus on those whose cases seem to be "forgotten" both by the EPRDF and others. It is necessary to state that this is indeed a very incomplete list . noth should be made of the fast that many relatives of the disappeared do NOT want any attention to be focused on their kin because such a focus, in their experience, has led to the execution of the captive. So, some relatives may, out of justified fear, want their captive kin to be "forgotten" in prison by the "government" lest it "remembers" and decides to liquidate the prisoner. The fear is not baseless; demanding due process and habeas corpus do lead to more repression in Ethiopia.

The disappeared

1. In the first category, we cite the follawing who have been detained incornrnunicado since 1991.

Tsegaye Gebre Medhin, Sitotaw Hussein, Yishak Debre Tsion, Belete Amha, Teklai Gebre Sellasie, Berhe, Tulu, Aberra, Kahsay Gebrai,etc...

These are all EPRP members captured by the TPLF in 1991 and taken to Bahr Dar prison and later on to Tigrai. The TPLF/EPRDF has refused to give reilabie info mation on their whereabouts. lt clairns at times that they were never irnprisoned and at other times lets it be known that they have been executed by orders of none other than Meles Zenawi (the present pri me minister) hinself.Hagas Atsbeha. this forrner rnember of the TPLF was duped into going from the Sudan back to Tigrai (prior to the fall of Mengistu's regirne) and then arrested due to the fact that one of the TPLFleaders who abandaned/fled from the organization is his relative by marriage. Hagoas has disappeared since.


       2. In 1992, Yosef Ayele Bati, Lamessa Boru,Dereje kana'a,Kassabun Habte, Anano Mite, Bekisa Sina,Sheikh Aliy Ahmed Waday were detained by the EPRDF and have subsequently disappeared.in 1993, the following were detained in Addis Abeba and they have now becorme part of the long list of the disappeared:be made of the fast that many relatives of the disappeared do NOT want any attention to be focused on their kin beeause such a focus, in their experience, has led to the ex- ecution of the eaptive. So, some relatives may, out of justified fear, want their captive ln to be "forgott .ew' in prison by the "government" lest it "remembers" and decides to liquidate the prisoner. The fear is not baseless; demanding due process and habeas corpus do lead to more repression in Ethiopia.

Mr.Aberash Berta, Lemma Haile, Kebede Tadesse, Wondusirak Desta (all are alleged to be EPRP members.)

Others who have been arrested on the accusation that they belonged to the EPRP and who have subsequently disappeared include Eyob Tekabe and Demisse Tesfaye (arrested in Arba Minch 1995) and Abebe Aynekulu who was arrested by the EPRDF, then accused in the mass media of a crime that was allegedly committed five months after his arrest. Abebes whereabout is still unkown.


3. Others who have disappeared are Abdullahi Abdi (ONLF) , Ibado Abdullahi, Getachew Eshetu,Berhanu Ejigu (a journalist), colonel Befekadu Disasa, Sheikh Jemal Hussein, Asladin Sheik Jemal (OLF), Mustafa Idris, Efrem Fantaye , Daneil Agonafir, Menilik Tesemma, Yehualeshet Makonen,Abebe Gelaw, Adane Argaw, Ashenafi Mengistu ,Getnet Asnake.

       The EPRDF government headed by Meles Zenawi must be called upon to give an adequate explanation on the increasing instances of disappearance. The arrests and disappearances are not random: they are aimed at those political organizations which are opposed to the EPRDF rule. In other words, dissent continues to entail repression of all sorts.

      SOCEPP believes it is high time that the EPRDF government gives a clear and unambigious reply to the demand of the relatives of the disappeared. Let the truth be known. High time also for the international community to realize that the violations of the human rights of the Ethiopian people contiue unabated. Those who claim that "things have improved" and rush to congratulate the EPRDF government should pause and ponder the rather grim reality for most Ethiopians, the injustice continues, the repression continue. Democracy and rights are still "flourishing" only within the verbal realms of the State controlled mass media.


Disappearance: 8 Years (June 1991- June 1999)

      In June 1991, the forces of the EPRDF attacked the areas held by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP) in Gondar and Gojjam. In the all out war that ensued, some EPRP leaders and veteran members fell into the hands of the EPRDF. Among those captured at the time in Sankisa (Quara) and other areas were EPRP leaders like:

Tsegaye Gebre Medhin Lucha (a.k.a. Debtera), a founding member of the EPRP, former leader of the Ethiopian Student Movement, poet and Amharic language expert; Yihak Debretsion, Belete Amha, Sitotaw Hussein, veteran guerrilla leaders like Teklai Gebresellasie, Hagos Bezabih and Abera. Around the same time, Azanaw Demile (Tulu) was handed over to the EPRDF by the government of the Sudan. Tsegaye and his comrades were at first jailed in Bahr Dar where many people saw and some even talked to them. From Bahr Dar they were taken to Tigrai region, the "home base" of the ruling Tigrean front, and they have disappeared since. The government denies ever holding them while rumours continue to appear that they are being held in inhumane conditions in Quiha or other unofficial prisons. The denial of the government has fuelled the suspicion that Tsegaye and the other EPRP leaders may have been secretly and arbitrarily executed.

SOCEPP calls on the government of the EPRDF to account for the fate of Tsegaye and all the other EPRP leaders " disappeared" since June 1991.


Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere!