Kinijit: the victim of Legal Fiction and Abuse of Process

By Tadesse Walle (PhD) 

The mother of all sham trials and conviction  against the icons of Ethiopia is not only flawed and perverse but  also a declaration of war against the virtues of democracy, human  rights protection and against the fundamental rights of the Ethiopian people: typical to the irony of ironies and to the dismay of time & history; the international community has witnessed what is meant to be a bogus trial, conducted by an incompetent Court whereby just men and women who stand for democracy and justice  are  driven to jail, forget the call for death penalty.

In our ever changing and challenging world, most civilized states base their system of   law and jurisdiction on the concept that a suspect is innocent until conclusively proven guilty. Such an approach to law and justice underpins the notion of fair trial. The right to fair trial is not only an international paradigm of law and an aspect of International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights but a legitimate expectation by any civic society and the victims of injustice in particular. However, the trial against Kinijit leaders, human rights activists, journalists and alleged suspects of crime following the May 2005 election is no way no near to the above principles of law, human rights protection  and deliberation of  justice: sadly,  the entire fabrics of the charge, sentencing and  deliberation is marred with  legal fiction,  abuse of process,  and political ploy.

This seemingly legal posturing and bravado is intended to obscure the genuine cause of the crime and condemn an innocent party by way of fabricated charges and faulty conviction.  Such a malicious intent is terribly harsh and can only exacerbate matters.  The whole account of the charge and conviction is not only unlawful but also preposterous and gimmick. The kaliti prisoners of conscience did nothing unlawful, save that they have emerged not only as the best alternative to the existing ruling party but as the most plausible party in the country. However, the loser ruling party has been very busy for the last one year and so in criminalising the champions for democracy and the voting public. This sinister motive, surely, cannot afford misleading the Ethiopian public or the international community, despite the courtroom drama and the futile legal veil.

The recent mockery of conviction and the temptation to sentence life imprisonment and or / capital punishment against Kaliti prisoners is awfully reckless and at best stupidity. We can understand the causes of frustration and the level of desperation of the regime; but for sure this is not going to resolve the problem:  Woyane would know the only way to resolve this problem is to set Kali prisoners free: this measure is not only fair and just in the circumstance and there is no alternative to it. Any period of imprisonment long or short is a desperate move let alone capital punishment – it is a bluff or otherwise is a fatal attraction. Woyane advisors both formal and informal should use their brains and not their belly to reach such a reasoned solution. Retribution is a failed logic, had failed in the past, and has no future but for the wicked and cowardice.

Zenawi and Cohort would know that such an unlawful conviction and temptation for capital punishment and or / long term imprisonment is a fiasco. No prudent jurisdiction buys such a pathetic ruling and can only flashback against the authors of such injustice. The world knows, The European Union knows, in fact condemns your actions, the US is aware of your shrewd intentions but may excuse you for a while because of the obvious reason; Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other internationally acclaimed institutions have been condemning your actions day in and day out. Ethiopians both at home and abroad oppose and struggle against your undemocratic stance. Zenawi and Cohorts would note there is no alternative to the release of the prisoners of conscience: free them; the guilty mind is a fabrication of your on making. The making and the unmaking of such a historical sham is for you guys to live with: release the innocent party. Any move minus release is a recipe for your own failing.

Zenawi and Cohorts would know, in any fair trial, competent and prudent courts would take into account that alleged Defendants are free from torture and ill treatment both before and at the time of trial, unwavering access to lawyers, the right to public and independent hearing, the right to be brought to trial in a reasonable period of time or released and the right to remain silent if alleged Defendants choose to do so. A breach of one or more of these rules would simply render the decision unsafe and calls for any conviction to be quashed.

A cursory application and analysis of these rules against the practice of the  Ethiopian ‘Court’- probably circus would explain better; exposes, though not unexpected, naked unfairness, prejudice and stark incompetence on the part of the  judiciary. In fact one would wonder if at all, there exists an independent judiciary system except hand picked judges who are entirely devoted to the policies of the regime, whose paramount concern boils down to punishing dissent by way of fabricated conviction.

The following citation taken from the brief note of Professor Mesfin Woldemarim, Kaliti prison, explains the nature and depth of miscarriage of justice as was evident in the entire handling and conduct of the courtroom drama:

 

“We were openly denied accesses to the transcript of the testimony and the material that was taken from our homes and offices. In addition to the fact that these are private property, they are critical to our defence. Yet, we were denied access to these. …those materials confiscated from us in prison, writings, documents and notes taken in court and other evidences, in addition to other audio evidence presented by the prosecution, were not even mentioned” (i.e. at the trial) This brief note further illustrates not only the severity of miscarriage of justice but also the absence of the rule of law as stated further: “…the court ignored us; in fact two of the judges began to take turns and threaten us. ….then, “…they announced, saying “since we had offered you the opportunity to defend and you had declined, all of you have been found guilty” The reader will note, the “opportunity to defend” but not the RIGHT to defend, cross examine Witness , challenge evidence… dislodge the prosecution’s case( emphasis mine).

 

Save the unknown part of the prisoners account, no medical condition of the Defendants was taken into consideration both at the time of the trial and before the trial: knowing that a considerable number of them were subjected to ill treatment including torture and other genuine health problems.

 

Taking into account the above mentioned irregularities and the untold stories,  for lack of space and time;  about the conduct of the hearing, due process of law,  one would presume that prudent judges should have concluded that it would not be proper and lawful for the Court to be used to prosecute Kaliti  alleged Defendants. The Court could and should have considered the situation where the video evidence would have assisted their defences but the video material was not available despite repeated calls by the Defendants.

The other video that was available for the Defendants had to be watched in groups for a brief period and most importantly in the presence of the Prison Administration which would amount to duress. Clearly, the Court could and should have considered what was meant to be the missing video evidence and other evidences or otherwise that could have been excluded with malicious intent. Such an admission of evidence is neither legal nor procedural but for the obstruction of justice intended to punish the innocent party.

What’s more, the Court could and should have considered whether or not the action of the Prison Administration was ultra virus in his action against Kinijit leadership, or if perjury of justice was committed as indeed was reported. In these circumstances, where evidential and procedural impropriety is a grave concern; the Court could and should have reached a conclusion where the alleged Defendants could not receive a fair trial and or if it could be unfair for the Defendants to be tried in the first place.  However, were the judges ready and competent enough to take all this into account? No, on one hand there was a stark professional incompetence, which we are not dealing in detail at least for now; secondly there exists such a blind loyalty to the regime in power than to their professional duty and obligation. It is a rare opportunity to find one such as Judge Birtukan Mediksa who had the gut and professional ethnics to stand for what she believed in. In the present case the judges led by one of the talking goods, another “Zenawi” proved their loyalty to proper Zenawi, the PM. It is suffice to note, “the judges began to take turns and threaten us” – as the wisdom of our father’s concluded: “abatu dagna leju kemagna”.  

 

In summary, the panel of judges has not been seen doing justice, but marred with unacceptable professional incompetence and bias. The Court was not prepared to handle the prosecutions case in accordance with the law but in accordance with the instruction of the PM who was quite prejudicial even before the Defendants were called for the trial. It is in the public domain that Zenawi was accusing the Kinijit leadership and activists of “Rwanda – type genocide’, organising uprising, aimed at overthrowing his government long before the Defendants were actually charged. Therefore, the Court was simply instrumental to Zenawi’s set agenda, diminishing its statusquo as part of the executive and not as a separate entity having its own legal duty. The Court has voluntarily or involuntarily and most likely voluntarily, surrendered its sense of duty, failing to stand for justice and denied Defendants their right to legal privilege and the operation of the rule of law. 

Thus the sham trial and conviction of the 11th June 2007 was inconsistent with the parameters of fair trial and internationally acclaimed covenants in which Ethiopia is a party. On one hand alleged Defendants were ordered to defend their cases,  on the other hand they were denied fair hearing including access to crucial evidence that could have an overriding significance  in dislodging  the prosecution’s case. In fact the trial was aborted in a rush to deliver verdict before the Defendants rest their case, and yet calling for fair hearing and justice. This in fact was not only unfair in the eyes of many observers but out  of the ordinary in any civilised  court proceeding   The circus was simply a display of irregularities, fabrication of claims and counter claims  with a sole aim of criminalising innocent party and intimidation of opposition parties. 

This bare disregard to fair trial against alleged Defendants and abuse of process without any procedural safeguard had only one and only one cause of action: conviction of Kinijit leadership, human rights activists, journalists and other liberal individuals who stood in harmony for the common cause of all Ethiopians and the sovereignty of Ethiopia: the trial appeared to have been conducted with a sole cause of accomplishing sentencing the innocent and most importantly those who stand  for the unity and integrity of  Ethiopia – an issue which Zenawi is determined to fight to his last day in office.

‘Res Ipsa loquitur’- the thing speaks for itself.

Knowing the contents of the charge against Kinijit leadership, taking into account the draconian, and cynical motive of Zenawi and his Cohort, the bewildering and prejudicial nature of the Court, the zero sum game of the alibi against the prisoners of conscience; an ordinary jury with good judicious mind (yeshimgelewotch Gubae) sitting under the shadow of an Oak tree, contemplating this same sham charge, would throw the case out of the window before it even starts. Unlike the Zenawi Courts, yeshimagelewotch Gubae would be guided by their good common sense and the Latin maxim: res ipsa liquitur. I have no doubt in my mind the ordinary man with good common sense would reverse the course of judgement, quash the decision and set free the Kinijit activists; and to the irony of justice, shall hold Zenawi and Cohorts for perjury of justice, unlawfulness, and for all the crimes committed for the last sixteen years; certainly,  the jury of Shemgles would give Zenawi unfettered right to defend himself , a right he denied to kiniit Defendants,  and to see for himself what is  meant to be  a charge of  treason in an independent and competent Court.

 

The entire episode of the circus proves one thing, that the trial was fixed, premeditated, orchestrated to convict the innocent; prisoners of conscience by disregarding the prime requisites of criminal litigation – proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The judiciary and the PM failed to realise that such a presumption of guilt is only the mind set of perpetuators of guilt, like Zenawi himself and not the intention, action or omission of the Kinijits, human rights activists, academics and journalists. Denying the right to bail, taking such unprecedented length of time, denial of cross examination of witness, and the admission of concocted and fabricated evidence proves one thing: alleged Defendants have always been innocent but ‘guilty’ for the production of perjured alibi, coached Witness and highly nursed documents. The prosecution and the PM failed irretrievably to appreciate the rare and bubbly personalities behind this impasse and the immense track record for life that speaks for itself res ipsa loquitur.

Defiance, not submission!!

One would note that Zenawi and Cohorts have been punishing genuine opposition and political dissent by using all avenues including frivolous legal methods. The trials against professor Asrat Woldeyes, Dr Taye Woldesemayat and individuals from the ranks of TPLF  such as Seye Abrha proves the regime’s determination to stay in power by all means available including by conducting unwarranted  and bogus trials; sentencing groups, individuals for  long and short terms. However there is more to this, there are more out there languishing, probably indefinite detention, and a considerable number of them  subjected to extra judicial killing, with no fair or unfair due process of law. A long list of such catalogue includes EPRP veterans and other opposition party members such as the OLF. Journalists, teachers, students, other professionals and non professional groups and individuals have paid innumerable price in fighting against the stunning injustice of the regime.

 

The regime also assumes to continue its rule by waging unwarranted and futile wars against Eritrea and currently with Somalia. Who knows the PM may tell us tomorrow that he is ready to fight the Americans or the Europeans, as he told us yesterday that he is ready to fight Eritrea ; at their backyards for asking him to release the prisoners of conscience. Zenawi erroneously believes he is the architect of war, probably second to Al-Qaeda’s top man or second to none by lodging unprecedented wars and terror. No matter about his rank, either way he remains to be an evil person determined to rule by way of terror, violence and intimidation.

      

Save those he killed and imprisoned for the last sixteen years, following the May 2005 election, the PM and his Cohorts have killed 193 civilians, injured 760, and arrested more that 20,000 civilians in military camps, unleashing utmost suffering and torture. Yet, this was not enough for him; he has now decided to keep Kinijit leadership, human rights activists and journalists in custody for a considerable period of time which the international community condemns. 

 

Alas, no fool would believe that this would be his last action before he is ousted from office. Thus much is expected from the opposition and the entire Ethiopian public. Zenawi is not to disappear, though the wretched son of Ethiopia; he is not yet to vanish in to nowhere, though he lives in a borrowed time. Wishful thinking and nominal participation, as is usually the case, in the struggle against the fight of   injustice is not going to help remove Zenawi from power and replace him with prudent and vibrant political parties. It needs a concerted and resolute effort on the part of opposition parties, particularly of kinijit; relaunching with vigour and enthusiasm, with  sense of purpose,  the symbol, “V” for its course of action. The sacrifice, the sweat, the courage, commitment and dedication of those in jail should warrant each and every one of us, for a better strategical defiance and purpose and not submission to Zenawi’s intimidation and harsh injustice. Remember, submission to Zenawi defies the fundamental interest of Ethiopia and at best denies the vested interest of the Ethiopian voting public: it is this and only for this reason alone, the dearest sons and daughters of Ethiopia have been drugged to prison. And it is this and this alone, that must warrant and guide our sense of duty as citizens of our impoverished country, Ethiopia.

 

Contact: tadessewalle@yahoo.co.uk

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Published in: on July 11, 2007 at 11:49 pm  Comments (1)  

LINE UP BEHIND KIC AND MAKE IT EFFECTIVE

Makelklot Haile Selassie (PhD) 

July 11, 2007:  The Mediators came from Ethiopia. Both of them are CUDP Central Committee members. They came authorized, with the mandate to reconcile the two CUDP groups who dug in, in defence of their power to run the show. What is amazing is that the two groups are under one umbrella. Not two political organizations with their own separate political program. One can safely assume that the two Mediators came all the way to the United States to solve the problems that wrecked the activities of the two contending groups, the way they saw it fit. They were here, for about four months. They are still here. I am quite sure, the now vehemently contesting group, right from  the day of the arrival of the Mediators, had investigated whether the Mediators had the mandate and the authority or not. Had they found them fraudulent then, as they claim they are now, after about four months, they would have exposed them very long time ago. In a heartbeat. In fact, they had a meeting with them in May and signed a memorandum of understanding. Therefore, to question the Mediators authority and reject the solution they offered, is, a deliberate intransigency, incompatible with the intention to run coherent political activities.      

Given the above thread of argument, then, the newly formed Kinjit International Council (KIC) represents the four parties that merged to form CUDP. It represents CUDP, because, it is, whatever the nature of the mechanism that initiated it be, formed by the two Mediators sent from Ethiopia.  If one accepted their very presence in the United States of America from the very beginning, without question, then, one aught to accept what they did and are doing. That is, if there were an iota of respect and loyalty for CUDP. One may disagree but will have to accept what they delivered, because they were given the mandate and the authority, from Ethiopia, to do so. The logical generalization would be then that the interest of the Council is nothing but to protect and advance the interests and the aspirations of Kinijit as a body, thereby advancing the interests and the aspirations of Ethiopian society. So, what is the problem with that?  

The crux of the problem is, in my opinion, KIL represents Kestedemena. Not CUDP as a body. The leadership’s central and intense interest is to firmly and solidly establish Kestedemena, particularly in the United States of America. Note these cases in point: a) in one of their press releases, while exalting the leaders of those of Kestedamena by name, even the name of Engineer Hailu Shawel was not mentioned,  b) most of the faces in their websites, out of 38 leaders in jail,  are of those of Kestedamena’s , c) most of the faces one sees on the T-shirts and placards produced for demonstration were of those of Kestedemena groups. And, d) all those in the leadership positions of KIL, and all those individuals vehemently against the formation of KIC, either they are full fledged party members, or, new recruits, or, sympathizers of Kestedamena. It is a very actively dedicated group for its interest. Given the above realities, then, one could assume that even the relocation of the leadership, which is directly or indirectly the struggle, from Ethiopia, was subtly conceived and implemented to plant Kestedamena abroad. Kestedamena does not have mass base in Ethiopia. The late comer, the mistletoe Kestedamena, is taking advantage of the mess created now. One might argue that, perhaps, the mess was deliberately created by this KIL leadership using whatever means handy and effective including character assassination. The repeated invocations of CUDP are simply to cover up their hidden agenda. A very telling thing is that, if their primary concern and interest were the well being of Kinijit as a body, why would they reject the newly formed Council? No matter how, where, and when it was organized, it never should have been a point of contention, as long as it was done with the knowledge of those in jail.  It is a blatant arrogance on the part of this out of control group. The bottom line is, the KIL leadership and their associates are vehemently fighting the formation of the Council because it did disrupt their long calculated objective, and, in some factual cases, personal interests and comforts that would be at stake.  

The major role players in this unfortunate situation were once part and parcel of the regime’s ruthless treatments of the Ethiopian society. So, this unethical behavior and absolute inconsiderateness being demonstrated by these elites is because it is in their blood; to ruthlessly unheeding for commonsensical approach to ward off the debilitating conflict. It is ruthlessly sabotaging the struggle, because they have been sabotaging the interests and the aspirations of Ethiopian people when they were in bed with Meles and his regime. These individuals in the leadership position aught to be removed from the whole system and left to wither out for they will sabotage the process of the struggle. Don’t forget that these individuals were comfortably wining and dining with the regime, while the history of Ethiopia, while the unity of Ethiopia, while the economy of Ethiopia were systematically assaulted left-and-right by Meles and his regime. These types of individuals, wherever they are, are very dangerous for political struggle. Because, one never can tell when they were going to flip. There is no guarantee that these individuals will not change camps if and when favorable opportunity comes along. The writing of a letter to the former boss, traveling thousands of miles to a place where the former boss was a temporary resident, particularly at the time when the status quo is being shaken up from its base, could not be called a coincidence. It smells fishy.   
 
In my opinion, at this particular level of reality, where mainly the upper layer including the leadership in Addis Abeba and those in the Provinces are politically and perhaps psychologically devastated, the formation of a Council of such caliber and dynamic composition is a gift from God. Here, it is very important to note that, right now, TPLF is running the country freely without any challenge from the opposition forces. It is a formidable challenge to be responded to. Through this, potentially dynamic body, namely the KIC, Kinijit will have solid, mass base, political, material, and skilled man-power needed. a) The inclusion of Dr. Taye –it is a political turning point for him, to earnestly begin to walk the talk–where  the connection with, and the influence on, teachers at home is robust.  This  would be of great advantage for the revival of Kinijit, hence the struggle. And, b) since the individuals included in the Council are well experienced and professional intellectuals with no personal interests and motives, Kinijit will have better, much better result oriented activities obviously than KIL. KIL, from its inception and onwards was in a very divisive, selfish and unproductive track. I hope the Council will remedy this faulty track.  

However, there are about a couple of drawbacks to be noted by the KIC. One of them is that it may not be allowed to enter Ethiopia as an organization to do its activities openly and be effective. A position that would not make it different from the physical position of HIBRET. This position of HIBRET is really very unfortunate. One can easily imagine how the potential of most of these organizations, and individuals that composed HIBRET is wasted due to their lack of physical presence in Ethiopia. But, still, the KIC is in a much better physical position than HIBRET, if it could use it systematically and in an aggressive manner. Never to be late, as it happened on Kinijit a number of times, has to be the motto of KIC. The second drawback is, the continued relationship with AFD. Why KIC entered into this most contradictory position right from the beginning is really baffling. The KIC is to represent Kinijit that is legally operating in Ethiopia using legal forum. This is the benchmark of KIC. That is, with whatever understanding of the constitution, accepting the constitution and abiding by the rules and regulations of the regime. Here is the crux of the issue. AFD is composed of fronts still fighting the regime. Leaving aside the acceptance of the principle that the liberation fronts are fighting against Ethiopia and its people not the TPLF, how would one substantiate ones position to continue the relationship with these liberation fronts while at the same time claiming the rightful use of the legal forum? The right to use the media, for example. How would then the newly formed Council pursue its responsibility to organize Kinijit inside Ethiopia with such flawed and contradictory position? The pretext for the regime to hunt them down is this connection with AFD whose financer and its initiator is EPLF. Why would one, unnecessarily, create a stumbling block right from the very beginning? It has to pull out itself from this an already dead front called AFD and remove this self imposed obstruction. Otherwise, KIC is, unintentionally sabotaging itself.        

Formidable tasks are waiting for the KI Council. What are the tasks: 1) from the outset, clarifying the legality of Kinijit. If my information is correct, Kinijit is no more legally acceptable by TPLF as is, because they have to reregister. 2) Moving up the second layer of the party force to the surface and activate it so that it would assume the leadership and continue the struggle. 3) Rebuild the structure of the organization, a structure that is competent enough to challenge Meles and his regime. It might take time.  4) establish a “frame work” for unconditional release of those jailed heroes and heroin, sons and daughters of Ethiopia. Here, it is absolutely critical to follow up the statement “unconditional release,” with action. Otherwise, it would be sending message of weakness for the enemy, which, by the way, Kinijit have been doing it repeatedly.  Avoid being paper tiger. Organizing civil disobedience comes to mind, for example. Allow me to cite an aggressive and very systematic move taken by Chinese in China just a couple of weeks ago. “Mobilized by CELLPHONE, thousands marched in Xiamen against construction of a chemical plant. The project was halted.” Washington Post, June 28, 2007. “In Ethiopia there is nothing that can be resolved as a result of external pressure.” Meles Zenawi. Go figure. 5) Define the obligations and responsibilities of the support groups and their loyalty to only the mother party not to be manoeuvred by egotistic groups or individuals. Democratic discipline, if you will, was consistently being ignored within the two contending groups. This lack of discipline among the contending groups, is, perhaps a reflection of the lack of organizational discipline within the mother organization, CUDP. Amazingly, the whole picture indicates how the merging (WUHIDET) brought together incompatible political organizations, hence incompatible individuals, hence the lack of democratic discipline. A situation that was vividly observable. Here, it is very important to note that the success of the election of May 15, 2005, was the efforts, efforts that took place long before the merging, of the individual parties that merged later. I wish they had continued moving forward separately, while at the same time using CUD as an umbrella origination merely for technical purposes. CUD could have been used as a tool, repeatedly, in every election, by the four parties to beat Meles and his regime, without committing the independence of each party.     

The bottom line is, this formidable task requires creativity, determination, decisiveness and of course an intensive material support. All these elements are essential to succeed against the regime in Ethiopia. Above all sacrifice. Consideration of death, torture, imprisonment, etc., should never be contemplated when deciding for civil disobedience for example. To be on the offensive side and become effective, decision and action should never be separated. They should go together. And never to propagate the action to be taken. First one has to be absolutely ready before announcing it.  Once announced it aught to be executed no matter what. The lack of determination was a vivid weakness of Kinijit.  The people are with the opposition forces and are ready to fight. What they need is leadership. A leadership that walks the talk. To expect the people to rise up by itself is a misguided trust and theory. Kinijit has to go to the people. How this Council residing in the United States of America is going to meet the challenge is up to it to devise. It is not in the culture of Ethiopian society to rise up spontaneously, a culture that aught to be changed. We have seen it happening a number of times. I have been advocating for this change of culture for a long time. Rebelliousness aught to be instilled and cultivated into the society of Ethiopia to come out from this submissiveness mode, in order to vigorously and spontaneously resist any mistreatment of any regime, current and future. The society has to be in a questioning and resisting mode. When the price of, kerosene, gas, house rent, electricity, telephone, water, and when all sorts of taxes, were raised, the community of Addis Ababa did not question, nor tried to resist and challenge the regime. This behavior has to change.  

Finally, the opportunity to reorganize in a very cohesive manner and move forward aggressively is here for Kinijit. In my opinion, a systematic and calculated aggressiveness is a prerequisite for a fruitful outcome, particularly in a political situation such as in Ethiopia. Therefore, it is very critical, and, an appropriate time for those seriously concerned and loyal servants of Ethiopia to line up behind the KIC immediately and make it effective. Since the whole process took place in consultation with the leaders in Ethiopia, there is no reason for hesitation. So, girdle up and line up.

Published in: on July 11, 2007 at 11:26 pm  Comments (41)