Information we have obtained in the past few days regarding Birtukan's physical and mental health
have concerned us in the extreme. Birtukan's situation has been steadily
getting worse since she was released from solitary confinement, where she spent more than six months. However, the following recent events have heightened our concern. An appeal was launched on March 23rd 2010.
Birtukan's mother, Mrs. Almaz Gebregziabher, visited Birtukan on March 20, 2010. During
the visit, Birtukan asked Mrs. Gebregziabher to
petition for medical
care on her behalf since prison administrators
have refused her request to see a physician. Mrs. Gebregziabher reported on March 21, 2010 that
Birtukan was whisked out of the visitation room by security officers as soon as she made her plea for medical care.
Birtukan's sister has now been permanently banned from visiting Birtukan.
This was a deliberate action by
the government to prevent
any leakage of
information. Birtukan's sister is better able to communicate
with Birtukan than the only other person who is allowed
to visit her; the
ailing 76 year old mother, Mrs. Gebregziabher.
The government controlled media seems to be engaged in a preemptive propaganda aimed at talking-up Birtukan's health in
prison. The Prime minister himself responded to a pre-arranged question that singled out Birtukan's health above all other political questions surrounding
The 2009 report on
Human Rights in Ethiopia by the US state department,
released March 11, 2010 warned
that "There were
credible reports that
Birtukan's mental health
during the year."
Click here to read the full report.
Birtukan Mideksa is in need of urgent medical care
and that she continues
to be at a high risk
of abuse by the authorities. The Ethiopian government has so far refused repeated requests for visits by medical professionals.
ACTION NOW !
Please demand Birtukan Mideksa receive urgent medical care. Click
here to find your representatives.
The Free Birtukan organization
will soon post campaign and lobby materials
on this web site.
A biography : Woizero Birtukan Mideksa, 35, is a lawyer coming from the Oromo community,
developed as a distinct political and ethnic group some time in the 16th
century in southern Ethiopia. Young, educated and charismatic, she is a single mother and
responsible for her frail mother. Before turning into full time politics, she came to national attention in 2002 when she
served briefly as a Supreme Court judge made headlines over a crucial
court case involving the prime minister as a plaintiff and his political
opponent, former Defense Minister Siye Abraha, as a
defendant. An example of her judicial integrity is the following. Judge Birtukan
set Siye (a former government official) free,
ruling there was no evidence to keep the defendant in jail over alleged
corruption charges. Meles dispatched his security men to the court,
reversed the ruling, and sent the former TPLF official back to
had accused Meles of treason as an Eritrean
agent who foiled Ethiopia s counter-offensive against Eritrean invasion
in the previous war.Her
verdict on the case and feminist activism brought her into the lime light.
She was elected as the first Vice president
of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD),
and was arrested among hundreds of people detained after demonstrations in the capital, Addis
Ababa, on 1 and 2 November,
in protest at the contested results of the parliamentary election which took place on 15 May.
CUD members won seats in parliament as well as
other electoral positions in May 2005. However, the results of the
election, in which the ruling party retained control, were disputed.
Election monitors reported vote-rigging and the CUD reported harassment
and intimidation of its members. Protesters demonstrating against the
results were fired on by government forces and at least 187 people were
killed. Thousands were then arrested, including scores of opposition
parliamentarians, opposition party leaders, journalists and human rights
Birtukan Mideksa was among those arrested and adopted by
Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. In 2006 she was
charged with treason, alongside other CUD leaders, parliamentarians,
journalists and human rights defenders.
July 16th, 2007 Ethiopia's high Court sentenced Bertukan Mideksa and other CUD
opposition leaders to life imprisonment for inciting rebellion, after the prosecution had asked for the death penalty.Prosecutors had requested the death penalty
for 38 of the defendants, who
were among scores put
on trial on charges of inciting the violence following the disputed polls which the ruling party won but the opposition claims were rigged.The opposition
leaders had refused
to recognize the court and did
not enter a plea, saying
the trial was political.
Birtukan Mideksa was released along with 37 otherson July 20th after being granted a full pardon by Ethiopian President after the opposition leaders could
have signed a letter admitting “mistakes committed both individually and collectively”.
The exact terms of negotiations, led by local
elders, and conditions of pardon remain unclear.
Birtukan Mideksa became the leader of the Unity
for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party, one of several parties that split
off from the former
Coalition for Unity and Democracy
In November 2008, Burtukan Mideksa spoke at a public meeting in Sweden about the
process leading to her release. Ethiopian government officials responded
by accusing her of denying that she had asked for a pardon, and shortly
afterwards, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement revoking her
pardon and reimposing her original life
Birtukan Mideksa was rearrested on 28 December and has been
held without charge since then, in solitary confinement in Kaliti Prison outside Addis Ababa, in a cell
measuring 2m square. She has been on a hunger strike, drinking liquids
only, in protest at her detention. Her immediate family
have been allowed to visit her, but she has had no access to legal
representation or medical treatment.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please
send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own
- calling on the authorities to release Birtukan
Mideksa immediately and unconditionally ;
- expressing concern that she must receive urgent medical care.
- expressing concern that she is a prisoner of conscience, detained
solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression
- urging the authorities to give her access to legal representation of
her own choosing and any medical assistance she may require, particularly
in the light of her hunger strike.
PO Box 1370
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 5517775
+251 11 5520874
Salutation: Dear Minister
Dr Kassa Gebreheywot
Ethiopian Human Rights Commission
PO Box 1165
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 2511 1618 0041
ACTION NOW !