World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC commissions and working groups / Commission of the Churches on International Affairs / Regional concerns / Africa / Appeal for the release of Ethiopian human rights defender

Appeal for the release of Ethiopian human rights defender

10 May 2001

Letter to H.E. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, 10 May 2001.

Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches has received with deep concern news of the arrests and detention on 8th May of Prof. Mesfin Wolde Mariam, Executive Committee Member of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, and of Dr Berhanu Nega, lecturer at the Addis Ababa University. According to our information, a court hearing on the charges is scheduled to be held within 48 hours. We sincerely hope that this will be the case and that such a hearing will be held in a way that fully respects established international legal norms and the independence of the judiciary for which the Ethiopian Constitution provides.

We do not wish to interfere in the legal process, nevertheless it is appropriate for us to express considerable surprise at these actions taken against two distinguished defenders of human rights in your country. The two persons now in detention are well known to us and to other international organisations dedicated to human rights. Their non-partisan approach, commitments to non-violence, and their personal integrity have gained them high respect and esteem among international jurists and humanitarian organisations around the world.

We encourage you to take steps to secure the release of these two men from detention pending court hearings on charges brought against them.

It has also come to our attention that the offices of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council have been sealed by the authorities. According to our extensive knowledge of this Council, it has both in its actions and its statements been an impartial defender of human rights within the framework of the Constitution and the international norms to which your government has subscribed. It too has consistently advocated non-violence to achieve the goals of social justice through respect for human rights.

Respectfully yours

Konrad Raiser
General Secretary