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Ethiopia: EI letter to the Prime Minister

EI issued a formal letter to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia on 4 Apr, protesting against the ruling of the Ethiopian Federal High Court on 30 March to recognise the government-sponsored Ethiopian Teacher Association instead of the authentic Ethiopian Teacher Association affiliated to EI.

Below is the content of the letter in English: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- His Excellency Meles Zenawi Prime Minister Republic of Ethiopia P.O. Box 1031 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Fax: +251 11 155 20 30/20 Brussels, 4 April 2006 Your Excellency, Education International is concerned by the Federal High Court's decision of 30 March 2006 to the effect that the authentic ETA, headed by Gemoraw Kassa, must hand over its assets and properties to the surrogate ETA. We believe that this decision is unjust and is not based on the facts. As Your Excellency may recall, 1) the Arada Awraja Initial Court in July 1993, 2) the Region 14 High Court in December 1994, 3) the Supreme Court in June 1998 and 4) the Federal High Court in November 2003, delivered verdicts in favour of the original ETA. EI finds it inconsistent to learn that these verdicts were revoked on 30 March 2006 by one of these same courts, the Federal High Court 7th bench. Previous verdicts made it clear that the legitimacy of the ETA was established by the General Assembly of the Association, in accordance with its own constitution and bylaws. It does not make sense that the same court revoked its own ruling, and that the revocation was declared without investigating the dispute properly. Since April 1993 when the difficulties started, the authentic Ethiopia Teachers' Association continued to operate as a trade union for Ethiopian teachers. The real ETA represents its members' interests, it holds assemblies and workshops, it organises legitimate trade union activities. In this context, I would like to remind you of the 330th Report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association which emphasised in March 2003, that "The Committee recalls that freedom of association implies not only the right of workers' and employers' organisations to form freely organisations of their own choosing, but also the right of organizations to pursue lawful activities for the defence of their occupational interests." This is exactly what the real ETA has been doing over all these years. Therefore there was no ground for registering another organisation with the same name, as the Federal High Court itself recognised initially in November 2003. EI believes that the arrests of ETA officials and the confiscation of assets and properties of the real ETA constitute a serious infringement of labour standards. EI is particularly concerned by the continued detention of Mr Kassahun Kebede, Chairperson of the Addis Abeba branch of the ETA. To quote again the conclusions of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, "The arrest, even if only briefly, of trade union leaders and trade unionists for exercising legitimate trade union activities constitutes a violation of the principles of the freedom of association." Mr Kebede has been in jail since 1 November 2005 although the charges against him have not yet been laid. EI urges you to order his immediate release and that of all the teachers and civil society representatives currently detained without clear charges or justification. A mission comprising of representatives of Education International and other international union organisations will visit Ethiopia shortly. Your Embassy in Brussels has been approached to secure meetings with government officials. I trust the above matters may be raised during these official meetings. Yours sincerely, Fred van Leeuwen General Secretary cc. EFDR Minister of Justice, Fax: (251-11) 155 07 22 EFDR Minister of Education, Fax: (251-11) 155 08 77 HE Ato Kemal Bedri, President of the Supreme Court, Fax: (251-11) 155 07 28 EFDR the House of People's Representatives, Fax: (251- 11) 124-10-04 HE Ato Girma Woldegiorgis, President of the FDRE, Fax: (251-11) 155 20 30 Ethiopian Embassy in Brussels ILO Geneva