Dear Senator Leahy:
On behalf of the Ethiopian Advocacy Network (EAN) we would like to express our utmost gratitude for your continued support for democratic governance, respect for rule of law and the promotion of human rights in Ethiopia.
Your steadfast support of issues of critical importance to Ethiopian-Americans the inclusion of language critical to the pursuit of human rights in Ethiopia into the Appropriations Bill for 2014, 2015 and your support for SR432 are, but, the latest in a long tradition of your legislative efforts to advocate for justice in Ethiopia. It also speaks to your deep understanding of the complexity of the problems plaguing the Horn of Africa.
We are writing this letter requesting your assistance in writing a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the application of Leahy Law in Ethiopia in light of the egregious human rights violations being committed by the security forces.
As you know, in the last nine months peaceful protests have erupted in many regions of Ethiopia – specifically in the Oromo and Amhara regions that account for 75% of the Ethiopian population. There have been a disturbing number of reports by Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch about the egregious human rights violations committed by security forces that have very well documented history of using excessive lethal force with impunity to stifle all forms of dissent.
According to a statement issued by Human Rights Watch on August 13, 2016, more than 500 demonstrators are now estimated to have been killed by security forces in largely peaceful protests since November 2015. 1 In fact, in one weekend as many as 100 unarmed protesters were killed by security forces.
On August 10, 2016 Zeid Raad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stating that “the use of live ammunition against protesters in Oromia and Amhara of course would be a very serious concern for us,”3 has called for an international investigation into the killings which the regime has promptly rejected. Such is the lawless nature of a regime that has a seat in the Security Council.
In 2006 Vicki Huddleston, the Charge d’ Affairs at the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa, announced the cancellation of future sales of Humvee military vehicles to Ethiopia because they were being misused to “disperse demonstrations.” 4 The Humvees were actually used to open fire on crowds of protesters.
Ten years later and after the signing of a new broad ranging security agreement that include equipment, training, advisory support, information sharing, and logistics support on March 31, 2016 5 it has come to our attention that guns and bullets supplied by the U.S. are being used to kill peaceful protesters.
We understand the strong high level relationship between the Pentagon and Ethiopian Defense Forces. But, it’s imperative for the U.S. to stop supplying tools of repression to the Ethiopian regime. In fact, we strongly believe that the mass killings of young peaceful protesters by the brutal security forces in Ethiopia should trigger the Leahy Law.
Over the years, the US has invoked the law to bar assistance to major allies like Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Colombia and it has been instrumental in preventing human rights violators from receiving American taxpayer-financed assistance.
Our efforts to highlight the egregious human rights violations in Ethiopia will benefit tremendously from your continued advocacy as a passionate voice for respect for human rights.
We hope that you will help us bring this issue to the forefront. It is through the consistent work of powerful and respected lawmakers such as yourself that we will be able to realize our dream of an Ethiopia with a robust democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Araya Amsalu, Ph.D.