[dehai-news] ER: 4 U.S. senators write to Ethiopia's dictator

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Jan 18 2009 - 10:56:20 EST

4 U.S. senators write to Ethiopia's PM.

January 18th, 2009

U.S. Senate

U.S. Senators Russell D.Feingold, Johnny Isakson, Patrick J. Leahy, and
Richard J. Durbin wrote the following letter to Ethiopia's dictator Meles
Zenawi [

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

We write to express our concern about several recent developments in your
country, which we fear could make the important partnership between the
United States and Ethiopia more difficult. We are deeply troubled that these
events together appear to indicate an erosion of political freedom and the
rule of law in Ethiopia.

First, we are concerned by the re-arrest of Unity for Democracy and Justice
Party leader Birtukan Midekssa and reports that her life sentence in prison
has been reinstated. As you know, a political opposition with the right to
freedom of speech, press and association is essential to any vibrant
democracy. We worry that Birtukan's re-arrest signals your government's
waning commitment to those democratic principles. This is a disappointing
signal in advance of your country's elections next year, which we believe
have great potential.

Second, we were disappointed to learn of the passage of your government's
law restricting civil society groups receiving more than 10percent of their
funding from sources outside Ethiopia from doing any work related to human
rights, gender equality, the rights of the disabled, children's rights or
conflict resolution.

While we respect your government's right to regulate non-governmental
organizations operating within Ethiopia, we fear that as written, this law
will undermine the important work done by many organizations in those
respective fields. We hope you will ensure that the broad discretionary
powers granted to the government by this law are not used as a political
tool to impede the independence of civil society.

Third and finally, we are concerned by reports over the last year that
several civil society leaders and traditional elders in the Ogaden region of
Ethiopia have been detained for extended periods without charge and then
tried without due process.

Many of those arrested have reportedly been involved in important and much
needed peace efforts in the region. We appreciate the fact that Ethiopia has
legitimate security concerns in the Ogaden, but fear that this pattern of
arrests, if true, risks exacerbating local grievances and contributing to
radicalization rather than effective counter-insurgency and stabilization.
As you know, civil society is a critical partner in the work of building
peace, and we urge you to work with it as much as possible.

We feel strongly about the importance of our countries' partnership and hope
it will continue in the years ahead. That is why we are writing to you now
to raise our concern about these troubling developments in your country that
risk undermining democratic progress and the rule of law. If these trends
persist, we believe they will have adverse impacts on our close
relationship. We hope this is not the case and look forward to working
together toward our shared goals of peace and prosperity.

Russell D. Feingold
Chairman, Subcommittee on African Affairs
pias-dictator/> States Senate

Johnny Isakson
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on African Affairs
Committee on Foreign Relations Committee on Foreign Relations
United States Senate

Patrick J. Leahy
Chairman, State & Foreign Ops Subcommittee
pias-dictator/> Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

Richard J. Durbin
Chairman, Human Rights & the Law Subcommittee
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate

1. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
2. U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto



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