April 3, 2013
Ethiopian authorities could be charged with the crimes of "ethnic cleansing" at anytime in their life, a leading law professor said on Tuesday.
Yacob Hailemariam, a prominent opposition leader who previously was a senior UN Prosecutor at the Rwanda Genocide Trials, told the Ethiopian Satellite TV (ESAT) the recent forceful eviction of members of the Amhara from Benishangul-Gumuz area was an obvious case of ethnic cleansing which is a serious crime for which Rwandan officials were sentenced to life in prison.
Last week about 59 Ethiopians targetted as 'Amhara' were killed when their truck overturned as they were being forcefully removed from the Benishangul-Gumuz region.
If Ethiopians at home and abroad collect evidences for the UN Security Council, the officials could be brought before the court of an international law, Yacob warned.
Scholars generally agree and define ethnic cleansing as the "the systematic and violent removal of undesired ethnic groups from a given territory."
Yacob said ethnic cleansing is an international crime and the perpetrators of the crime could be prosecuted at an international criminal court.
"The forceful deportation of people because they speak a certain language could destabilize a region, and if reported with tangible evidences, the UN Security Council could order the International Criminal Court to begin to examine the crimes," Yacob said.
"At the Rwanda Tribunal, individuals who were charged with ethnic cleansing were sentenced to life in prison," Professor Yacob said of the event for which he was a Senior UN prosecutor.
Benishangul officials as well as the late dictator Meles Zenawi at one time had said those being removed were for destroying forests and not for being Amhara.
Commenting on this remark, Yacob said people accused of cutting down trees may face legal action but to condemn them to ethnic cleansing is to commit a very serious crime that the perpetrators could face justice irrespective of the passage of time - even 30 or 40 years later.
Ethiopian authorities should be duly reminded that their actions of removing citizens from any part of their country is a criminal offense prosecutable as per Ethiopian and international humanitarian laws, Professor Yacob Hailemariam warned.
Ethiopia is signatory to several conventions, including Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Africa Human and Peoples Rights Charter, which, among others, state in clear terms that any citizen of a certain country has the right to work and live in any part of his or her country. Therefore, Yacob warned, there cannot be any excuse like a resettlement program etc. to violate such laws and commit the serious crimes of 'ethnic cleansing.'