wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ADDISABABA1195
2006-05-01 17:42:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS FOCUSES ON

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  ET 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO9908
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1195/01 1211742
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 011742Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0295
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001195 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR AF/E

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ET
SUBJECT: UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS FOCUSES ON
HIGH PROFILE TRIAL OF CUD DETAINEES

REF: A. ADDIS 1187


B. ADDIS 926

Classified By: Charge d'affaires a.i. Janet Wilgus for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001195

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR AF/E

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ET
SUBJECT: UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS FOCUSES ON
HIGH PROFILE TRIAL OF CUD DETAINEES

REF: A. ADDIS 1187


B. ADDIS 926

Classified By: Charge d'affaires a.i. Janet Wilgus for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d)


1. (C) Summary. At the end of her three-day trip to Addis
Ababa April 23-26, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
Louise Arbour legal analysis is needed in the high profile
trial of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy
(CUD) leadership, civil society representatives and
journalists, which should include consistent legal
observation and ongoing commentary. A trial of this magnitude
and political weight (111 defendants are facing charges of
outrage against the constitution and most face "attempt to
commit genocide") is a huge burden on the judiciary which,
she predicted, would erode its credibility. (Note: The trial
is to resume on May 2nd. End note.) End summary.


2. (C) U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour
gave selected chiefs of mission a read-out of her April 23-26
visit to Ethiopia that focused on civil and political rights.
She told COMs that she followed the developing situation in
Ethiopia, and had written to the Prime Minister but had not
spoken out publicly as her under resourced office lacked the
ability to provide the necessary analysis. Nevertheless, she
said, Ethiopia is a high priority country for her office and
she is looking to draw on UN resources (such as the human
rights officer assigned to the UN Mission to Ethiopia and
Eritrea (UNMEE)) to increase the capacity to monitor Ethiopia.

Prison Visit
--------------


3. (C) Mme. Arbour met with six detainees individually:

-- CUD Chairman Engineer Hailu Shawel, whom she described as
defiant and can be expected to further politicize the trial;

-- CUD Executive committee member Dr. Yakob Hailemariam, with
whom Mme. Arbour had worked at the International Criminal
Tribunal for Rwanda in prosecuting genocide cases. This
meeting was quite emotional, she said, as Dr. Yakob had no
advance knowledge that he would be meeting with Mme. Arbour.

She described his spirit as broken, and speculated that he
would be willing to cut a deal so as to be able to return to
the U.S.;

-- human rights activist Professor Mesfin Woldemariam;

-- human rights activist Netsanet Demissie, of the
Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia, who, with two
other civil society detainees, has tried to get a separate
trial; and is willing to engage legally;

-- journalist Serkalem Fassil (F), who is seven months
pregnant;

-- teacher Mulunesh Abebayehu (F), who is not among the 111
"Hailu Shawel" detainees; Mme Arbour reported that she said
she has not yet appeared in court and does not know the
charges against her.

Bail...
--------------


4. (C) Mme. Arbour found the lack of bail for the detainees
"not acceptable" for the length of detention. She said that
while the government states that the charges are "not
bailable," legislation allowing this is not in conformity
with Article 196 of the Constitution. In fact, she said, the
government has painted itself into a corner that it will be
difficult to get out of. Bail is necessary from a political
point of view as well, she said, in order to "lower the
temperature" and give space. The government, she said, is
seeking to divide the opposition by keeping them in jail
without bail.

...Genocide charge and a long trial...
--------------


5. (C) She said she is appalled at the charge of genocide or
attempted genocide. Only international tribunals have
successfully concluded trials on genocide charges, and these

ADDIS ABAB 00001195 002 OF 002


trials have been complex and lengthy. It is unrealistic to
expect the trial to be handled expeditiously. It is possible
that some of the detainees will boycott the trial which will
then become a space for political combat. In fact, she
stated, the Ethiopian judiciary is being burdened with a task
that will impinge on its credibility and independence, and
from which it will take a long time to recover. Legal
analysis is needed, to include consistent legal observation
of and commentary on the high profile trial.


6. (C) In any event the trial will raise the profile of the
detainees. If it is a speedy, continuous trial (which is
unlikely, she said), visibility will increase as they are
seen frequently. If the trial drags on, with frequent
adjournments, that too will provoke an outcry. Nor can the
government control the legal proceedings themselves; some
detainees may cooperate, others may resist any legal
proceedings. There may be a motion for severance as there
are incompatible defenses. At the trial the government will
also be forced to put its evidence on the public record.


7. (C) In her meeting with Prime Minister Meles he emphasized
that "the law must run its course." In a private aside at
the end of the meeting she said that she told him that it is
up to him to make a move to diffuse the political predicament
as he is the one in power. She told COMs that a face-saving
measure is needed, and the government may have to find a way
to recast the charges.

Stay engaged
--------------


8. (SBU) COMs asked Mme. Arbour and her office to stay
engaged, particularly in providing expert legal analysis of
the human rights dimensions of the trial. She recommended
that COMs look at other avenues to open side routes for
democratic human rights-based dialogue, such as working with
the National Human Rights Commission to develop a national
human rights plan and a participatory forum.


9. (C) Mme. Arbour will be attending the AU Heads of State
Summit in Banjul, The Gambia, in July, when she plans to meet
with PM Meles again. She said she would also be willing to
meet with Addis-based COMS attending the AU meeting. She
said she will encourage other international leaders to
encourage the PM to make a conciliatory move on the detainees.

UN Human Rights Council
--------------


10. (C) On the new UN Human Rights Council, Mme. Arbour said
that she had discussed African candidates with AU Chairperson
Konare, expressing her disappointment that an African bloc of
13 candidates had been proposed for its 13 seats on the
council. This defeated the new election process and
architecture of the council, of focusing on the merits of
each candidate. Nevertheless, she commented, the list of 13
did not include any egregious human rights offenders.

Comment
--------------


11. (C) Mme. Arbour's visit, just a few days before the high
profile trial is set to begin in earnest on May 2nd, cast the
political confrontation in a new light by focusing on the
legality of human rights aspects of the trial. While her
messages to the government are somewhat similar to those
conveyed by other international visitors, the weight of her
office and legal background may give pause.
WILGUS