Ogaden Human Rights Committee

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Human Rights For All

1. INTRODUCTION

As has been repeatedly documented by international human rights organizations, the state of human rights in the Ogaden has gone from bad to worse in the recent past. The abysmal track record of the EPRDF regime has been recently aggravated by natural calamities, which had primarily been caused by the ill-devised policies of the current Ethiopian government. The vicious circle of official state negligence, deliberate economic strangulation of the region, political marginalization of the pastoralist Somalis and the consequent disasters of the magnitude of the year 2000 famine have combined to decimate the human and livestock population of the Ogaden. No official statistics are compiled on the socio-economic characteristics of the Ogaden, but judging from the livelihoods of the region's inhabitants, the Ogaden was much better off both economically and security-wise in 1991, when the EPRDF came to power, than it is today.

In the dry season, instead of helping the needy nomads and their starving animals, the Ethiopian armed forces camp beside water points to prevent them from using the water for their animals and families unless they pay extortion money.
In other cases, many animals starved to death and many nomad families were left destitute after Ethiopian government forces rounded up their animals, which are the primary source of livelihood for nomad Somalis in the Ogaden. Confiscated livestock were put in concentration camps and were left for the elements without water and fodder.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee is alarmed at the massive rise in HIV/AIDS virus infected women and young girls after being raped by members of the Ethiopian armed forces. The Ethiopian government uses rape as a weapon and its soldiers are under orders to rape, torture or kill any woman suspected of sympathising with ONLF members. Extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions are also rife in the Ogaden.

This report documents human rights violations in the Ogaden, which took place between the years 2000 and 2003, however there are few cases that took place in 1999 and 2004.

The report quotes many articles from international human rights instruments as well as the Ethiopian Constitution in order to reveal the perfidious inhuman nature of the Ethiopian government, which Pays lip services to human rights concerns, but disregards International Human Rights Treaties, as well as its laws and Constitution. The Ethiopian government has done nothing to stop or prevent human rights violations in the Ogaden. On the contrary, it encourages, decorates and promotes violators to higher ranks.

The international community should take note that the human rights violations presented in detail in this report and the previous reports are flagrant violations of rights and freedoms guaranteed by International Human Rights Treaties, acceded to or ratified by Ethiopia.

The report begins with executive summary, appeals and recommendations to the international community as well as individuals for urgent action to end and prevent human rights violations in the Ogaden, and concludes with annexes of classified lists of victims of human rights abuses.

Ogaden Human Rights Committee (OHRC)

2. BACKGROUND

The human tragedy in the Ogaden, started directly after the conclusion of the ill-fated Berlin Conference for the partition of Africa in 1885.

On April 10th 1891, Ethiopia's king Menelik said in his circular letter addressed to Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia: "If Powers at a distance come forward to partition Africa between them, I do not intend to be an indifferent spectator."
During the Second World War, after the expulsion of the Italians from the Horn of Africa, in 1941, the Ogaden came under British rule, and it remained subject to British military administration until 1948.

In 1946, Mr. Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, proposed to the council of Ministers of Four-Power Conference the reunification of all Somalilands, including the Ogaden as a trust territory. The Bevin Plan met with unanimous opposition from the other Powers. Many petitions addressed to the Four Power Conference by Ogadeni elders were also fallen upon deaf ears.

On September 23rd 1948, the British government decided to cede a great part of the Ogaden to Ethiopia without the knowledge and consent of the Ogaden people. Peaceful demonstrations against this act were brutally suppressed and scores of people were killed, in Jigjiga and elsewhere in the Ogaden.

Haud and Reserved areas were the last part of the Ogaden, which were handed over to Ethiopia by the British Authorities, on February 28th 1955.

During Haile Selassie's rule, the Ethiopian Imperial Army committed unspeakable crimes against the defenceless civilians in the Ogaden. In 1961, the towns of Dhagaxbuur, Qalaafo and Ayshaca, were razed to the ground by the Ethiopian occupation forces.

In 1974, when the military overthrew emperor Haile Selassie's theocratic rule, they put in place a communist military dictatorship led by the Red Negus colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam.
The Dergue military junta, in Addis Ababa, enforced more oppressive policies in the Ogaden. Summary executions, arbitrary detentions without charges or trial, dispossessing the people of their properties, emergency laws and dusk to dawn curfew were commonplace.

In its Amharisation policy, the communist regime of Mengistu has transferred thousands of Ethiopian settlers into the Ogaden in an Attempt to change the demographic nature of the region, eliminate the Ogadeni-Somali national identity and to transform the Ogaden into a region of Ethiopia, in which indigenous Ogadenis will be an insignificant minority.

In 1991, after Mengitu's downfall, Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), formed a new party called Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), composed of TPLF and converted prisoners of war from Oromo and Amhara nationalities in order to cover the Tigre domination in the new party.

After the installation of the TPLF dominated government in Ethiopia, EPRDF presented a new charter as a guiding principle in its rule during the so-called transitional period of two years. According to that charter, among other things all democratic principles, human rights, and right to self-determination of all nations should have been recognized and fully respected. Also, the resources of the country and international donations would be shared equitably.

The new Charter was welcomed by the Ogaden people, who suffered from a century of repression and exploitation under the Imperial and Military regimes, which ruled the empire-state of Ethiopia respectively.

Article 1 of the Transitional Charter stated that: "Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights individual human rights shall be respected fully, and without any limitations whatsoever."

In March 1993, a Constitution drafting commission was appointed. The Ogaden was not represented in the commission. In mid 1994, a draft Constitution was released and submitted to a constituent assembly.
On December 8th 1994, the constituent assembly ratified the new Constitution, which replaced the interim National Charter and became the basis for parliamentary elections to be held in 1995.

The Constitution provides that all sovereign power resides in the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia, and that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land (Articles 8 9). Chapter 3 provides that fundamental rights and liberties expressed therein shall be interpreted in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights Covenants, humanitarian conventions and with the principles of other relevant international instruments which Ethiopia has accepted or ratified.

Ethiopia under the TPLF/EPRDF government has accepted or ratified several international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Prevention and the Punishment of the crime of Genocide, Convention on the Right of the Child, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Slavery Convention of 1926 as amended, Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, the 1977 Additional Protocols I and II of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and lately the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. The Ethiopian Constitution states that ratified treaties automatically become national law (Article 9.4).

Nevertheless, the aforementioned international human rights treaties were not translated into action by the Ethiopian government, which has no, respect whatsoever for its international obligations and commitments.

Ogaden Human Rights Committee (OHRC)

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