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UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion: Stop Government Intolerance of Islam in Ethiopia

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We are writing to call your attention to two issues of urgent and serious concern in Ethiopia: (1) Government intolerance of and interference with Islam (2) the arrest and criminal prosecution of 29 people, including religious leaders, peaceful protesters, and journalists.

In a blatant disregard to the secular ideals enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution as well as all international human rights instruments, Ethiopia has been working to forcefully alter the faith of the Ethiopian Muslims after importing a widely condemned sect from Lebanon. Ethiopia has also been consistently interfering in internal religious affairs of the Muslim community such as the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council and the running and management of Islamic schools such as The Awelia Muslim Mission School. Ethiopian Muslims have been consistently holding peaceful protests against this unconstitutional and heavy-handed governmental interference throughout the country every Friday for the last 12 months. Although the demonstrations have been absolutely peaceful and have been strictly confined to the mosques, Ethiopia has responded with deadly force. Security forces shot dead a number of people in Assasa and Gerba in April and October of 2012. 29 elected representatives of the Muslim community have been apprehended and are facing terrorism charges. Ever since, too many Muslims have been arbitrarily detained, intimidated, and tortured in the gruesome jails of Ethiopia. These incidents have increased dramatically since recent weeks, and the vast majority of the Muslim section of the society is living under excessive fear.

The matter is urgent because the terrorism trial of 29 people is underway and they are facing a rigorous imprisonment of more than 10 years if convicted. Recall that the anti-terrorism legislation is in force and apparently is being used to crackdown on dissent.

We are sending this complaint to request that you send an urgent appeal to the Government of Ethiopia:

1)      to cease and desist from further interference in religious matters; and

2)      to release the 29 prisoners, including Islamic scholars, journalists, business people and leaders of faith-based non-governemntal organizations

We, the undersigned, understand that Ethiopia is a state party to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Therefore, we hereby, implore in earnest the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion to issue allegation against, or urgent appeal letters demanding, the Government of Ethiopia to end the ongoing violations of human rights.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

The team

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