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Ethiopia's Mengistu found guilty of genocide
Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:43 PM GMT145
By Tsegaye Tadesse
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) - Ethiopia's former ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam was found guilty in absentia of genocide on Tuesday at the end of a 12-year trial over his bloody rule.
Mengistu, who now lives in Zimbabwe, was accused with top members of his military government of killing thousands during a 17-year rule which began with the toppling of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 and included war, purges and famine.
"Members of the Derg (Mengistu's junta) who are present in court today and those who are being tried in absentia have conspired to destroy a political group and kill people with impunity," presiding Judge Medhen Kiros told the court.
The genocide verdict, which carries a death sentence, was passed by two votes to one on the three-judge panel.
Mengistu was ousted by guerrillas led by now Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and in 1991 fled to Zimbabwe, where he leads a luxurious though reclusive life.
He was tried in absentia in Addis Ababa with 73 others, including former Prime Minister Fikre Selassie Wogderesse and former Vice President Fissiha Desta.
Some 40 officials are in jail while 27 were tried in absentia. A few have died since proceedings began in 1992 and the trial formally started in 1994.
MENGISTU HAILE MARIAM
1937: Born in Walayitta
1974: Emperor Haile Selassie overthrown
1977-78: Thousands killed during Red Terror
1994: Genocide trial in Ethiopia begins
2006: Found guilty of genocide
In the 1977-78 "Red Terror" campaign, the most notorious purge, suspected opponents were executed by garrotting or shooting. Their bodies were then tossed into the streets.
Many Ethiopians hope the verdict, postponed from May, will close the door on one of the country's darkest periods.
"Mengistu sought to right the wrongs made by his feudal predecessors but in the end he committed far greater wrongs than they did," businessman Ephraim Zwede said.
STRANGLING THE EMPEROR
The most prominent victim Mengistu is accused of killing was Emperor Haile Selassie, said to have been strangled in bed and secretly buried under a latrine in his palace.
According to prosecution charges, the former officials also killed more than 1,000 people, including the execution of 60 top officials, ministers and royal family members by firing squad.
Zimbabwe oppo says time for Mengistu to go home
Witnesses have said family members who went to morgues to collect bodies of loved ones were asked to pay for bullets that killed them. Witness Gizaw Tefera said soldiers who killed his father cut his head off and offered it for auction at a market.
"No one wanted to buy my father's head," he said in 2000.
An Argentine forensic expert said some remains exhumed from mass graves showed victims were killed by garrotting.
"We found green nylon ropes knotted tight around their necks," forensic expert Mercedes Doreth said in 2002.
For months in 1984, Mengistu denied that famine was ravaging Ethiopia's north and aid workers have recalled how he flew in planeloads of whisky to celebrate the anniversary of his revolution. One million people starved to death.
Mengistu and his former officials face sentencing later in the month. They could be given the death penalty for genocide, which Ethiopian law defines as intent to wipe out political and not just ethnic groups.
Human rights groups expressed concern at the trial's length, but the prosecution says the complex nature of evidence, including signed execution orders, videos of torture sessions and personal testimonies, was what delayed the verdict.
Analysts say Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is unlikely to hand over Mengistu now he has been found guilty.
His army helped train Mugabe's guerrillas in their fight against white minority rule.
Check our news section for updates updated 24/7
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Classification: People are divided into "us and them". "The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend... divisions."
Symbolization: "When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups..." "To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden; as can hate speech".
Dehumanization "Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder." "Hate propaganda should be banned, hate crimes and atrocities should be promptly punished."
Organization "Genocide is always organized... Special army units or militias are often trained and armed..." "To combat this stage, membership in these militias should be outlawed."
Polarization "Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda..." "Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups..."
Identification "Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity..." "At this stage, a Genocide Alert must be called..."
Extermination "It is "extermination" to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human." "At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection."
Denial "The perpetrators... deny that they committed any crimes..." "The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts."