The Ethiopian authorities should allow Habtmu Ayalew to get lifesaving medical treatment abroad immediately.

Press Release

30 June 2016

Habtamu Ayalew2

The Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) expresses deep concern over the critical health condition of Habtamu Ayalew, a prominent young political activist who was previously an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience[1].  Habtamu was head of Public Relations for his party, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) until the day of his arrest along with other opposition leaders on July 8, 2014, just a year ahead of the 2015 election. AHRE calls on the Ethiopian authorities to immediately extend the gesture that would save Ayalew’s life by allowing him to travel abroad for desperately needed medical care.

After prolonged pre-trial detention at Maekelawi, Habtamu Ayalew was charged under the 2009 Ant-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP). The Ethiopian government has received enormous criticism from the international community, and human rights groups for misusing this restrictive ATP to crack down on dissent and to dismantle opposition parties.[2] Ayalew is one of those many opposition leaders, members and supporters who were targeted by the authorities and became victims of this draconian legislation.

Since his arrest, Habtamu has been subjected to degrading, inhuman and harsh conditions. Particularly during the pre-trial period which was systematically prolonged for months to keep the detainee at the notorious torture chamber known as Maekelawi, Habtamu was harassed, ill-treated and tortured by security officials. As a result, he sustained injuries and his health condition deteriorated over time. He was denied access to proper medical treatment, and not allowed to use toilet facilities for several days. He was also forced to sleep on a very cold concrete floor without any mattress and bed sheet for months.

After a lengthy trial, Habtamu Ayalew was released on 16 February 2016. The court set him free together with other four individuals who were also charged on terror offence. However, the public prosecutor has filed an appeal at a higher court, against this decision to release them.

Despite the good news of his release, Habtamu’s health condition was quite critical. Extensive examination by local doctors was followed by the news that he should seek treatment abroad in a timely manner. Following this warning and recommendation from his doctors, Ayalew’s family and friends have managed to raise some funds from his supporters to cover his trip and medical expenses. But the Ethiopian government has refused to allow him to leave the country because of the public prosecutor’s pending appeal at the Higher court.

Meanwhile, Habtamu’s situation quickly deteriorated and on 28th June 2016 he was admitted to a private hospital called Kadisco Hospital in Addis Ababa. AHRE confirmed that Habtamu was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital.

AHRE is deeply concerned about the life-threatening situation that Habtamu Ayalew is facing, caused by the denial of permission to travel for medical care by the Ethiopian authorities. Habtamu’s case is not the only such situation.
There are many similar cases where the Ethiopian government has failed to comply with its international obligations and standards.

AHRE urges the international community to use all its influence to immediately intervene in order to save the life of Habtamu Ayalew.

 

For more information please contact:

Yared Hailemariam, Executive Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia [email protected]

[1] https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2014/07/ethiopia-end-onslaught-dissent-arrests-continue/

[2] https://ahrethio.org/2016/06/02/ethiopia-end-use-of-counter-terrorism-law-to-persecute-dissenters-and-opposition-members/

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