Letter to Prime Minister of Ethiopia

July 16, 2007

(PDF Version)

July 13, 2007

Fax: +251 11 555 2020

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

Your Excellency,

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation is once again concerned by the governmental intimidation and harassment of trade union leaders and members of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA) headed by Gemoraw Kassa.

My organization has been alerted by Education International, the global federation of teachers, that three members of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association, Anteneh Getnet, Meqcha Mengistu and Woldi Dana are being detained in the Addis Ababa Kality centrel prison and a fourth ETA member, Tilahun Ayalew, has been missing since May 28, 2007.

The two ETA officers Anteneh Getne and Meqcha Mengistu and the missing ETA member Tilahun Ayalew are precisely the three colleagues who had previously been arrested, detained and tortured in December 2006. The three men are respected teachers and hold elected mandates within Ethiopian Teachers' Association. Their membership to the ETA would seem to be their only offence.

In the context of the continued interference by the authorities in its trade union activities, the ETA, supported by Education International, submitted a complaint to the International Labour Organization on September 11, 2006. As the names of Tilahun Ayalew, Meqcha Mengistu and Anteneh Getnet were mentioned in the complaint, Education International is concerned that the current situation may be a reaction, which would tend to show a pattern of systematic Harassment of ETA elected officials.

Mr. Prime Minister, the Canadian Teachers' Federation urges your government to honour and respect the ILO Convention 87 on the right to Freedom of association, ratified by Ethiopia.

The Canadian Teachers' Federation urges your government to refrain from any act of interference in the activities of the ETA headed by Gemoraw Kassa, such as police intervention in rallies and meetings, intimidation and harassment of trade union leaders and members.

The Canadian Teachers' Federation urges your government to secure the release of the three union activists from detention if it appears that legitimate union activity is their only offence. In any case, my organization wishes you to recall that detainees cannot be subjected to torture and that all detainees should have access to a lawyer and to medical treatment.

The Canadian Teachers' Federation, which represents 220,000 teachers and education employees in Canada, is confident that you will prompt the release of the three union activists, ensure their good health and that you will call for an immediate and independent investigation into the allegations of torture by government security agents. At our annual general meeting in July 2007 we will bring this matter to the attention of teachers across Canada. Hopefully, we will have good news to report.

Yours sincerely,

Winston Carter

Ambassador Fisseha Yimer, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations
Getachew Hammasa, Ambassador of Ethiopia to Canada
Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary, Education International
Gemoraw Kassa, General Secretary, Ethiopian Teachers' Association
Member organizations and Affiliate Member