Scholars at Risk ‘Gravely Concerned’ About University Lecturers Arrested in Ethiopia

Professor Zelalem Kibret of Ambo University is among the bloggers arrested last week. (File Photograph)

Scholars at Risk

May 6th, 2014

Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about reports that Professor Zelalem Kibret, lecturer of law at Ambo University, and Befikadu Hailu, former lecturer and current staff member at St. Mary’s University College, were arrested and detained last week. SAR calls for letters, faxes and emails respectfully urging authorities to investigate the situation, to secure the scholars’ immediate release or, pending their release, to explain publicly the circumstances of Professor Kibret’s and Mr. Hailu’s arrest and on-going detention.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of over 330 universities and colleges in 35 countries dedicated to protecting the human rights of scholars around the world and to raising awareness, understanding of, and respect for the principles of academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of expression, opinion, thought, association and travel. In cases like this, involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, Scholars at Risk investigates hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.

Scholars at Risk understands that, on April 25-26, 2014, police took into custody six alleged members of bloggers’ group “Zone9 forum”, including scholars Professor Kibret and Mr. Hailu. Reports indicate that Professor Kibret was arrested while on campus at Ambo University. They also indicate that police searched the offices and homes of the scholars and bloggers, and that they seized computers and literature. It is believed that the arrests are a reaction to the bloggers’ announcement, on April 23, that they would resume publishing after seven months of inactivity. Professor Kibret, Mr. Hailu and the bloggers are reportedly charged with inciting violence through social media and creating instability in the country. SAR understands that the detainees are being held incommunicado at Makelawi prison and that family members have not been permitted to visit.

Absent any additional information which may explain these events or clarify our understandings, the facts as described suggest that Professor Kibret and Mr. Hailu were arrested as a result of nonviolent expressive activity, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ethiopia is party. This raises not only serious concerns for the detainees’ well being, but for the ability of intellectuals generally in Ethiopia to exercise their right to free expression.

Scholars at Risk therefore respectfully urges appropriate authorities to investigate the situation and to secure the scholars’ immediate release or, pending their release, to explain publicly the circumstances of Professor Kibret’s and Mr. Hailu’s arrest and on-going detention, including any charges against them and the basis for such charges; to ensure that their cases proceed in a manner consistent with Ethiopia’s obligations under international law, in particular internationally recognized standards of due process, fair trial, free expression and freedom of association; and to ensure their well being in custody, including disclosure of their current location and access to counsel and family.

Scholars at Risk invites letters, emails and faxes be sent to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn:

- respectfully urging the appropriate authorities to investigate the situation and to secure the scholars’ immediate release or, pending their release, to explain publicly the circumstances of Professor Kibret’s and Mr. Hailu’s arrest and on-going detention, including any charges against them and the basis for such charges;

- respectfully urging the appropriate authorities to ensure that these scholars’ cases proceed in a manner consistent with Ethiopia’s obligations under international law, in particular internationally recognized standards of due process, fair trial, free expression and freedom of association; and

- respectfully urging the appropriate authorities to ensure their well being in custody, including disclosure of their current location and access to counsel and family.


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Related:
UN human rights chief condemns crackdown on journalists in Ethiopia (UN News Center)
Global Voices Calls for the Release of Nine Journalists in Ethiopia (TADIAS)
Jailed Zone Nine Bloggers Spark Ethiopia Trend on Social Media (BBC)
Ethiopian Government Charges Journalists With Inciting Public Violence (VOA News)
Nine journalists and bloggers arrested in Ethiopia ahead of Kerry visit (The Guardian)
Six Members of Zone Nine Blogging Collective Arrested in Ethiopia (TADIAS)

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