Rep. Smith: Ethiopian Regime's Silence on Report Speaks Volumes
Calls for Immediate Passage of "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" when Congress reconvenes
October 20, 2006
Smith - who is the Chairman of the Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations Subcommittee and author of the "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" (H.R. 5680) - said "Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's silence speaks volumes. The regime refuses to comment on the report, most likely because they never expected it to see the light of day. We have a responsibility to hold them accountable for their brutal actions as well as their subsequent efforts to suppress this inquiry."
Smith added "this report should prompt the House to move on my bill when we reconvene. We must send a message to the Ethiopian government that these actions will not be tolerated."
The independent Commission of Inquiry report found that Ethiopian security forces fatally shot, beat or strangled 193 people protesting election fraud last year-a number that far exceeds the Ethiopian government's official death toll. The report also states that these demonstrators were unarmed, yet the majority died from shots to the head.
Wolde-Michael Meshesha, a vice chairman of the 10-member panel who conducted the investigation, said the Ethiopian government tried to suppress the inquiry and he has stated in news reports that he was told to change the results two days before the release of report. Meshesha fled Ethiopia in the wake of controversy surrounding the report and is in Europe seeking asylum.
The report comes well over a year after the first wave of violence, despite the Prime Minister's assurance to Smith during a meeting in August 2005 that there would be an expeditious and transparent investigation.
"This delayed, secret report, as well as the repeated delays in the trial of the opposition leaders, human rights activists and journalists, demonstrates an outright contempt for rule of law and due-process," Smith said.
The "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" aims to bring democratic reform and accountability to Ethiopia by limiting U.S. security assistance to peacekeeping and counter-terrorism only; denying visas to anyone who was involved in the June and November 2005 killings of demonstrators; and by assisting political prisoners, indigenous Ethiopian human rights organizations, independent media, civil society and to promote legal training. Smith's legislation passed the House International Relations Committee last June.
"This legislation helps strengthen the will of the Ethiopian people who want freedom and democracy, and will bring positive change to the circumstances that have limited progress in Ethiopia. It should be brought up for immediate consideration when the House reconvenes next month," said Smith.
Patrick J. Creamer