By Prof. Al Mariam,
This is exactly what apartheid white minority use of “anti-terrorism law” to terrorize black South Africans. The first indisputable fact is the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is itself a certified terrorist organization officially listed in the Global Terrorism Database.
So there is no question whatsoever that the TPLF is a terrorist organization clinging to power in Ethiopia!
How can a certified terrorist organization use “anti-terrorism law” to go after others it calls “terrorists”? (That is the million dollar question!)
The whole “terrorism” thing was a god-send for TPLF thugmaster Meles Zenawi in the mid-2000s. “Terrorism” in the Horn of Africa was both Meles’ get-out-of-jail-card for his crimes against humanity and a welfare card to get maximum handouts from the United States.
Like the apartheid regime which raised the specter of terrorism crossing into South Africa from neighboring countries before enacting the Terrorism Act in 1967, Meles also invoked jihadists terrorism in Somalia as a pretext for his anti-terrorism measures.
In a November 2006 in commentary entitled “The Jihadists are Coming”, I argued Meles was using the Somali “terrorism” thing to divert attention from his own crimes against humanity, particularly the massacres he personally authorized in the post-2005 election period in Ethiopia. I opposed Meles’ War in Somalia in the name of fighting terrorism while he is conducting terrorism of his own in Ethiopia:
“The problem is the Ethiopian people cannot fight two wars at once: defend themselves in a political war declared on them by Zenawi and his regime, and mount an attack on a distant and invisible enemy rattling sabers somewhere in the “failed state” of Somalia.”
In December 2006, Meles invaded Somalia to prop up the so-called transitional government in Baidoa. Meles justified his invasion of Somalia as an act of pre-emptive self-defense:
“Ethiopian defense forces were forced to enter into war to protect the sovereignty of the nation. We are not trying to set up a government for Somalia, nor do we have an intention to meddle in Somalia’s internal affairs.”
In 2008, I debunked Meles’ justifications for prosecuting a proxy war for the U.S. in Somalia. But Meles continued his slick public relations offensive that without him the plague of global terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism will consume the Horn of Africa. Meles and his TPLF terrorized the Somali people and committed against them unspeakable crimes against humanity as documented in the Human Rights Watch report, “So Much to Fear’: War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia”. Meles’ proxy war in Somalia failed in its objective of crushing terrorism and by 2009 TPLF troops were withdrawn.
By 2009, Meles and TPLF had invented a terrorist threat in Ethiopia. Anyone who criticized, opposed, openly disagreed or dissented with Meles and the TPLF was branded “TERRORIST”!
The TPLF has used a diktat (a personal order of the late TPLF thugmaster Meles Zenawi) known as “Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009” to invent terrorists and fabricate terrorism. That diktat was approved on a 286-91 vote in the TPLF rubber stamp parliament. The diktat was so repressive on its face that Human Rights Watch in 2009 criticized the draft as a “new and potent tool for suppressing political opposition and independent criticism of government policy.”
The TPLF has used its “Proclamation” to muzzle the press, shutter independent newspapers, suppress dissent and neutralize opposition leaders and parties over the past seven years. Hundreds of TPLF opponents have been openly charged and convicted while tens of thousands have been secretly arrested and left to rot in TPLF jails.
Terrorism by Facebook
Yonatan Tesfaye is a spokesperson for Blue Party in Ethiopia. The 29-year old is the latest victim of TPLF’s “anti-terrorism” Proclamation.
Last week the TPLF charged Yonatan with multiple counts of terrorism. His alleged crime is he used Facebook to incite violence, disrupt the social, economic and political stability of the country, criticized the EPRDF (the shell front organization of the TPLF).
Among the specific terrorist allegations against Yonatan include the following statements he posted on his Facebook page:
Our Muslim citizens are complaining that they have been deprived of their houses of worship. They are crying out, “Let our voices be heard.”
Our Oromo citizens are complaining about land grabs in their areas. They are saying “We do not want the [Addis Ababa] Master Plan.”
Amhara people are saying ‘Because of those practicing ethnic division, they are being displaced. Where can they go if they can’t live in their own country?’”
The people of Gambella are being uprooted from their land. They are saying, “We do not want to be villagized.
[Ethiopian] in Tigray, Afar, Wello, Harargie and Somali regions are dying from famine. They are saying “Give us bread (injera).”
Young [Ethiopians] are perishing in the deserts and seas. Terrorists are beheading them. They are saying “Don’t kill me. Let me live for my poor mother country.”
Ethiopians have their rights trampled, humiliated, disappeared and exiled. They are suffering oppression. They are saying “We have had enough”.
Two weeks ago, the TPLF filed bogus terrorism charges against Bekele Gerba and 21 others.
TPLF Monkey See, Monkey Do “Anti-Terrorism” Law
Meles claimed his anti-terrorism diktat was not only the best in the world but also “flawless”. Yes, he used the word “flawless” to describe his diktat!
Meles was the consummate charlatan and a phrase-monger. He was shockingly clueless about the law.
Meles believed by wholesale plagiarism, cherry picking words, phrases, sentences and clauses from the “anti-terrorism” laws of different countries, he could craft a “flawless” one for himself.
In January 2012, Meles offered the following description (video of Meles’ statement to “parliament in Amharic, translation below) of his “flawless” anti-terrorism law:
In drafting our anti-terrorism law, we copied word-for-word the very best anti-terrorism laws in the world. We took from America, England and the European model anti-terrorism laws. It is from these three sources that we have drafted our anti-terrorism law. From these, we have chooses the better ones. For instance, in all of these laws, an organization is deemed to be terrorist by the executive branch. We improved it by saying it is not good for the executive to make that determination. We took the definition of terrorism word-by-word. Not one word was changed. Not even a comma. It is taken word-by-word. There is a reason why we took it word-by-word. First, these people have experience in democratic governance. Because they have experience, there is no shame if we learn or take from them. Learning from a good teacher is useful not harmful. Nothing embarrassing about it. The [anti-terrorism] proclamation in every respect is flawless. It is better than the best anti-terrorism laws [in the world] but not less than any one of them in any way…
When I heard Meles saying these words on video, I was not sure if I should laugh or cry.
I knew Meles’ “tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile”, to borrow from Shakespeare, but I was not prepared to see him give a video testament of his total and abysmal ignorance of the law.
Then I thought of Goethe’s maxim: “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” Meles and TPLF are the apotheosis of ignorance in action.
At the time, I tried to tutor Meles that though imitation may best the highest form of flattery, to boldly claim that a mindlessly patched diktat as “flawless” is just mindless. I tried to explain to him on his level that his cut-and-paste anti-terrorism law could be likened to an imaginary biological creature:
One cannot create a lion by piecing together the sturdy long neck of the giraffe with the strong jaws of a hyena, the fast limbs of the cheetah and the massive trunk of the elephant. The king of the jungle is an altogether different beast. In the same vein, one cannot clone pieces of anti-terrorism laws from everywhere onto a diktat and sanctify it as “flawless in every respect”.
The fact of the matter is that the laws Meles scarfed his “flawless” anti-terrorism law are as flawless as piece of industrial diamond.
I gave copy cat Meles and his TPLF minions a lecture on the subject, but I doubt they understood a word I wrote!
Where in America, the U.K. or Europe has anyone ever been arrested and prosecuted for posting words on Facebook? Where?!
“Flawless” anti-terrorism law, my foot!
Of course, Meles did not “copy word-for-word the very best anti-terrorism laws in the world”. Meles did not take the “very best” from America, England and Europe. Meles took the absolute worst from apartheid South Africa’s 1967 Terrorism Law.
TPLF Terrorism by “Anti-terrorism Law”
Like the apartheid 1967 Terrorism Act, the TPLF anti-terrorism Proclamation under section (3) classifies as “terrorist” anyone or “group intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause [seeks] to destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional or, economic or social institutions of the country” and “causes damage to public property, natural resource, environment… [or] disrupts public service.”
In section (5), the TPLF law condemns as “terrorist” anyone who “provides a skill, expertise or moral support or gives advice… makes available any property in any manner… monetary, financial or other related services … provides any training or instruction or directive”. Section (6) criminalizes as a terrorist act publication of “a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public as a direct or indirect encouragement… of an act of terrorism…” Section (7) criminalizes the “recruitment” of any person “for the purpose of a terrorist organization or committing a terrorist act.”
Like the apartheid 1967 Terrorism Act, the TPLF anti-terrorism Proclamation authorizes warrantless searches and seizure. Section (14) allows warrantless “interception and surveillance on the telephone, fax, radio, internet, electronic, postal and similar communications of a person suspected of terrorism”, “enter into any premise in secret to enforce the interception” or “install or remove instruments enabling the interception.” It further allows any “police officer who has reasonable suspicion that a terrorist act may be committed and deems it necessary to make a sudden search…, stop vehicle and pedestrian in an area and conduct sudden search at any time, and seize relevant evidences.”
Section (19) of the TPLF Proclamation authorizes any police officer to “arrest without court warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects of terrorism.” Section (20) allows the court to grant endless continuances and postponements so that the police/prosecutor “for sufficient period to complete the investigation.” Section (23) allows the admission of unverified intelligence reports, hearsay or indirect surveillance evidence including those gathered by “foreign law enforcement bodies” and “confessions of suspects, including coerced confessions. Section (25) authorizes the “House of Peoples’ Representatives” the power to list and de-list an organization as terrorist organization. Section (37) allows the “Council of Ministers” to issue “regulations necessary for the implementation of this Proclamation.” (In other words, Tweedle Dee makes regulation for Tweedle Dum.)
Application of the TPLF “Anti-terrorism Law”
Proclamation No. 652/2009 in nearly identical ways to the apartheid Terrorism Act is replete with ambiguous, vague and overbroad language. Under the sweeping provisions of the Proclamation, any act, speech, statement, and even thought, could be punished. Anyone the TPLF prosecutor/police believe or make-believe is engaged in “advancing a political, religious or ideological cause” and intending to “influence the government”, “intimidate the public”, “destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social institutions of the country” could be condemned to long imprisonment or suffer the death penalty. That was precisely what the apartheid Terrorism act did. The apartheid police and prosecutors could charge anyone they wanted without so much as a scintilla of evidence of wrongdoing.
Making or publishing statements “likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts” is a punishable offense. Anyone alleged to have provided “moral support or advice” or has had any contact with an individual accused of a terrorist act is presumed to be a terrorist supporter. That was exactly how the apartheid regime used the Terrorism Act to sweep up suspected anti-apartheid activists in the urban areas.
Under the TPLF Proclamation, anyone who “writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, disseminates, shows, makes to be heard any promotional statements encouraging, supporting or advancing terrorist acts” is deemed a “terrorist”. Peaceful protesters who carry banners critical of the regime could be charged for “promotional statements encouraging” terrorist acts. Anyone who “disrupts any public service” is considered a “terrorist” (Section 3); and workers who may legitimately grieve working conditions by work stoppages could be charged with “terrorism” for disruption. That was exactly what the apartheid regime did with its Terrorism Act to arrest peaceful protesters, students, labor union activists, journalists and other dissidents.
Under the TPLF Proclamation, a person who “fails to immediately inform or give information or evidence to the police” on a neighbor, co-worker or others s/he may suspect of “terrorism” could face up to 10 years for failure to report. Two or more persons who have contact with a “terror” suspect could be charged with conspiracy to commit “terrorism”. That was exactly what the apartheid regime did with its Terrorism Act charging family members, neighbors, friends and acquaintances of suspected terrorists.
The procedural due process rights (fair trial) of suspects and the accused guaranteed under the TPLF constitution and international human rights conventions are ignored, evaded, overlooked and disregarded by the “law”. “The police may arrest without court warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects to have committed or is committing a terrorism” and hold that person in incommunicado detention. The police can engage in random and “sudden search and seizure” of the person, place or personal effects of anyone suspected of “terrorism”. The police can “intercept, install or conduct surveillance on the telephone, fax, radio, internet, electronic, postal, and similar communications” of a person suspected of terrorism. The police can order “any government institution, official, bank, or a private organization or an individual” to turn over documents, evidence and information on a “terror” suspect. Section 6 of the apartheid terrorism Act gave complete power to the police to search and seize persons and evidence at any time and in any place from anyone suspected of terrorism.
A “terror” suspect can be held in custody without charge for up to “28 days” with unlimited renewals. Any “evidence” presented by the regime’s prosecutor against a “terror” suspect in “court” is admissible, including “confessions” (extracted by torture), “hearsay”, “indirect, digital and electronic evidences” and “intelligence reports even if the report does not disclose the source or the method it was gathered (including evidence obtained by torture). The “law” presumes the “terror” suspect to be guilty and puts the burden of proof on the suspect/defendant in violation of the universal principle that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Under the apartheid Terrorism Act, a terrorism suspect could be held on a warrantless detention for 180 days (renewable by order of police and prosecutorial authorities). Any evidence including involuntary confessions and hearsay could be used in court as evidence. Like the apartheid Terrorism Act, the TPLF Proclamation bars habeas review or pretrial judicial intervention even to adjudicate detainee allegations of abuse and torture.
In apartheid South Africa and apartheid Ethiopia, terrorism suspects got kangaroo (monkey) court trials.
Today, TPLF prisons are full of opposition leaders, journalists, activists and dissidents falsely charged and/or convicted as “terrorists.” Among the thousands of people falsely accused of terrorism include Eskinder Nega, Bekele Gerba, Ahmedin Jebel, Woubshet Taye, Temesgen Desalegn, Andualem Aragie, Andargachew Tsgie, Emawayish Alemu, Deldessa Waqo Jarso, Akello Akoy Uchula, Zone 9 bloggers, Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye.
For a partial list of hundreds of TPLF political prisoners held under the Proclamation, click HERE
For an additional list, click HERE.
Victims of TPLF “Anti-terrorism Law”
The TPLF “anti-terrorism” diktat from its inception was intended to muzzle journalists from criticizing, youths from peaceably demonstrating, opposition parties from political organizing, ordinary citizens from speaking, civic leaders from mobilizing, teachers from imparting knowledge, lawyers from advocating, scholars from analyzing and the entire nation from questioning his dictatorial rule. It is a “law” singularly intended to criminalize speech, police thought, outlaw critical publications, intimidate hearts, crush spirits, terrorize minds and shred constitutional and internationally-guaranteed human rights.
In the police state Ethiopia has become, opposition political and civic leaders and dissidents are kept under 24/7 surveillance, and the ordinary people they meet in the street are intimidated, harassed and persecuted. The climate of fear that permeates every aspect of urban and rural society is reinforced and maintained by a structure of repression that is vertically integrated from the very top to the local (kebele) level making impossible dissent or peaceful opposition political activity. As former president under the TPLF and currently an opposition leader Dr. Negasso Gidada has documented, the structure of state terrorism in Ethiopia is so horrific one can only find parallels for it in Stalin-era Soviet Union:
The police and security offices and personnel collect information on each household through other means. One of these methods involves the use of organizations or structures called “shane”, which in Oromo means “the five”. Five households are grouped together under a leader who has the job of collecting information on the five households… The security chief passes the information he collected to his chief in the higher administrative organs in the Qabale, who in turn informs the Woreda police and security office. Each household is required to report on guests and visitors, the reasons for their visits, their length of stay, what they said and did and activities they engaged in. … The OPDO/EPRDF runs mass associations (women, youth and micro-credit groups) and party cells (“fathers”, “mothers” and “youth”). The party cells in the schools, health institutions and religious institutions also serve the same purpose….
Apartheid South Africa and TPLF State Terrorism
In any country where the rule of law prevails and an independent judiciary thrives, such a diktat would not pass the smell test let alone a constitutional one. But in a world of kangaroo courts, rubber stamp parliaments and halls of vengeance and injustice, the diktat of one man, one party is the law of the land.
So, in 2016 Ethiopia has become George Orwell’s 1984: Thinking is terrorism. Dissent is terrorism. Speaking truth to power is terrorism. Having a conscience is terrorism. Peaceful protest is terrorism. Refusing to sell out one’s soul is terrorism. Standing up for democracy and human rights is terrorism. Defending the rule of law is terrorism. Peaceful resistance of state terrorism is terrorism.
State terrorism is the systematic use and threat of use of violence and coercion, intimidation, imprisonment and persecution to create a prevailing climate of fear in a population with a specific political message and outcome: “Resistance is futile! Resistance will be crushed! There will be no resistance! ”
State terrorism paralyzes the whole society and incapacitates individuals by entrenching fear as a paramount feature of social inaction and immobilization through the exercise of arbitrary power and extreme brutality.
In Ethiopia today, it is not just that the climate of fear and loathing permeates every aspect of social and economic life, indeed the climate of fear has transformed the “Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine” in to the “Land of Thirteen Months of Fear, Loathing, Despair and Darkness”.
When the State uses the “law” to silence and violently stamp out dissent, jail and keep in solitary confinement dissenters, opposition leaders and members, suppress the press and arbitrarily arrest journalists, trash human rights with impunity, trample upon the rule of law and scoff at constitutional accountability, does it not become a terrorist state?
Welcome to Apartheid Ethiopia!
(To be continued…)