Mr. Anthony J. Blinken, The Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
February 15, 2021
RE: Appeal for Intervention on behalf of Oromo political prisoners on a hunger strike for the last twenty days in Ethiopia.
We, members of Oromo Professional and Scholars Group, appeal to you to intervene urgently on behalf of Oromo political prisoners, who have been on a hunger strike for the last twenty days – protesting the unjust treatment that the Abiy administration is dishing out against the leaders and supporters of bonafide Oromo political organizations.
Some of the prisoners of conscience have reportedly collapsed, and Bekele Gerba – a prominent figure who is a symbol of peaceful political struggle – was denied medical treatment by the prison system, although reports indicate that his condition has deteriorated significantly.
These prisoners are demanding that the ruling party respect the rule of law, observe human rights, give free access to court proceedings for their family members, stop police and security forces intimidation of their supporters and family members, and abandon the practice of taking prisoners to unknown places in the middle of the night.
The only explanation for the incarceration and inhumane treatment of these prisoners and many other members and supporters of the Oromo political organizations, is the formidable challenge they present to the ruling Prosperity Party of Mr. Abiy Ahmed in the upcoming election, which is expected to decide the fate of the country. Most of the prisoners have either been vindicated or ordered to be released with bail by the court system. However, the ruling party is holding them even after they have paid the bonds set by the courts. This is clear evidence that the fabricated legal cases against them are meant only to keep them from the political arena until the sham election is conducted uncontested and the Prosperity Party is declared victor.
We are gravely concerned not only about the immediate life-threatening health crisis that the prisoners are currently facing, but also the message such callous disregard for the lives of Oromo political leaders sends to the Oromo people. If the unthinkable happens to these high-profile Oromo political leaders, we fear that the country might descend into an uncontrollable chaos with dire consequences.
We thus petition your good office to exert the maximum possible pressure on the Ethiopian government immediately to give appropriate medical care to the prisoners, address their demands, and release them without any further delay.