International Oromo Lawyers Association (IOLA) Press Release on the Arrest of Professor Merera Gudina
The International Oromo Lawyers Association (IOLA) expresses its deepest concern over the detention of prominent Oromo/Ethiopian opposition leader professor Merera Gudina, a Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and Vice-Chairman of the Coalition of Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (MEDREK)).
The Ethiopian government detained prof. Gudina, upon his arrival from Europe where he was addressing the European Parliament in Brussels. He was invited by the EU parliament to brief the MPs on the current situation in Ethiopia in general and the effect of the recently declared state of emergency in particular.
According to the information available to us from the official government media outlet, prof. Gudina was arrested because of his violation of Article 1 of the country’s two-month old State of Emergency decree which, in total contradiction to the nation’s constitution, seriously curtailed citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of expression and assembly. Allegedly, Prof. Merera, was accused of meeting at the EU with official of the so called “terrorist organization” namely Ginbot-7, who was also invitee of the EU MPs.
IOLA is of the opinion that Prof. Merera committed no crime but exercised his fundamental freedom to movement, freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed in the Constitution of Ethiopia. But invoking terms of the Martial law to detain and subsequently prosecute a citizen is contrary to letters and sprits of international Human Rights Conventions governing aspects of state behaviors during emergency situation.
The imprisonment of Prof. Merera is not an exception. Almost the entire party officials of Oromo Federalist Congress – OFC, has already been imprisoned including the Deputy Chairman of the party, Mr. Bekele Gerba who is in his second round of detention for no other reason than exercising his fundamental human rights as guaranteed in the Constitution.. During his speech at the European Parliament, Prof. Merera also indicated that over 60,000 innocent Oromo civilians are currently detained in several military camps in different parts of the country, following the declaration of state of emergency.
It is with this in mind that IOLA calls on the Ethiopian government to immediately release prof. Merera without any precondition unless otherwise it is proven that he indeed committed a common crime, in which case, the government has to officially charge him with such a crime and bring him to justice.
IOLA calls on friendly government and the international community to intervene in whatever possible means to ensure that prof. Merera’s fundamental human rights are respected as stipulated in the nation’s Constitution of 1995 and demand his release without delay.
OLA stands ready to provide necessary professional support needed in this respect.
Executive Board of IOLA