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Ethiopia: Petition denounces human rights defenders' arrest for defending indigenous community's land rights against agribusiness

Author: Anywaa Survival Organisation & others, Published on: 28 December 2015

"Concerned Citizens Present Petition Denouncing Arrest and Detention of Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders"

A petition denouncing the unjust imprisonment of three Ethiopian human rights defenders and calling on the Ethiopian government to drop all charges against them immediately, is being presented...to the Ethiopian government as well as its financial backers—governments of the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland, and the World Bank, which provide a significant amount of international aid to Ethiopia. The petition is signed by 1,229 people from 70 countries.

In March of 2015, Omot Agwa Okwoy, Ashinie Astin, and Jamal Oumar Hojele were arrested on their way to a food security workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. The event was organized by the indigenous rights organization, Anywaa Survival Organisation, with support from international NGOs Bread for All and GRAIN. The three human rights and land rights defenders were detained for nearly six months without charge and denied access to legal representation.

Ashinie Astin, from a Majang indigenous community, is a former elected member of the Gambela regional council in southwestern Ethiopia. Jamal Oumar works for Assossa Environmental Protection, an NGO that promotes environmental protection and indigenous rights. Omot Agwa Okwoy, an evangelical pastor, worked as an interpreter for the World Bank during its 2014 investigation of a complaint by Anuak indigenous people alleging widespread forced displacement and human rights violations related to a World Bank project in Gambela. Pastor Omot arranged interviews for the Bank’s Inspection Panel, its internal watchdog, with Anuak who told World Bank investigators about beatings, rapes, and summary executions by Ethiopian soldiers. Soon after, Omot began receiving intimidating messages, leading up to his arrest in March.

 

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