Gemoraw Kassa, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association and about 30 other members of ETA, on Thursday, February 7th heard the shocking news that their appeal to the Supreme High Court was denied. The court upheld an earlier decision which ordered the ETA to hand over property, other assets, and its name – in other words, its very identity and existence - to a rival union which was formed in 1993 by the government and also named ETA.
Previously, EI has called this a form of identity theft and does so again now. The ETA formed in 1949 in effect ceases to exist because of this politically motivated court ruling.
Under the judicial structure of Ethiopia, the Supreme High Court is the final arbiter. The judges upheld the 21 June 2007 Federal High Court ruling against the authentic ETA. They ruled that the government-sponsored ETA had the legitimacy of leadership and property ownership, including of the name “Ethiopian Teachers’ Association.”
EI has previously noted and found highly regrettable that the Federal High Court decision was not based on a proper examination of the facts and appeared to be politically motivated.
There is one small legal option left to EI-member ETA and that is to petition the Court of Cassation to ensure no procedural errors occurred. There is, however, little expectation that this technical process of a petition to the Court of Cassation will improve the situation for EI-member ETA. It would thus appear to be the sad end of a long legal process, begun in 1993, and during which time several Federal High Court rulings in favour of EI-member ETA were never implemented.
As a result of the EI delegation to Ethiopia 3 – 5 February, unanimously called for by the 5th EI World Congress, political officers of the Embassies of the USA, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, and France, as well as the Human Rights Council of Ethiopia, attended the Court hearing. The delegation also met with the ILO in Addis Ababa, the Human Rights Council and, of course, the authentic ETA.
The delegation was certainly able to fulfill one of its main aims, which was to bolster the morale of EI’s ETA members through this action of solidarity.
No meetings with any government representatives occurred, despite EI’s reiterated efforts to enter into dialogue with the authorities. Unfortunately, neither did the planned meeting with CETU, the trade union centre, take place.
EI calls on all members to write to the Minister of Justice of Ethiopia, the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and to approach their own governments to do likewise.
EI aims to have this politically motivated and grossly unacceptable decision replaced by measured action by government that would allow two teacher organizations to co-exist in Ethiopia. A legitimate trade union exercising its fundamental right of freedom of association and representing its members cannot and should not be done away with, except by choice of the members themselves, which is patently not the case here.
For more than a year, EI has been requesting a meeting with the government to propose a long-term solution, such as the co-existence of two teacher organizations, but to no avail. EI will redouble its efforts to achieve a meeting with government for this purpose.
Further action will also include EI assisting ETA to compile a dossier of the torture of teachers, in contravention of the country’s Constitution, for presentation to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. This will include the most recent information provided by the colleagues released on bail in December 2007. It will highlight the case of Wibit Legamo, imprisoned Woldie Dana’s wife, who was five months pregnant when she was beaten severely in front of her husband and three-year-old son. Subsequent torture caused her to abort.
EI will continue to defend its affiliate in Ethiopia, and will post new information as events unfold. Please check for further updates.
For a more detailed account of the ETA's plight, please read the article, "Trade union rights at risk in Ethiopia" dated 28 July 2006 as well as Ethiopia's country profile in EI's Barometer of Human and Trade Union Rights.
Please send letters to:
Prime Minister His Excellency Meles Zenawi PO Box 1031 Addis Ababa Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Fax: +251 11 552020 (the fax is often engaged, so also use surface mail and copy to the embassy)
Minister of Justice Mr. Assefa Kesito PO Box 1370 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Fax: + 251 11 5517775, + 251 11 5520874
Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations Ambassador Fisseha Yimer 56, rue Moillebeau P.O. Box 338 1211 Geneva 19 Switzerland Fax: + 41 22 919 7029