Amnesty groep Haarlem
Maar ook Bloemendaal, Heemstede en Overveen

Toespraak Mesfin Aman na de fakkeltocht op

10 december 2006


In café de Lift vertelde Mesfin Aman zijn verhaal en gaf een toelichting op de mensenrechtensituatie in Ethiopië. Zie hieronder de letterlijke tekst van zijn toespraak.

Dear Honourable members and supporters of Amnesty Group in Haarlem, Dear participants of this public rally, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I start my speech I would like to thank and appreciate the Amnesty Haarlem group for inviting me to make this speech and their effort to promote and protect human rights. It gives me a great pleasure and honour to be here to tell what happened to me, my other colleagues and fellow Ethiopians on this occasion of the international human rights day. 


Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December. It is endorsed by the International Humanist and governments as an official day of human rights celebration. The date was chosen to honour the united nations general assembly adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global enunciation of human rights. The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organisations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.


We as a member of the human race with out any distinction of time, space and race share a lot of communalities. Our born rights are our natural rights by being human. Some of our rights like the right to life, the right to movement, the right to think, the right of free expression etc. are our indivisible and fundamental rights. This are the common values and principles recognised and adopted in the Universal Declarations of Human Rights (UDHR) and countries constitutions. The peoples who drafted and signed this charter before 58 years ago, witnessed different forms of violence and the two World War's and made a decision to stop human rights violations once and for all. They promised to end the human suffering based on race, gender, religion, political opinion and view a history. Urge all governments to respect this universally applicable values. Since then things improved due to an effort made by international organisations, civil society groups, non governmental organisations and committed governments to promote and protect the basic principles of human rights. Despite this, there is a wide gap between what is said and practically implemented.


To substantiate what I am saying let me tell you the story what happened to myself and my colleagues in Ethiopia. Before I experienced human rights abuse and torture I had a different approach and understanding what human right violation meant. People may hear, watch a movie and read about the atrocities, even for some it seems a matter of theory or abstraction, but for those of us who pass through different forms of abuses, torture in the hands of dictatorial and intolerant regimes human rights mean an essential question of life and death. Therefore here I made this speech not from a professional point of view or level of abstraction, but from victims account. I may give you a living testimony of the violations. It meant different to me, who saw imprisonments, tortures, lost his friends and colleagues behind bars. It is not easy to have peace of mind and enjoy life in exile, leaving my compatriots and beloved ones, who share the same vision and commitment for the realization of those universal values.


In light of furnishing a good political atmosphere in Ethiopia I have started to participate in human rights and political activities peacefully since 1995. Being confident in the country constitution and the international community commitment to democracy and human rights I played an significant active role. Since 1991, Ethiopians have gone to the polls three times (in 1995, 2000 and 2005) to cast their ballots. The three elections were never perfect by any measure. The 2005 multiparty elections, particularly, challenged the commitment of the ruling coalition to democracy and peaceful resolution of conflict.


Due to internal and external pressure the TPLF/EPRDF rule opened up political space to redeem some credibility. Encouraged by the opposition leaders coming out public to challenge the regime and hoping the international community would stand on their side Ethiopian people voted for unity, democracy and basic human rights. The CUD achieved a landslide victory at the capital city, which came with a reward of 23 parliamentary seats. This was a politically significant win for the country as a whole and for opposition parties in particular. Many observers noted that the opposition were leading the ruling coalition party by a measurable margin, but prior to the conclusion of the elections the government declared that it had won the majority vote.


But Ethiopian people hope was short lived, when the reign of terror was unleashed by Meles’ regime on the whole nation to unprecedented level. Hundreds of people were shot dead and thousands were injured. Some of the victims of the political violence were children who had nothing to do with the elections or the strike. Ten thousands are languishing in prison, among them leaders and elected members of the main opposition party CUD (the coalition for unity and democracy), civil society members, human right defenders and journalists. Serkalem Fasil whom I know very well, 26, who worked on three Amharic-language weeklies, is among at least 14 journalists held in this crowded, sweltering prison alongside many opposition leaders. They are being tried jointly for genocide and treason, charges that could bring life imprisonment or the death penalty. Serkalem Fasil's husband, journalist Eskinder Nega is also languishing in prison since November 2005 with other hundreds of political detainees. Serkalem's mother was detained as a hostage before she was arrested with her husband and brother, Dawit Fasil. It is a little surprising that the 26 years old woman is charged with genocide and treason. The flagrant abuse of fundamental human rights in Ethiopia has been clearly reflected in the report of the European Union EU and Carter Centre Election Observers. 


In this course, I had been suffering from the its malice and inhuman acts of the regime. I was forced to experience its malice treatment for 29 days in Zeway detention camp because of my participation in April 2001 students demonstrations for academic freedom and basic campus rights. Last year, in connection with my role in campaigning for human rights and democratic principles, during the May 2005 national election, I was abducted by plain clothed security government agents on June 6, 2005 and taken to Sendafa Concentration Camp for one and a half month. I have been tortured and humiliated while in prison, once the guards denied me water until I became delirious. In addition to this I was subjected to different forms of physical abuse in the name of physical exercise. Finally they released me from prison after a month without sufficient charge against me and compensation for what happened to me. On September 14, 2005 again I was abducted and beaten by four intelligence agents inside the forest at Entoto mountain (near Addis Ababa) by dark. As the result I sustained physical injury till now.


Branded as an illegal and potential instigator on bon fire Christians ceremony at Meskel square on September 28, 2005 five armed officers raided my house to apprehend before two days while I was in hiding. After the November 1, 2005 public unrest against the despotic regime due to election saga the government announced the lists and photographs of most wanted opposition leaders, journalists ,civil society leaders and human right defenders including mine, accusing of conspiring against the constitutional order, genocide and treason. In this condition, I decided to leave the county to save my life. After a long journey of being a "fugitive" I could manage to cross the border on 6th November 2005 then reached Kenya. Had it not been my advance action to a life in exile, I would have ended up like my other friends and sisters behind bars in Kaliti Prison or loose my life.


While I was in Ethiopia and after escaping to another country, Amnesty International as a human right defender gave a lot of assistance to me. While I was in a prison the statements and press release of Amnesty reduced my suffering and made the government aware that it was an issue of Prisoner of Conscience. Amnesty International called on the Ethiopian government to abide by democratic mandates of the Ethiopian constitution and international human right guidelines to which it is a signatory. Further more Amnesty International strongly opposed charges against all detainees and appealed for the immediate and unconditional release of the prisoners of conscience. After I left Ethiopia Amnesty’s assistance was determinant for my resettlement here in the Netherlands. On this occasion I would like to thank for his kind support Dr. Martin Hill, Amnesty International London East and the Horn of Africa researcher.


Today, on human rights day, let us recommit ourselves to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and let us rededicate ourselves to wiping the scourge of human right violation and torture from the face of the earth. We must respond to this evil wherever we find it by reaffirming humanity’s most basic values. Finally I am urging you to raise your concern, were ever possible to the plight of the Ethiopian people. The Ethiopian people are subjected to live under state of terror in fear of being killed, tortured and imprisoned just because they demand their unalienable right to live as human beings.