« Ethiopia as a waste disposal اثيوبيا باعتبارها التخلص من النفايا&#157The Ethiopia - Norway Forced Repatriation in Prospect »

The Plight of Andualem Aragie and Other Political Prisoners in Ethiopia



  01:03:18 am, by admin   , 2392 words  
Categories: Ethiopia, Alemayehu G. Mariam

The Plight of Andualem Aragie and Other Political Prisoners in Ethiopia

The Plight of Andualem Aragie and Other Political Prisoners in Ethiopia

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

The “Gulag” prison system in the old Soviet Union was infamous for warehousing and persecuting dissidents and opponetns. The gulags were used effectively to weed out and neutralize opposition to the Soviet state. They were the quintessential tools of Soviet state terrorism. Some called them “meat-grinders” because of the extremely harsh and inhumane conditions. Torture, physical abuse by prison guards, solitary confinement, inadequate food rations and officially instigated inmate-on-inmate violence were the hallmarks of the gulags.

Ethiopia’s prison system today are reminiscent of the Soviet gulags in their abuse and mistreatment of political and other prisoners. Let the facts speak for themselves: In a recent column on two Swedish journalists arbitrarily held in one of the Ethiopian prisons near the capital, N.Y. Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristoff described the prison conditions as "filthy and overridden with lice, fleas and huge rats… a violent, disease-ridden place, with inmates fighting and coughing blood… 250 or so Ethiopian prisoners jammed in the cell protect the two [Swedish] journalists, pray for them and jokingly call their bed ‘the Swedish embassy".

The U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia (April 2011) documented:

…Human rights abuses reported during the year included unlawful killings, torture, beating, and abuse and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces, especially special police and local militias, which took aggressive or violent action with evident impunity in numerous instances; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of suspected sympathizers or members of opposition or insurgent groups; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention… Numerous reliable sources confirmed in April 2009 that in Maekelawi, the central police investigation headquarters in Addis Ababa, police investigators often used physical abuse to extract confessions.

In its 2010 World Report-Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded that

… torture and ill-treatment have been used by Ethiopia's police, military, and other members of the security forces to punish a spectrum of perceived dissenters, including university students, members of the political opposition, and alleged supporters of insurgent groups… Secret detention facilities and military barracks are most often used by Ethiopian security forces for such activities.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture (November 2010) validated HRW’s conclusions.

The Dewar Report on an Ethiopian Gulag

The regular and secret prisons maintained by the ruling regime in Ethiopia today are among the most inhumane, primitive, barbaric and sadistic in the world. In July 2008, the regime of dictator Meles Zenawi secretly commissioned retired British colonel Michael Dewars, an internationally recognized security expert, to undertake an assessment of the prison system and make recommendations. In his report, Col. Dewars expressed total horror and shock over what he witnessed in one of the prisons he visited in Addis Ababa. He recounted:

I asked to go into the compound where the prisoners are kept. This consisted of a long yard with a shed to one side which provided some sort of shelter. The compound had a wall around it and a watchtower for an armed sentry overlooking it. Inside must have been 70 – 80 inmates, all in a filthy state. There was insufficient room for all these people to lie down on a mat at once. There was no lighting. The place stank of faeces and urine. There appeared to be no water or sanitation facilities within the compound. There was a small hut in an adjacent compound for women prisoners but there had been no attempt by anybody to improve the circumstances of the place. The prisoners were mostly on remand for minor crimes, in particular theft. Some had been there for months….

Col. Dewars concluded:

Detention conditions of prisoners are a disgrace and make the Federal Police vulnerable to the Human Rights lobby…. The prison I saw was a disgrace. No one is recommending a Hilton Hotel, but, if any human rights organization were to get inside an Ethiopian jail, they would have enough ammunition to sink all our best efforts.

Col. Dewars

recommended that the Government should investigate this situation with the intention of improving the current appalling conditions inside Ethiopian prisons, which must brutalise prisoners and their goalers equally… and that senior Ethiopian Ministers and Police Officers visit the prison that I visited.

Over the past several years, I have written extensively on torture and mistreatment of political prisoners in Ethiopia. In my numerous columns on the incarceration of former judge Birtukan Midekssa, the first woman political party leader in Ethiopian history, and other political prisoners, I have pointed out the “soft torture” techniques used to crush her spirit and break her body. She was subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, visitation deprivation, daily humiliation and mindless interrogation. Birtukan faced untold suffering in prison. Zenawi could not bear the thought of Birtukan going free; and in a moment frustrated defiance declared: “There will never be an agreement with anybody to release Birtukan. Ever. Full stop. That's a dead issue.” In the end she prevailed and became free. Just last week in Washington, D.C., she presented her study on the challenges confronting the Ethiopian opposition and offered specific recommendations for strengthening multi-party democracy in Ethiopia as a Reagan-Fascell Fellow with the National Endowment for Democracy.

Andualem Aragie Inside the Belly of the Beast

Andualem Pix Zenawi has replaced Birtukan by another young Ethiopian leader, to be sure several dozens of young opposition leaders, journalists, activists and others. Last week, the former Ethiopian President and current leader of the Unity and Democracy Party (UDJ) Dr. Negasso Gidada reported that Andualem Aragie was severely beaten by a death-row-inmate-turned-lifer while confined in his cell. The facts of Andualem’s abuse are shocking. According to Dr. Negasso, Andualem was held in a "windowless cell for 14 people with a number of other political prisoners including Bekele Gerba, Olbana Lelisa and Tilahun Fantahun." About a month ago, a convicted murderer whose life sentence had been commuted to life in prison was allowed to join Andualem’s cell. This criminal savagely assaulted Andualem inflicting severe injuries to his head. He was reported to lost consciousness following the assault.The Voice of America reported that “Relatives who have seen Andualem say his head injury appears to have affected his ability to maintain his balance.”

This inmate is notorious for his assaultive behavior inside the prison. He has a long record of violence and abuse of inmates. He is known to receive special accommodations for being a prison enforcer for the authorities. Rumors are rife that prison authorities paid the criminal a substantial sum for beating Andiualem.

Prior to his arrest on bogus terrorism charges, Andualem was a rising leader in the UDJ and served as its spokesperson and external relations officer. Andualem is among a new breed of young Ethiopian political leaders, journalists and civil society advocates who are widely respected and accepted. In the months leading up to the May 2010 “election” in which Zenawi claimed a 99.6 percent victory, Andualem demonstrated his unflinching commitment to democracy and the rule of law. With breathtaking clarity of thought, razor-sharp intellect, incredible courage, mesmerizing eloquence, piercing logic, stinging wit, masterful command of the facts and steadfast adherence to the truth, Andualem made mincemeat out of Zenawi’s vacuous lackeys in several televised pre-“election” debates. It was a sight to behold.

In September 2011, Andualem and 23 other individuals were “accused under the anti-terrorism law of being members of a terrorist network and abetting, aiding and supporting a terrorist group.” Earlier this month, a group of independent United Nations human rights experts (U.N. Special Rapporteurs) condemned the so-called anti-terrorism law and diplomatically cautioned that “the anti-terrorism provisions should not be abused and need to be clearly defined in Ethiopian criminal law to ensure that they do not go counter to internationally guaranteed human rights.” Andualem and the others are expected to have their day in kangaroo court on March 5.

Torture, Abuse and Plausible Deniability

Plausible deniability is the ability to deny a fact or allegation, or previous knowledge of a fact by shifting blame on someone else. In Andualem’s case, plausible deniability allows Zenawi’s regime to deny any awareness or knowledge of a criminal or criminally negligent act by its officials or unofficial agents in the prison. By allowing a notoriously violent criminal to assault Andualem, they aim to plausibly avoid responsibility. In other words, they have sought to remove their fingerprints, handprints, palmprints and footprints from the cowardly criminal act perpetrated on Andualem. But their MO (modus operandi) is well known. Whether they acted through their goons uniformed as prison guards or their deputized convicted thugs, they are exclusively responsible for the safety of all pretrial detainees like Andualem. Regardless of how one looks at it, what happened to Andualem, and has happened to other political prisoners countless times, represents a clear case of extrajudicial punishment (torture) in violation of Ethiopia’s Constitution and international human rights conventions.

Speaking of Constitutional and International Law…

The Ethiopian Constitution provides specific safeguards for the safety and protection of pre-trial detainees awaiting trial. Article 16 guarantees that “Everyone has the right to protection against bodily harm..” Andualem has the constitutional right to be secure from violence while awaiting trial. Article 110 of the Ethiopian Criminal Code (Proclamation No.414/2004) specifically requires that “prisoners who are sentenced to rigorous imprisonment or special confinement shall be kept separate from prisoners who are serving a sentence of simple imprisonment or awaiting judgment.” The criminal thug who assaulted Andualem should have never been allowed in the area reserved for pre-trial detanees. Article 18 provides, “Everyone has the right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The savage beating of Andualem in plain sight of prison guards constitutes “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Article 20 provides that, “During proceedings accused persons have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law…” Since Andualem has not been found guilty “according to law”, he is innocent of the charges and should have been accorded his rights consistent with that presumption. Article 21 guarantees that “All persons held in custody and persons imprisoned upon conviction and sentencing have the right to treatments respecting their human dignity.”

International law protects all prisoners, and particularly political prisoners, from inhumane and barbaric treatment. Under Article 13 of the Ethiopian Constitution, the “fundamental rights and freedoms enumerated… shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR], international human rights covenants and conventions ratified by Ethiopia.” Article 5 of the UDHR (incorporated by express reference in Art. 13 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) prescribes that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (ratified by Ethiopia on June 11, 1993 and similarly incorporated) provides that “all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

The U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (1988) (Principle 8) specifically provides: “Persons in detention shall be subject to treatment appropriate to their unconvicted status. Accordingly, they shall, whenever possible, be kept separate from imprisoned persons.” Article 1 of the Declaration Against Torture (1975) defines torture as “… any act by which severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by, or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as …punishing him for an act he has committed; or intimidating him or other persons…” Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (acceded to by Ethiopia on April 13, 1994) mandates that signatories “shall undertake to prevent… acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…” Article 5 of the African [Banjul] Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ratified by Ethiopia on June 15, 1998) prohibits, “all forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly… torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment.” The U.N. Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (1990) provide that “all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Covenants. Articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court include torture as a crime against humanity and a war crime.

I write about the law on the protection of the rights of political prisoners to set the record; for I know that preaching the law to outlaws is like pouring water over granite.

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned…

In August 2009, I spoke at a town hall meeting organized by “Gasha for Ethiopia”, a civic organization, on the importance of remembering Ethiopian political prisoners:

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” said Dr. Martin Luther King… Nothing is more important and uplifting to political prisoners than knowledge of the fact that they are not forgotten, abandoned and forsaken by the outside world. Remembrance gatherings at town hall meetings such as this one serve to remind all of us who live in freedom the divine blessings of liberty and the unimaginable suffering of those trapped in the darkness of dictatorship.

Andualem Aragie and countless political prisoners in Ethiopia reamin trapped in the darkness of dictatorship. They have been beaten down and brought to their knees. We cannot hear their whimpers of pain and desperation. Few, other than their tormentors, will be able to see their mangled bodies. Because they have no voice, we must be their voices and speak on their behalf. Because they are walled in behind filthy and subhuman prison institutions, we must unflaggingly remind the world of their suffering. We must all labor for the cause of Ethiopian political prisoners not because it is easy or fashionable, but because it is ethical, honorable, right and just. In the end, what will make the difference for the future of Ethiopia is not the brutality, barbarity, bestiality and inhumanity of its corrupt dictators, but the humanity, dignity, adaptability, audacity, empathy and compassion of decent Ethiopians for their wrongfully imprisoned compatriots. That is why we must join hands and work tirelessly to free all political prisoners held in Ethiopia’s public and secret gulags. “Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.”

Uncage Andualem Aragie and All Political Prisoners in Ethiopia!

Previous commentaries by the author are available at: and


Comment from: The Nation [Visitor]
The Nation

it is sad

02/27/12 @ 02:36
Comment from: TEDDY [Visitor]

Wonder what the hell are doing all these so called Western Diplomatic Corps dealing with this evil blood
sucker Tyrant .Days and nights their
leaders are crying on the Human Rights violation in Syria and the on
the Iranian Nuclear Bomb while eyes
wide shut let all these despots loot ,kill ,jail ,slaughter their own peoples .I know TPLF Thugs and Shabyan Ass Holes as Adgi ,Jil Jehnu
and Agasses shall once again barking
that the crimes comitted by their leba master ,their SS Agazis and looter Tigre Mafiosis as only Ethiopia Internal Affairs and Sovereignty that no one can interfere.As prof Al has mentioned
in Dr Luther Kings speech the day that the TPLF bandits era shall finally ended up ;we will soon refresh the memories of all these guys concerning their evil actions against the Ethiopian peoples for the sake of a Tyrant .

02/27/12 @ 05:04
Comment from: chala [Visitor]

Prison in America is match worest . Once u r in u Wl come out like a cheek. As they rape every one. When I see your face u looks like u spend some time there.

02/27/12 @ 05:51
Comment from: bendo [Visitor]

You are a second in command in Ethiopian Review.. that means you are shabia that means you lost some money with Gadaffy is now dead.

Here you support Shabia who prison and kill every one.
in another face you are telling us American low for prison is as good as you get.
let me ask you what American in Iraq and Afghanistan and a prison in us full of Black with so money abuses.

So don’t tell me that the gov. have to put extra police for him to protect him as he is not shout his mouth from insulting others inside a prison.

02/27/12 @ 09:09
Comment from: heny [Visitor]

Zim bel ante wirgat. Be honest and tell us what is going on within your own self. It is you who is in plight, not Andualem. Andualem is a courageous terrorist who openly declared war on Ethiopia and its leaders and govrnemnt. He is a courageous terrorist. He knows what he did and is waiting for his conviction. You see your millions of trash articles will not save a chick let alone this terrorist.

02/27/12 @ 09:46
Comment from: ejole bishoftu [Visitor]
ejole bishoftu

Weyanes will pay the price some day!!!All people who are behind this attack including supporters of this evil act are worthless!!!

02/27/12 @ 10:37
Comment from: gemeda [Visitor]

what a low life an i.Q less than a chicken. American prisons are not like that. I guss you were in prison at once and beg for it and they gave it to you. That is not a rape, it will be called consensual sex.

02/27/12 @ 12:12
Comment from: RASTA HENOKC [Visitor]


Prisons in America are better than homes in Ethiopia.
Prisoners get fed three times a day in prisons in America while even middle class families in Ethiopia are eating two or less times a day in Ethiopia.

02/27/12 @ 14:20
Comment from: emunate [Visitor]

certainly no one like to see our brothers and sisters langushing in an appalling prison condition. prisons in addis or anywhere else in the country are created by design in such away to discourage criminal activities. But if one decides to for go the rule of law and decent into criminality wither its pitty or political they are going to end up in prison where the environment is not friendly by any streach of standard. To avoid such ill treatment, dont fight against your people.

02/27/12 @ 14:28
Comment from: [Member]

gemeda,..gemed aff leba,.LOL!

What is a chicken IQ anyway?

02/27/12 @ 15:24
Comment from: TEDDY [Visitor]

Hey Bendo (bandaw)by the way you idiot banda really know who did finance ,arm your leba master with his shabyan twin bros to destroy the
unity and sovereignty of Ethiopia .
The despot Muhamar Gadaffi himself .
Who gave political support on May 1991 ,who covered the crimes comitted
by your leba master and who advocated
the fake result of the 2005 election
imposed by your leba master against the wills of the Ethiopian Peoples .
The Americans !!!Better you go back
to school and learn your own history
full of crimes and treason .IGNORANT LEKAMI BANDA !!!!!!By the way Hyena
the only terrorists ever known in the
country are your own leba master ,his
evil wife along the Tigre Mafiosis and the SS Agazis plus their kersam
bandas surviving on the suffering of
the Ethiopian Peoples whom they loot

02/27/12 @ 19:07
Comment from: Gemeda [Visitor]

Addis zemen
A chicken I.Q is synonymous with a person who don’t use logic, very tribal, always look for his selfish interest. And always attack the boggeyman not the real one. chala instead of evaluating the writer assertion, he talk about his own rape

02/27/12 @ 21:56
Comment from: [Member]


you’ve to tell us what IQ stands for, as an abrivation, and tell us how that can relate with chicken.

02/27/12 @ 23:13
Comment from: john john [Visitor]
john john

Sound good argument if this prison in Ethiopia is so bad as you describe it would have have been shut down like ALAKATRZE and GUTANAMO by International community out cry.

02/28/12 @ 00:07
Comment from: teshome [Visitor]

“Birds of a feather flock together.”
The washington losers are crying day and night for foregin and demostic terrorists.
The ethiopian prison is much better than alemye’s appartment.
I like every one knows that, any time I write a comment about Alemayhu pig, is not posting it. What a shame!

02/28/12 @ 05:13
Comment from: Gmeda [Visitor]

An intelligence quotient, or IQ, is a score derived from one of several different standardized tests designed to assess intelligence. And if you test a chicken intelligence it will be always 0000, like some people who are very tribal in nature in this blog. Chala and co. can be a good example

02/28/12 @ 11:51
Comment from: Gemeda [Visitor]

Addis Zemen
An intelligence quotient, or IQ, is a score derived from one of several different standardized tests designed to assess intelligence. And if you test a chicken intelligence it will be always 0000, like some people who are very tribal in nature in this blog. Chala and co. can be a good example

02/28/12 @ 11:54
Comment from: Tulu Proud ET [Visitor]
Tulu Proud ET

Meles Satanawi will be held responsible for every mistreatment and mismanagement in Ethiopia.

We will not forget what he has done to our innocent people. Meles hates Ethiopia and all Ethiopians and he is blatantly showing it.

All the abuse Mr. Andualem received is a well orchestrated and deliberate plan of EPRDF and Meles. It is to create his old evil tactic, dividing Amaras and Oromos.

Well Meles, Satanawi, I have news for you. Your division no longer works. We are tired of your evil ideas. You are the only problem in Ethiopia. Ethiopians are united and against you the devil!!!!!!

Meles Satanawi, We will throw you the scumbag.

02/29/12 @ 17:07
Comment from: Observer [Visitor]


Didnt you change your name when you came out of the US prison recently after taking one where the sun dont shines? Didn’t you name used to be chara, metfo chegaram.

Addis Zemen,

I think you and Chara are sodemized and that is why you think with your ass instead of you head. Take your head out of your ass loosers.


03/01/12 @ 18:25



The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of The views are solely that of the author. Become a blogger of, the #1 Rated Ethiopian Website according to Alexa. Contact us for details


  XML Feeds

powered by open-source CMS software