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Mark Simmonds MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
25 August 2013
Death in Ethiopian custody of Tesfahun Chemeda, after refoulement
It is with sadness and anger that I report the death of a young
Oromo in Kaliti prison, Ethiopia, on 24 August, yesterday.
Tesfahun Chemeda was a student activist in
and a political activist among refugees in Kenya, where he was granted refugee
status by UNHCR. He was arrested with a colleague, Mesfin Abebe, by
Kenyan anti-terrorist police on 2 April 2007.
Although cleared by the anti-terrorist unit and by the FBI, the men
were subject to refoulement to Ethiopia at the request of the
Ethiopian authorities. UNHCR, the Refugee Consortium of Kenya and
the Kenyan Human Rights Commission were told in court, after their
application for habeas
the men had been returned to Ethiopia,
whereas they remained in custody in Kenya for at least two more days
after the court hearing.
Tesfahun and Mesfin disappeared in detention in Ethiopia until
charged with terrorist offences in December 2008. They were
sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2010.  (Mesfin’s
death sentence was later commuted.)
Tesfahun was transferred from Zeway prison to Kaliti, where he had
been held in solitary confinement for nearly two years before he was
This is not the first time young Oromo men have been killed in
detention. For example, Alemayehu Garba, partially paralysed with
polio, was shot dead with 18 others in Kaliti prison in November
Refoulement of UNHCR-recognised refugees from Djibouti and Somaliland
How long must we wait for Her Majesty’s Government and other western
governments to stop maintaining the EPRDF in power? Over one third
budget is in foreign aid. Ethiopia
receives more aid from the
than any other country in the world.
It is a shocking state of affairs and an appalling way to spend
taxpayers’ money. I am tired of hearing from Ministers and officials
that they take every opportunity to engage with representatives of
the Ethiopian government at the highest level to express their
serious concerns about human rights abuses and lack of democratic
progress in Ethiopia.
I have been hearing this for over twenty years. When are we going to
see an effective response by those who control Ethiopia’s purse
If the UK
is so wedded to providing aid to
Ethiopia, than at least we should insist on it
being contingent on real, measurable benchmarks of human rights and
democratisation and not the desk-based studies of
government-controlled data which support the status quo in Ethiopia.
This should be backed by effective sanctions so that members of the
Ethiopian government are prevented from travelling to the UK and America
and investing in property and businesses outside of Ethiopia.
Unless meaningful sanctions are applied, growing disaffection with
the west, previously noted by former US Ambassador Yamamoto, is likely to
mature further. Under the oppression of the Ethiopian regime,
opposition voices are becoming more likely to find expression in the
very movements which the support of
Ethiopia, because of its
cooperation in the ‘war on terror’, is meant to avoid.
The authoritarian regime in Ethiopia is a major cause of
instability affecting the whole of the Horn of Africa. Supporting it
and investing in it is a short-sighted policy.
Dr Trevor Trueman, Chair, Oromia Support Group.
example, Badassa Geleta was among 18 refugees returned to Ethiopia from Djibouti on 31 December 2012 and
detained in Dire Dawa. He was awaiting resettlement in Canada. Riyana
Abdurahman, a 23 year-old teacher, was abducted from Hargeisa on 23
Novermber 2012 and imprisoned in Jigjiga, Somali Region, Ethiopia.