Friday, June 17, 2005

Britain minister calls for rule of law in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, June 17, 2005 (PANA) -- Britain's Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn has urged the Ethiopian government and opposition parties to abide peacefully by the rule of law in the aftermath of last week's deadly street violence.

"I expressed to all parties the British government's grave concern about the situation in Ethiopia, and our dismay and sadness at the tragic deaths of civilians last week during the confrontations between demonstrators and security forces," Benn said at the end of his brief visit here.

In a statement the British Embassy released, Benn said he has urged Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the leaders of opposition parties to show calm and restraint.

"There can be no repetition of the tragedy," he emphasised, calling for investigation of the incidents.

At least 26 people were killed after security forces used live bullets to shoot unarmed demonstrators.

"I urge all sides to abide peacefully by the rule of law, the democratic institutions and the courts, the Constitution and international principles of human rights.

"All those detained who have not been charged under due legal process must be released.

"Restrictions on free movement of the Opposition leaders, as well as the alleged detention of many of their party officials, are counter-productive given the need for all political leaders to work together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect," he said.

The minister cautioned the opposition to play its part fully, avoiding violence and confrontation.

"For Ethiopia's multiparty system to work effectively, Ethiopian political leaders on all sides must establish mutual trust and a collaborative partnership.

The opposition and the ruling parties signed a declaration relating to a review of the complaints arising from the 15 May parliamentary elections.

Benn emphasised that all parties must stand by and implement the declaration to which they have committed themselves.

"The Prime Minister and leaders of the opposition parties owe it to the people of Ethiopia to ensure the democratic process is completed peacefully and successfully so that the voice of the Ethiopian people can be heard," he added.

Results of the polls, which the opposition claims were rigged by the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), are due to be officially declared on 8 July 2005.

In the meantime, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia is reviewing complaints raised by different parties on irregularities committed during the polls in different constituencies.

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