All Illegal pardons of criminals must be revoked by the Command Post Secretariat
By Seifeselassie Gebre
Tigrai Online, March 2, 2018
Members of the Federal Police who lost their lives in Gonder protecting civilian people
The Ethiopian Government recently issued a decree authorizing the pardon and release of thousands of prisoners and suspects in the restive regions of Oromia and Amhara. While pardons of this kind are not unheard of, they are often issued to armed rebels who voluntarily lay down their arms and pledge allegiance to the law of the land. Recent pardons, however, set a very dangerous precedent in that they appear to have been not only wholesale in nature, but also rushed through the process in order to expeditiously quell the violent unrest that gripped the nation. I am not against the pardons per se. What I'm totally against is when the pardon list extends to convicted criminals and felons. In one particular instance, one convicted criminal was pardoned and released in Amhara region before the families and relatives of all of his eleven victims had overcome their grief. These were not ordinary civilians that he mercilessly murdered, but members of the police force who risk their lives every day to keep us all safe. What message are we sending to the bereaved families? Even in the USA and Europe, there have been several cases where families who lost loved ones in the hands of murderous Dergue operatives successfully sued after two decades and won in their respective courts. All of the exiled criminals have either been extradited back here and sent to prison or serving time in their host countries.
It is difficult to overemphasize the importance and utmost care that a government body ought to take so as not to undermine and violate neither the Constitution nor the standing criminal laws of the Country. After all, the Government’s political decisions to pardon and release prisoners and suspects were not supposed to be wholesale and across the board but based on recently established criteria. The Federal Prosecutor-General publicly announced about a month ago that there are three clear criteria that should be met before any consideration for a pardon is made. The first criteria stipulates that he/she should be clean from any murder case and have no blood on their hands, the Second criteria states that he/she should not have direct hand in crimes of arson and destruction of properties. The third and final criteria states that he/she should not engage in subversive criminal activities to change the Constitution and the Constitutional order by force of arms.
Despite aforementioned set of criteria that should have been strictly followed, regional leaderships specially OPDO and ANDM went on a prisoner release spree across the board in clear and flagrant violation of the pardon Decree and the criteria set by the Federal Government .It appeared as if they just opened the prison gates and bid the prisoners farewell including many deadly criminals and arsonists who are the foot soldiers of Ginbot-7, OLF and Juhar Mohamed, Ethiopia’s Al-Shabab. The Federal Government should have ensured that the whole pardon selection process was carried out in strict accordance with the law of the land and managed under the terms and conditions of the just-proclaimed pardon decree and deliberate deviations from this should have been duly dealt with through appropriate legal measures irrespective of the identity and position of the perpetrators. Unfortunately, nothing of this sort happened. Instead, they were driven by individual friendships, party favoritisms, and ethnic affiliations. The leaderships of certain regions (specially OPDO and ANDM) illegally released many criminals and arsonists with impunity and surprisingly, they are still free and very comfortably in power instead of being held to account for their transgressions.
Among those criminals recently released includes the notorious and coward Colonel Demeke Zewde who ambushed and murdered eleven innocent policemen in broad daylight from his hideout on a building rooftop in the city Gondar two years ago. The fact that he was a professional and former member of the Defense Forces (who was trained in military skills to defend the public) makes his crime even more egregious. It is obvious to any sane human being and genuine Ethiopian that the Colonel does not meet the criteria and does not qualify for the pardon decree as he has killed 11 innocent policemen in cold blood and as he has their fresh blood on his hands. How on earth could the Amhara regional government release the Colonel in clear violation of the Decree and criteria set by the federal Government? Is this an early sign of more to come or is it an anomaly? Hoping for the latter, I believe the Amhara Regional administration's flagrant defiance of the Federal Pardon decree should have rang alarm bells amongst the rest of EPRDF leadership. Someone should remind both OPDO and ANDM leadership that they are part and parcel of the ruling coalition and as such they have to share in the blame for perceived or real shortcomings of EPRDF policies just as they always rush to take credit and bask in the glories brought about by the unprecedented socio-economic achievements of the past decade. One thing they should not be allowed to do is put one foot in the opposition camp and the other in the ruling coalition camp. As the old adage goes, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Remember being accountable to your constituency and upholding the rule of law are never mutually exclusive.
While the criminal law of the Country clearly stipulates death penalty or life imprisonment for such savage and heinous crimes, our regional leaders (specially the ANDM and OPDO) are releasing these dangerous elements irresponsibly and without any regional/ Federal administrative or legal accountability. What about the issue of justice for the 11 innocent souls killed and their families? Aren’t they humans and Ethiopians? Don’t they have the Constitutional rights and recourse to justice including redress? Why are they being denied justice as if their lives and blood is inconsequential? Article 25 of FDRE Constitution states “all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law”. Where is then the equality in this case when first-degree criminals are set free and their innocent victims denied justice? Furthermore, do regional leaders have the rights, be it administrative or legal, to ignore the criteria for pardon set by the Federal Government and release the criminal and at the same time deny the 11 victims of their fundamental rights to justice? Let alone our regional leaders, even the President or the head of state of the FDRE does not have the Constitutional right and authority to fully pardon and release criminals. The maximum authority he has is to reduce death sentence to life imprisonment. This deliberate misuse or abuse of the pardon decree and criteria by our regional leaderships (specially ANDM and OPDO) is simply travesty and mockery of justice at the cost of the innocent citizens’ lives and blood. I leave this issue to the conscience of the readers and the Ethiopian peoples at large.
Is the Federal Government naïve enough to believe that the Ethiopian people would get peace by compromising the rule of law and by appeasing and releasing such deadly criminals? A very dangerous assumption the national consequence of which would be catastrophic of astronomical proportions. Thus, the Ethiopian People are demanding more than ever for full and unconditional respect and enforcement of the rule of law without exceptions, special considerations and appeasements as it is the only guarantee they have for their precious lives, well-being and hard-earned properties. Our Country should be governed by the rule of law and not by the rule of the jungle. The laws of the land should be respected and executed with no exceptions; no if’s, and's, or but’s. In order to halt the dangerous trend that has been raging in our Country for the last two years, to effectively deter serious crimes of murder and the rampant arson in the future, and in order to save our Country of 100+ million people from destruction, disintegration, and collapse, it is imperative that capital punishment should be immediately instituted (reinstituted) and strictly implemented for these two types of deadly crimes.
When former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was once asked about the crimes and atrocities of his then close friend and ally Nicaraguan dictator and assassin Anastasio Somoz, he was quoted as saying “Anastasio Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”. In the same manner, when ANDM leadership recently pardoned and released the infamous bandit Colonel Demeke Zewde who is soaked with innocent citizens’ blood, they clearly said it in deeds that “though they know the Colonel is a criminal, but he is their criminal."
In light of the above worrisome circumstances, I am publicly requesting the Secretariat of the Command Post to urgently review the pardon and release processes of all criminals and arsonists including of course that of Colonel Demeke with the aim of ensuring the three criteria of the Pardon Decree are respected and implemented in their entirety. I also wish to request the Secretariat to revoke any pardon and release that is not in accordance with the guidelines of the Pardon Decree.
May the rule of law always prevail !
May God bless and Protect Ethiopia.