December 16, 2004
Anuak to Sue Ethiopia for Human Rights Crimes
By Doug McGill
The McGill Report
ROCHESTER, MN -- An international human rights campaign is forming
to bring to justice the perpetrators of a massacre of more than 425
members of the Anuak minority in Gambella state in western of Ethiopia
one year ago.
The massacre was first reported by The McGill Report on December
22, 2003, after hundreds of Anuak refugees living in Minnesota
receiving frantic telephone calls from their relatives living in
Gambella state in Ethiopia.
At a memorial service and legal conference held last Saturday at
the Calvary Baptist Church in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, lawyers
international law and human rights groups announced plans to bring
legal proceedings against the Ethiopian government for crimes against
humanity and genocide.
Exactly one year ago, from December 13 to 15, uniformed Ethiopian
soldiers invaded the town of Gambella, the capital of Gambella
calling out of their homes and then executing educated males
of the Anuak tribe.
The Anuak in Minnesota listened horrified as the sounds of gunshots
and screams went off in the background on their telephone calls,
and their relatives described the massacre as it unfolded.
were heard to grab the telephones and slam them down, and the
relatives never heard from again.
More than 1,500 Anuak immigrants live in southern Minnesota.
They began arriving in the middle 1990s, to escape ethnic
cleansing in Ethiopia.
More than a dozen Minnesota churches and civic groups have
rallied to support the Anuak during the past year, raising
tens of thousands
of dollars in relief aid and hosting many educational events.
Some 200 Anuak met for the Saturday memorial service
for their lost relatives, and more than a dozen
and politics came from the University
of California at Santa Barbara; Osaka University
in Osaka, Japan; and Genocide
International human rights lawyers from
the Public International Law & Policy
Group (PILPG), and the International Human Rights Clinic of American
University, both in Washington, D.C., also spoke.
“Murder, rape, forced displacement, and destruction
of property were committed not just individually but systematically” against
the Anuak in Gambella, said Elisabeth W. Dallas, a lawyer and senior
at PILPG. “What we need to do now is bring that
information to the world.”
The group has provided legal expertise at international
criminal trials against former Yugoslav President
at the International
Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands; at the
International Criminal Tribunal prosecuting genocide crimes in
and other trials.
The PILPG will file a claim against Ethiopia
at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Dallas
said. The claim will technically be termed provisional
because Ethiopia has not joined the court, and
the ICC will have no jurisdiction over Ethiopian
officials until Ethiopia ratifies the ICC statutes.
But crimes against humanity and genocide can still be charged provisionally
under the principle of jus cogens, an absolute norm of international
law that is binding on all states, Dallas said.
Lawyers for the group released a 22-page document
at the conference, detailing its findings of “a prima facie case against the Ethiopian
government for committing the crimes against humanity of murder, forcible
transfer of a population, rape, and persecution of a group.”
After the December 13, 2003 massacre, more than
10,000 Anuak refugees fled for safety from
camps in Kenya
and southern Sudan.
As many as 2,500 Anuak, out of a total population
of about 100,000, have been killed since
last December in raids
carried by the
Ethiopian army in villages throughout Gambella
state, according to a field
report by the Genocide Watch and Survivor’s
Rights International human rights groups.
The Ethiopian government says only a few
dozen Anuak have been killed in “inter-tribal violence,” and
has denied involvement in the killings.
Amnesty International, one of the two largest
human rights groups, also weighed in
at the Saturday memorial service
Martin Hill, an Amnesty International
researcher based in London, was not
present but sent
a “Dear Friends” letter addressed
to the Minnesota Anuak and others who gathered
at the church.
“Hundreds of Anuaks were ethnically targeted and
murdered in cold blood,” Hill
wrote. Amnesty International is continuing
its investigation, he said, adding that “the victims and survivors
have the right to justice. The abuse of people’s fundamental
rights must not be allowed to continue.”
Prayer and Lobbying
The Ethiopian army is using guns
against the Anuak, who are fighting
lobbying, field research, talking
to journalists, and now with
The Anuak tribe’s tiny size has worked against it so far, as
the Darfur genocide has grabbed all the world’s
headlines. But now, with the very existence
of the tiny tribe in question, the David-and-Goliath
nature of the Anuak's non-violent struggle
against the Ethiopian army
may finally start to work in the tribe's
Copyright @ 2004 The McGill Report