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Ethiopia: Concern for three trade unionists at risk of torture in detention

Amnesty International has expressed concern over the safety of three members of Ethiopia’s prominent teachers trade union – the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association – who are believed to be in detention after criticising the government. Amnesty is urging thousands of its members to appeal to the Ethiopian authorities expressing their concern for the treatment of these three men.

Two of the men – Tilahun Ayalew and Anteneh Genet – are believed to be held incommunicado at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Bureau in Addis Ababa since 14 and 29 December respectively, while the third man, Meqcha Mengitsu has not been seen since 15 December and is believed to be in secret custody.

All three men are at risk of torture and so far no charges have been brought against them. Tilahun Ayalew and Anteneh Genet have been produced at court, but were not charged, or granted access to legal counsel or relatives.

Amnesty International UK’s Campaigns Director, Tim Hancock said:

“It seems as though these men are being censured for expressing their opinions and for their involvement with Ethiopia’s largest trade union. Unfortunately this abhorrent breach of basic human rights by the Ethiopian authorities against those who express their opinions or carry out non-violent trade union activities is becoming far too familiar.

“These men should either have charges brought against them and given a fair and independent trial – or they should be released immediately.”

One of the men currently in detention, Anteneh Genet, was arrested in September 2006 and held for two weeks before being released without charge. Prior to that in May 2006, Mr Getnet was abducted and beaten, allegedly by members of the security force.

Amnesty International is urging the Ethiopian authorities to state whether Meqcha Mengitsu is in government custody, and if so provide assurances that he is not being tortured and to either release or charge him promptly. Amnesty International is also concerned that Tilahun Ayalew and Anteneh Getnet may be prisoners of conscience and is calling for their immediate and unconditional release.

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Notes to the editor

  • The Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) is the largest trade union in Ethiopia. It is affiliated to the worldwide trade union umbrella organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation, and to the global Federation of teachers trade unions, Education International.
  • The ETA has been previously issued statements criticising the government in connection with the post-election crisis in mid-2005.
  • Hundreds of teachers and ETA members have been detained or arbitrarily dismissed in recent years, reportedly because they failed to support the ruling party – the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)

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