By Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD
Tigrai Online, November 13, 2013
The rape of Ethiopian women émigré and the physical assault and murder of young Ethiopian men by Saudi thugs on November 11, 2013 is unacceptable, unconscionable, and down right the height of brutality and savagery unparalleled in recent memory. The attack perpetrated by hundreds, if not thousands, of mob gangsters against few innocent Ethiopians was committed under the watch of the Saudi authorities and the latter should be held responsible for the injuries sustained by young Ethiopians and the death of some in the so-called land of the birthplace of Muhammad.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Saudis, with the exception of very negligible percentage of the population, have a deeply engrained bias and hatred against Ethiopians because the overall psychological makeup of the people vis-à-vis Ethiopians is embedded in the misconception of Ethiopian history and the false image of Ethiopians and their values the Saudis have perceived. This bias against Ethiopians is manifested in many ways, including portraying Ethiopians as Meseheen (literally, followers of the Redeemer or Christians), and Al Habesh Hanesh (Habesha/Ethiopians and snakes are the same), and if we visualize the Saudi gangs, who mercilessly attacked Ethiopians, against the backdrop of the biased outlook, we could begin to understand why these hooligans were forcing the Ethiopian victims to verify their identity. They were asking them in Arabic, “Enta Habeshi; Enta Etsiobi?” The logical inference we can make out of the insanity of the Saudi gangs is, if he or she is Ethiopian, s/he must be battered, raped, or killed.
Where did the Saudis get this jumbled bias that made them act like wild beasts and take unfettered measures against helpless Ethiopians? One obvious factor that could have contributed to the Saudis negative image of Ethiopians could be the fact that Christian Ethiopians were predominant in the socioeconomic and political realms for thousands of years. I can’t think of any other additional factor that could have contributed to the irrational hatred of Ethiopians.
However, one major factor that should have made an input to the positive image of Ethiopians by the Saudis is the historic connection of Saudi Arabia with Ethiopia and also the linkage between Islam and the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith. Paradoxically, it looks the Saudis are oblivious of Ethiopia’s hospitality to the followers of the Prophet in 615 CE in Askum; and these first Muslims in Africa were well received by King Armah of Ethiopia and found haven in the Ethiopian highlands of the present-day Tigray. The thugs who gave hell to the Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are probably ignorant of the Muhammad-Ethiopia amicable relationship. Had they known what their own prophet said, “Respect and protect Aksum and live in peace with the native Christians,” they would have restrained themselves from taking such brutal actions against Ethiopians.
In the final analysis, however, whether the thugs are knowledgeable of Ethiopian-Saudi relations and/or are ignoramus in regards to the ancient connection of Islam and Christianity in Ethiopia is irrelevant. What matters now is that the Saudi vigilante citizens who violently attacked Ethiopians should be held to account to their own government and the latter, in turn, should be held to account to the world community in light of international law.
The Saudi Government should be held responsible for violating the UN Human Rights Declaration, especially Articles 3, 5, and 7 as they pertain to what happened to Ethiopian emigrants. Article 3 of the Declaration clearly stipulates, “Everyone has the right of life, liberty, and security of person”, and Article 5 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.” Similarly, Article 7 declares, “All are equal before the law and are entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
It is abundantly clear that Saudi Arabia completely trampled over the human rights articles of the Declaration mentioned above. On top of violating the UN Declaration, Saudi Arabia is also known for its antediluvian practices against women and against suspected criminals sentenced to death and guillotined every Friday by the so-called Abu Seyaf (sword man) on a public square. A nation with backward medieval culture and in constant violation of human rights should not be a member of the family of nations at the United Nations.
The Saudis may not be held responsible for what they do to their citizens, but they should not walk away with murder when they attack and brutalize other nationals. For this apparent reason, the Ethiopian Government should file charge against Saudi Arabia for the maiming, assault, rape, and murder of Ethiopian citizens. Moreover, Ethiopia should seriously reconsider its diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia. Any nation’s independence is tested by its performance in securing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation, and by safeguarding the fundamental rights of its citizens.
It is understandable that it would become technically amorphous for Ethiopia to deal with a complex situation pertaining to the condition of its citizens abroad, but it could at least ask the Saudi authorities to bring the perpetrators before justice (if there is one); it could freeze Saudi assets (including the agricultural tracts) and make preconditions to Saudi future investments and interests in Ethiopia. These are the short-term measures.
The long-term measures that Ethiopia could take against Saudi Arabia in cooperation with the United Nations will depend on the Law of International Obligation in general and Responsibility of Injury to Aliens in particular. In relation to these laws and responsibilities, hundreds of cases could be cited, but for the scope and purpose of this editorial, I will only highlight some important and relevant cases as discussed by Louis Henkin et al in International Law
For instance, in United States vs. Mexico (1926), a case of Byron Everett Janes (US citizen) killed by Pedro Carbajal (Mexican), the Mexican authorities failed to take proper action. In other words, Mexico failed to protect aliens and prosecute people who wrongfully inflict injury on aliens. In response to Mexico’s failure, thus, the US sued Mexico and a joint commission was established to investigate the crime. The Commission stated some important themes like ‘damages suffered by persons’ and ‘damages of the stamp of indignity, grief, and other similar wrongs.’ Supporting these statements, the Commission stated, “A state is responsible under international law for injury to the person or property of an alien caused by conduct that is not itself attributable to the state.” The latter statement is further reinforced by the following two legal parameters: a) the conduct is either i) criminal under the law of the state, ii) generally recognized as criminal under the laws of states that have reasonably developed legal systems, or iii) an offense against public order b) either i) the injury results from the failure of the state to take reasonable measures to prevent the conduct causing the injury, or ii) the state fails to take reasonable steps to detect, prosecute, and impose an appropriate penalty on the person or persons responsible for the conduct if it falls within Clause (a) (i)
From the above Commission findings and holdings, it is quite obvious that Saudi Arabia failed to take reasonable measures to prevent injuries of Ethiopians by its citizens, and unless the country takes measures to rectify and redeem the criminal act against Ethiopians and we shall have to wait and see if at all Saudi Arabia is going to take steps to prosecute the persons involved in the assault, rape, and murder of Ethiopians.
One relevant theme that Henkin et al discuss is the failure of states to apprehend criminals: “Failure to exercise due diligence to apprehend, or to hold after apprehension as required by the laws of the State, a person who has committed against an alien or any other alien of the opportunity to recover damages from the person who has committed the act.” In light of this latter holding, Saudi Arabia could say, ‘it was a mob act and it is hard to identify the persons involved in causing injury and death to Ethiopians’, but we like to remind the Saudi authorities that we are in an age of social media and high tech instantaneous video transmissions to all over the globe, thanks to the internet. We have seen the perpetrators, and their faces were visible in high-resolution camera. If we can see the criminals, Saudi authorities can identify them as well
Ultimately, it is not the paper work of international law that matters. What matters is its observance and implementation. All modern states have produced brilliant and shining constitutions that guarantee the basic and fundamental rights of citizens, but in less democratic societies, for the most part, the constitutions could not become viable material forces and as a result human rights are violated egregiously. Some countries also adopt a paper work that embodies the UN Declaration on Human Rights to impress other nations, the UN, and also for the sake of manipulating their impressive constitution in an effort to lure donor nations. Interestingly, in due course of my research, I came across a good example of a fine human rights regional charter short of concrete implementation and that happened to be of the Arab League. Henkin enlightens us in one of his notes as follows: “The Arab League Council decided in 1968 (Res. 2443, 3 Sept. 1968) to establish a Permanent Arab Commission on Human Rights. Its essential aim is to promote respect for human rights, rather than to take measures to protect it
If Saudi Arabia is not going to redeem the wrongful act wrought against Ethiopians and continues to violate international norms and breach international law in relation to human rights, the United Nations should consider to expel the country and terminate its membership unless and until it honors, respects, and implements the UN Declaration on Human Rights, and this by extension should apply to all other nations that breach international law with respect to human rights. Meantime, Ethiopia should craftily utilize its position in the African Union and mobilize African nations in its endeavor to garner justice for the Ethiopian victims. Incidentally, though the majority who were targeted by the Saudi thugs were Ethiopians, other Africans have also encountered same plights in the birthplace of the Prophet.
All Rights Reserved. Copyright © IDEA, Inc. Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia can be contacted for constructive and educational feedback via firstname.lastname@example.org
These video shows a woman being raped by gangs while others are brutally beating the men.