Date: 27th December 2011                                                                 Ref: OHRC/PRD1/2011

PRESS RELEASE

ETHIOPIA: JOHAN PERSON AND MARTIN SCHIBBYE ARE INNOCENT AND SHOULD BE RELEASED IMMEDIATELY

On December 21st 2011, an Ethiopian court, in Addis Ababa, convicted Johan Person and Martin Schibbye, two Swedish journalists for supporting terrorism and entering the Ogaden illegally.

Today, Tuesday 27th of December 2011, the same Ethiopian kangaroo court sentenced them to eleven years in prison.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee (OHRC) is shocked and distressed by the Ethiopian court’s unjustifiable sentence and considers it a gross miscarriage of justice and demands their unconditional and immediate release.

The Ethiopian government’s policy in the Ogaden is based on; deliberate economic strangulation, political marginalization and use of brutal military force to suppress all   legitimate demands from the population including the right to self-determination.

As a part of the Ethiopian government’s policy of starving out the civilian population in the Ogaden to submission, its army has imposed an economic blockade on many towns and villages in the region. This blockade has caused an enormous human suffering.

International press, humanitarian and relief organisations as well as international and local human rights organisations are not allowed to operate in the Ogaden.
In July 2011, Ethiopian Authorities which declared the Ogaden a closed military zone arrested Johan Person and Martin Schibbye, who were on a legitimate newsgathering journalistic mission to the Ogaden Region. They entered the Ogaden from Somalia with a group of ONLF fighters. Both Journalists received injuries during their arrest and did not get an adequate medical until several days later. They were maltreated and their computers, cameras and other equipment confiscated and moved to different jails.

To the best of OHRC’s knowledge, they were not involved in any illegal activities, and have no any ulterior motives rather than exposing the grim reality in the Ogaden to the international community.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee is concerned about their safety and well-being and condemns the sentence of the Ethiopian Court, which is gross miscarriage of justice, and demands their unconditional and immediate release.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee urges the Swedish Government to seek the immediate and unconditional release of its citizens who are being abused by a corrupted system of justice.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee urges the international community to exert pressure on Ethiopia to allow all humanitarian and relief organisations to operate freely in the Ogaden as well as international and local human rights organisations and the international press.

The international community should refrain from aiding and supporting the Ethiopian government as long as it violates human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Somali people in the Ogaden.

Ogaden Human Rights Committee
www.ogadenrights.org
E-mail: ohrc@ogadenrights.org