For Immediate Release – October 7, 2010 –Judge Birtukan Mideksa, prominent opposition leader and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience was released on October 6 by the government of Ethiopia after serving 21 months of a life sentence, six month of which was in solitary confinement. Michelle Kagari, Deputy Africa Director at Amnesty International stated, “Birtukan Mideksa was considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International…she was imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association.”
Advocacy for Ethiopia (AFE) congratulates Judge Birtukan Mideksa on her release from imprisonment and would also take this opportunity to congratulate all human rights defenders for their committed struggle to inform the global community of Judge Birtukan’s unlawful imprisonment. There is no doubt that the pressures exerted from all corners of the world on her behalf resulted in the release of Judge Birtukan Midekasa. It is to be remembered that in the last 2 years Meles Zenawi, the PM of Ethiopia had declared emphatically the issue of Judge Birtukan was a ‘dead, closed case’ and that she would never be set free. No matter how it is spun by the dictators the fact still remains Judge Birtukan’s release show us that the power of the people cannot always be contained by dictators, and that truth can prevail even in the heart of the abyss.
Judge Brtukan Mideksa’s release from 21 months of unlawful imprisonment is a glorious day for all freedom loving people. At the same time, we must never loose sight of why Judge Birtukan was imprisoned in the first place. The lack of freedom, democracy, and rule of law in Ethiopia is the reason Judge Birtukan missed 4 of the 6 years of her daughter’s life because she spent it in jail.
Even as we celebrate Judge Birtukan’s release,we must never, ever loose sight of the thousands of political prisoners languishing in prisons all over Ethiopia today. Human Rights Watch, in its October 7 statement stated, “…hundreds of other Ethiopians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained and sometimes subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. No independent domestic or international organizations have access to all of Ethiopia’s detention facilities, so it is impossible to determine the number of political prisoners.”
AFE, therefore urges all human rights defenders to continue to be the voice of the voiceless, and continue the struggle for freedom, democracy and the rule of law until every single prisoner of conscience is released from the dungeons of Meles Zenawi’s prisons.