Education International
Education International

Ethiopia: Harassment continues - ETA members re-arrested

published 8 June 2007 updated 8 June 2007

Education International has written again to Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, following the re-arrest of Ethiopian Teachers' Association members Antene Getnet and Meqcha Mengistu along with another teacher from the south.

Mrs. Azmera Shiferaw, wife of ETA member Tilahun Ayalew, was also detained and questioned.

Reports suggest that at 5:00am on 30 May Mengistu’s house in Dejen town, East Gojam, was occupied by the police and security agents. They recaptured and took Meqcha to Dejen police station.

At 6:00am on the same morning, four police and seven government security agents in plain clothes surrounded Shiferaw’s house in Addis Ababa. They recaptured and drove him to the Addis Ababa Police Commission.

It was the police’s intention to also detain Tilahun Ayalew but, upon surrounding his home in Dangla town and learning that he was absent, took his wife, Mrs Azmera Shiferaw, to the police station instead. Tilahun Ayalew has disappeared, voluntarily or involuntarily.

All three were arrested without charge. However, charges were laid much sooner than is usually the case, and the court hearing held Thursday 7 June read the charge of belonging to an illegal organization, the Ethiopian Patriotic Front, the same charge as in their earlier imprisonment. They have no right to bail.

The case is adjourned until 18 June.

Getnet and Mengistu were subject to heavy torture during their last imprisonment in an attempt by the Ethiopian authorities to secure a false confession that the ETA was supporting a rebel opposition front. Mengistu, chairperson of the ETA's East Gojam Zonal Executive and member of the ETA's EFAIDS Committee who was last released from custody on March 22, sustained persistent bleeding in one of his ears and now has hearing problems.

Education International deplores the continued harassment of Getnet and Mengistu and the arrest of Shiferaw in clear breach of their human right to live and work free from harassment and arbitrary arrest.

EI greeted the news of the release of all teachers on 23 March as very positive and was hopeful of engaging in useful dialogue with government. EI now fears for the lives of these teachers.

The ETA/EI complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of association was heard this week at the ILO Conference. More news to come.

The letter sent to Meles Zenawi is available below:


His Excellency Meles Zenawi Prime Minister PO Box 1031 Addis Ababa Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Your Excellency,

Education International (EI) is astounded and dismayed to learn that once again three teacher members of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association, established in 1949 and an EI Member, have been arrested without charge and are in detention. EI implores most urgently and most strenuously the Federal Democratic Republic Government of Ethiopia to release Antene Getnet and Meqcha Mengistu, and Mrs. Azmera Shiferaw, wife of Tilahun Ayalew. Further, EI requests you to desist from this form of harassment and intimidation.

EI was pleased to learn from you quite recently that all teachers had been released and almost all immediately reinstated to their teaching positions. EI regarded the release of teachers as a positive step, giving rise to optimism on our part that through dialogue we could address issues of concern to each party. In our view your action provided a good basis on which EI and the Government of Ethiopia could begin the process of dialogue and relationship building, in order to advance the cause of education and teachers’ rights in Ethiopia.

Again, EI requests in the strongest possible terms that these teachers be released immediately and be allowed to exercise the full range of their human rights, as enshrined in the Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, to live and work free from harassment and arbitrary arrest. EI, its 30 million members world-wide in 390 education unions, and its global union federation partners again urge the Federal Democratic Republic Government of Ethiopia demonstrate respect for the International Labour Organisation Convention 87 on freedom of association by acting in accordance with its principles.

Yours sincerely,

Fred van Leeuwen General Secretary