Comments on Dr Yakob’s Letter from Prison Regarding TPLF’s Justice System

February 14, 2007

By Bekele Habte

I have a great respect for all Ethiopia’s heroes and heroines who are languishing in TPLF’s dungeons on trumped up charges and those who sacrificed their irreplaceable life for the betterment of Ethiopia. It is clear that they committed no crime what so ever. Their only crime is their stand for what they believed in. We all know why they are paying the ultimate sacrifice and they will always have a very special place in the people’s hearts and minds.

It was with this in mind that I started reading Dr Yakob’s letter from Kaliti prison. I enjoyed reading it and I agree with most of what he said. But, I believe, Dr Yakob’s assessment of the TPLF’s legal system appears to me a bit on the wrong side. With due respect, allow me to explain why.

As far as I am concerned, TPLF’s justice system is a failure from its inception. We have seen so many miscarriages of justice under TPLF’s legal system since 1991. I can list many irrefutable evidence in support of my case. Just to mention but a few of the miscarriages of justice, the late great Professor Asrat Woldeyes and his AAPO associates were accused and convicted on trumped up charges. Dr Taye was jailed on trumped up charges and his colleague Ato Asefa Maru was murdered in broad day light by the TPLF’s security and his killers are still at large. Many members of the Free Press Journalists were languishing on trumped up charges under the TPLF justice system. Why do we think Abera Yemane Ab is in prison? Who brought charges against people who committed massacres in Bedeno, Arba Gugu, Areka, Asebot Monastery, Gambella and at Addis Ababa University?

The justice system has never convicted a single criminal. Like heat-seeking missile, it is only designed to follow and destroy concerned and law-abiding citizens. A criminal can walk free through the system but it would be “easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye” than an innocent person walk through the TPLF legal system. It was designed to do exactly what it intend to do: to convict innocent people. Thus, all the evidence suggests that, we cannot reasonably expect justice from the TPLF legal system. It is like lam bal walebet kubet lekema!

Having said this, I am aware that we have seen very few courageous independent judges who served justice at great personal price. A judge who released Ato Lidetu Ayalew is a refugee in the US; a brave judge who released Ato Seye Abreha finds herself in prison and the judges who wanted to tell the truth about killings after the May election have to run first. We need to be aware that they are just very few individuals who in no way can make the TPLF’s legal system independent.

That is why, I believe, Dr Yacob (please see particularly the last page of the letter) is wrong to argue that TPLF’s legal system is under test now. Why now? What has changed? The TPLF legal system is failing the test every time it is tested by Ethiopian heroes and heroines. EHRCO has tested it, the Free Press journalists have tested it, ETA has tested it, AAU students have tested it, AAPO has tested it, ONC has tested it and UEDP-Medhin has tested it. Put simply, since 1991, there is no a single test that TPLF’s legal system has passed. It just cannot be any different now when it comes to dealing with innocent citizens. Why should it be any different now?

Just for the sake of argument, let say CUD leaders get released; are we going to conclude that there is justice and independent judiciary system in Ethiopia? Wouldn’t the statistics stack against us to say that there is an independent judiciary system? Of course, it could be a start but it has a long way to go to balance the last 14 years of miscarriage of justice. If we say this is a test of judiciary independence in Ethiopia, what is Dr Taye going to say? What would Asefa Marus’ children and wife say? What would Professor Asrat’s, Shibere’s and Alemante’s families are going to say? What about those massacred at Bedeno, Areka, Arba Gugu, Asebot Monastery, Gambella, etc.? Are we going to say justice is being served finally?

There is no doubt that we will be happy if CUD leaders and journalists are released. We will pray that that would be the case. Nevertheless, we have a long way to say justice is done. The cry for justice for all TPLF victims will continue to reverberate from all corners until justice is served and the souls of many martyrs rest in peace!!

That is why, I think, Dr Yacob’s assessment of TPLF’s legal system is on the wrong side. Even if the court decides to release the prisoners, there won’t be justice. It can only be a political decision made by Meles, as it has always been or a decision made by a brave and selfless judge who is prepared to run. Even if this happens, we also know who has the finial say. Ato Seye Abreha walked free through the court gate to be picked by Meles’s security force. The law is there to serve the system, not to provide justice to victims. It is a grave mistake to expect justice from TPLF’s legal system. There is something fundamentally wrong with it. TPLF legal system has failed the test time and again. It takes may be hundreds of brave and selfless judges to make the judiciary independent.

On February 19, we only hope to see a birth of an independent judge, who is prepared to take his/her place in history. But even if we were able to see such a brave judge, it would be wrong to say it would be a testimony of the independence of the judiciary system as Dr. Yakob hoped for as opposed to the birth of yet another brave and independent judge. Lastly, remember, unless Meles wants them to be released, a courageous act of a brave and selfless judge is not enough to set them free as Meles would re-arrest them as he exactly did to Ato Seye Abraha.