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Meskerem Abera's Letter From Detention Exposing Ethiopia's Flawed Justice System

Disclaimer: This is an English translation of an Amharic Letter taken from Voice of Amhara and is intended solely for information purposes.

To the Federal Higher Court Lideta Branch Third Anti-Terrorism and Constitutional Court

Subject: Personal views on the justice proceedings
Plaintiff: Federal Supreme Prosecutor Date: March 15, 2024 (Megabit 6, 2016 EC)
Second defendant: Woizero Meskerem Abera

I, the author of this letter, Meskerem Abera have now been detained for nearly one year. Within this last year since the time of my arrest, I have observed countless incidences of discriminatory conduct and unjust decisions.

From all that I have observed what is worst has been the lack of independence between the police, prosecutor and judges and how these three parts of the judiciary system have colluded to have us arrested and kept in detention.

From the time our matter was passed on from police to the prosecutor until now, we have found the conduct of the prosecutor in the court to be motivated towards keeping us in detention. Such court proceedings have become normalized under this authoritarian regime and so it is not surprising.

Under the authoritarian administration, police and prosecutor carry out the will of the oppressive regime as branches of the ruling party, and the courts can be seen as soldiers who fire bullets at those who opposes the government, and so justice and democracy are under attack, a reality even my students understand let alone myself.

In our country, the ruling Oromo Prosperity Government is a regime which operates a fascist authoritarian administration built on cruelty and racism, therefore I am not so foolish to expect justice from courts operated by this very government. I travel to and from court to expose the justice system of this deceptive government and to establish the truth for the historical record. We have come to this courthouse but it will be the justice system itself which will be held accountable.

The justice system has carried out the will of the racist authoritarian regime to hammer opposition figures in court (where democracy dies) with a gavel as it could not massacre them with drones. As we escalate our case to higher courts saying “lower courts failed to deliver us justice” it feels as though we are bitten by a snake and complaining to a cobra. And as I enter court houses at all levels, I feel as though I am entering a Prosperity Party office. And this is my firm belief based on my education, my reading and my practical experience.

While this is the truth of the matter, the judges presiding over this case, contrary to the internationally accepted scientific truths, are threatening and forcing us to believe and foolishly accept the justice system of this racist and authoritarian government would deliver to us a balanced judgment. While we understand this truth, we approached the court over which you preside, giving it the respect and faith which is due to a free, independent and balanced institution however you have subjected us to insults. It is this approach of yours that has forced me to write this letter not an expectation that you will give me justice.

Since the first day we came before this court until now you have told us “believe us, we are free and independent judges.” When we tried to explain that we could not do this, you responded in a reprimanding tone telling us “don’t talk politics”. You were told we were arrests were politically motivated and yet you warn us not to speak politics. It is this behavior of yours you have described as being independent.

For us this is biased justice. In other courthouses you would not pressure a person who steals a mobile phone to defend against car theft, so for us who have been arrested for political reasons you should not have denied us our right to talk politics. We are also not people who fail to understand the reason you do not want us to talk about it.

The reason you strongly oppose us from speaking out is because your government cannot stand firmly against the truth we speak. On the legal side, our Amhara brothers who attempted to speak out about the abuses against Amharas in parliament were silenced by the speaker. Aside from this, they have been physically beaten in their homes at midnight and arrested.

There are also those within the grips of the government who realize what awaits them if they speak out and have opted to escape the country. The strict silencing you have imposed onto us is part of this. When you try to choke us into silence in different ways, we understand that the courts are successfully accomplishing the military-like mandate that is given under a fascistic authoritarian system.

After you have done all of this we cannot consider the courthouse to be free as you issue threats against us. I would like to firmly state there is no need to tell or pressure us what to believe or what not to believe. Respect and beliefs are not things that can come from a court order but from actions. We have witnessed the silencing until now because we knew we could not change whether the court would be just through speaking out. You should realize that you cannot earn our faith by threatening to penalize us for undermining the court, and calling for us to believe you as you are escorted by soldiers with rifles. We are people who consider not what you say but your actions and the circumstances of your government at large.

When we see what you are doing, we understand you know the persecutor does not have a sufficient case to keep us in jail. So, you are trying to fill that gap with the power of your gavel. You are trying to test our strength by giving us prolonged court dates.

Though we do not expect a free judiciary within an authoritarian system however prior to this among the judges assigned to our case there was one that attempted to provide a slightly better more balanced justice but they were removed from their post which we witnessed with our two eyes. We have praise and respect for this judge who demonstrated effort from their side. However you have went to the extent of potraying yourselves as the victims saying, “we are people too, you should feel sympathetic to us” which you have tried to tell us before we even communicated our feeling of betrayal. These remarks alone clearly demonstrate the nature of this court.

You have tried to embarass us by attempting to protray us as lacking discipline and disrespecting the court you lead while portraying it as free and independent. You repeatedly tell us you are free and independent judges but if you tell this to your consciences when you are in your homes by yourselves then whether or not we believe it is inconsequential. However we know well that the courts are neither independent or free to arrest or release us. We have not failed to see that our stay in prison was decided by the Oromo Prosperity Party who ordered our abduction from our homes, and the courts accepted our predetermined rulings to carry out in collusion with the abductor group.

Otherwise, when the government orders you to pass an unjust judgment based on political differences, you would have told the government that having political differences is not a crime. Also, just like you always reprimand us, you would have reprimanded the government to resolve political issues at the table. However, you have sat down to “pass judgement” while considering political differences a crime.

When you try to do this, it is like waiting for someone who is coming by airplane in a bus station while knowing the truth. You will not be able to stand face to face with this history with pride tomorrow. However, the decision will be yours. Finally, what I want to firmly ask is when you preside over the court stating it is independent, unbiased and free, you consider if our roles were reversed, and refrain from harassing us.

If you deny us justice we will be forced to believe this government is authoritarian with a cruel justice system so allow us to have some hope.

Meskerem Abera

Original Amharic Letter from Meskerem Abera available at:


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