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Extrajudicial execution of youths must be investigated

Human Rights Watch Letter to Ethiopian Minister of Federal Affairs

Hon. Siraj Fegeta
Minister of Federal Affairs
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Via Facsimile

Human Rights Watch has received reports of the extrajudicial execution of four youths in Gondar on February 6 (January 29, Ethiopian calendar) by members of the federal police. We urge you to investigate the incident and use your powers to ensure that the perpetrators are fully and fairly prosecuted.

The victims are Berket Fantahu (or Fantahun), 17 and a student in the 11th grade; Abebe Wondem-Agegn, 18 and in the 10th grade; Sentayhu Workneh, 18 and in the 10th grade; and Dawit Tesfaye, 19 and in the 8th grade.

According to reliable sources, the four youths were playing near Sentayhu's house between 7 and 7:30 in the evening (1:00 to 1:30 Ethiopian time). Allegedly, a federal policeman named Alemu Dariba approached the youths and ordered them to raise their hands. He then marched them to a stream about thirty meters away, where they were forced to the ground. When on the ground, he shot them in the head, execution style. There are reports that he was not acting alone.

International human rights law requires that a government investigate allegations of serious human rights violations. According to the United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (1989), "[t]here shall be thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions.... A written report shall be made within a reasonable period of time on the methods and findings of such investigations. The report shall be made public immediately and shall include the scope of the inquiry, procedures and methods used to evaluate evidence as well as conclusions and recommendations based on findings of fact and on applicable law.... The Government shall, within a reasonable period of time, either reply to the report of the investigation, or indicate the steps to be taken in response to it."

Human Rights Watch understands that federal policeman Alemu Dariba was arrested shortly after the crime. It is not clear whether he has been charged or remains in detention. We ask that the investigation into the killings be promptly, vigorously and widely pursued and that all those implicated in the killings be fully and fairly prosecuted.

Ensuring that police officers are held fully accountable for any crimes that they commit is necessary for the development and maintenance of a professional police force. We would appreciate learning the results of your investigations.

Very truly yours,

Jemera Rome
East Africa Coordinator

Hon. Assefa Kesito, Minister of Justice
Gen. Workneh Gebeyehu, Commissioner of Federal Police
Ambassador Kassahun Ayele

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