HRLHA – URGENT ACTION October 14, 2014
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) strongly condemns the sentencing of Abde Jemal, a fourteen-year old minor, in adults’ court to four years in prison and $700.00 Birr fine for allegedly inciting people to political violence. According to HRLHA’s correspondents, Abde Jemal was arrested by the security agents while tending his parents’ cattle out in the field. HRLHA has learnt that Abde Jemal was severely beaten up (in other words, physically tortured) following his arrest by members of the security force in order to coerce him into confessing in court to the alleged crime. To begin with, this was allowed to happen despite the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990, to which Ethiopia is a signatory, and which clearly states under Article 37(a) that State Parties shall ensure that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”; and additionally guarantees under article 40, sub-article 2(a) that every child alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law should … “Not be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt.”
HRLHA has also learnt through its correspondents that Abde Jemal, after being sentenced to four years in jail on the 2nd of September, 2014, in criminal charge file #06055 in the Bilo Nopha District Court, in the western Illu Abbabor Province of the Regional State of Oromia, was soon sent to Bishar, the provincial grand prison in Mettu, where adult offenders of all kinds of common crimes including murder are held. Being born to a poor family, Abde Jemal assumed the responsibilities of supporting his parents and himself at this very young age.
In the first place, it is undoubtedly abnormal and unusual to accuse a child of Abde Jemal’s age for inciting or being part of a POLITICAL violence. What is more, the Ethiopian Criminal Code, Chapter IV, sub-section I, under “Ordinary Measures”, states that, “In all cases where a crime provided by the criminal law or the Law of Petty Offences has been committed by a young person between the ages of nine and fifteen years (Art. 53), the court shall order one of the following measures …”: admitting to a curative institution (Art. 158), supervised education (Art. 159), reprimand; censure (Art. 160), school or home arrest (Art. 161), and other similar and light conditional sanctions and measures that facilitate the reforming, rehabilitation and reintegration of the young offender. The Criminal Code also provides, particularly under sub articles 162 and 168 in the same chapter, that the court shall order the admission of young offenders “… into a special institution for the correction and rehabilitation of the young criminals …” and “When the criminal was sent to a corrective institution, he shall be transferred to a detention institution if his conduct or the danger he constitutes renders such a measure necessary, or when has attained the age of eighteen years and the sentence passed on him is for a term extending beyond his majority.” Besides, the above mentioned UN Convention, under article 40, provides that “States Parties recognize the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, and which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society”. These all provisions inarguably show that minor offenders of Abde Jemal’s age deserve none of what have been imposed on him, including sending him to adults’ jail such as Bishari.
Also, the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, another international document that Ethiopia has ratified, states that the child shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief, and that the child shall be protected from practices which may foster racial, religious and any other form of discrimination. In spite of these all, according to HRLHA’s belief, Minor Abde Jemal has been subjected to all forms of discrimination – racial and political in particular, and was not given any of the protections he is entitled to as a child or a minor.
By allowing such extra-judicial impositions to happen to its own citizen, a minor in this case, the Ethiopian Government is inviting the questioning of the credibility of its own justice system, and its adherence to international documents it has signed and ratified.
Therefore, HRLHA calls up on the Ethiopian Government to unconditionally reverse all that have been imposed on Abde Jemal and other minors like him, if any, in adults’ criminal court, and ensure that the Minor gets fair trial in an appropriate judicial setting, in case he has really committed a crime. We also request that the Ethiopian Government honours all international documents that it has signed and that apply to children’s rights. HRLHA also calls up on regional and international diplomatic, democratic, and human rights agencies to challenge the Ethiopian TPLF/EPRDF Government in this regard; and join HRLHA in its demand for a fair treatment for Minor Abde Jemal.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to the Ethiopian Government and its concerned officials as swiftly as possible, in English, Ahmaric, or your own language:
- Expressing your concerns over the absence of fair and appropriate delivery of justice, and the political biases impacting on the overall justice system,
- Urging the concerned government offices and authorities of Ethiopia to ensure that Minor Abde Jemal would get a fair trial in appropriate court and based on the proper provisions of the criminal code as well as the constitution of the country,
- Urging the Ethiopian Government to abide by all international instruments that it has ratified
- Requesting diplomatic agencies in Ethiopia that are accredited to your respective countries that they play their parts in putting pressure on the Ethiopian Government so that it treats its citizens equally and fairly, regardless of their racial, religious, and/or political backgrounds.