Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
October 5, 2007
110th Congress, 1st Session
Issue: Vol. 153, No. 151 — Daily Edition
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ETHIOPIA HUMAN RIGHTS ACT OF 2007
(Extensions of Remarks - October 05, 2007)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E2083-E2084] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] ETHIOPIA HUMAN RIGHTS ACT OF 2007 ______ HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH of new jersey in the house of representatives Friday, October 5, 2007 Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Speaker, in the Ogaden region, the Ethiopian Government is fighting an insurgency but has carried the war to the innocent population. The Ethiopian Government has put the region under effective commercial blockade, prevented humanitarian assistance from reaching the suffering population, and expelled humanitarian NGOs. We have reports that troops have also raped women, burned villages, and confiscated livestock on a large scale. In Somalia we have reports that the Ethiopian army has raped and pillaged. Of course brutality is not limited to the Ethiopian army. It is rampant in the Ogaden and Somalia, where insurgents, warring clans, and terrorists all intentionally inflict misery on the land. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that nearly 500,000 people, almost one third of Mogadishu's population, have fled in recent months as conditions in the city have deteriorated. But the United States Government is the staunchest international supporter of the Ethiopian Government of Prime Minister Meles. Our government supplies Meles with over $100 million in aid every year, much of it military. We cannot do this and pretend that we don't share responsibility for the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Meles regime. We cannot do this and criticize China for supporting the barbarous Sudanese regime of Omar al-Bashir. We all know that the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and in Somalia is extremely complicated. Yet the moral imperative is not complicated. A good end cannot be justified by a bad means. While we want to deny jihadist terrorists any ``platform'' in the Horn of Africa, we must not protect ourselves--and our Allies--from terrorists by enabling the Ethiopian government to visit terror on the Ogaden region or Somalia. We can only work with the Meles government if we do everything possible to change its behavior. This means we have to be willing to do more than ``dialogue'' with President Meles. We have to be willing to withdraw aid if his government does not dramatically improve its human rights record. That is why I supported the Ethiopia Human Rights Act, H.R. 2003, which passed the House on October 2, 2007. This bill will withdraw certain forms of aid to the Ethiopian Government, including forms of military aid, if it does not meet certain human rights benchmarks, spelled out in the legislation. The reports from the Ogaden and Somalia are the latest in a long series of human rights outrages. In August 2005 I visited Ethiopia [[Page E2084]] and met with some of those opposition figures imprisoned by Prime Minister Meles, including Hailu Shawel, the Chairman of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, the largest democratic opposition party. I also met with Meles. I brought up the June 2005 slaughter of almost 200 prodemocracy demonstrators in Addis, and the mass arrests that followed. I urged him to investigate that atrocity, to punish those responsible, and to release political prisoners. Meles told me, ``I have a file on all of them, they are all guilty of treason.'' We should all be skeptical of the value of dialogue on human rights reform with a man who would make a comment like that. I believe that our government has not pushed Prime Minister Meles hard enough on human rights issues because it is satisfied that his government is cooperating with us in the war on terror. The war on terror is very, very important; but no regime that terrorizes people can be a reliable ally in the war on terror. Terrorism isn't just a military issue, it's also a human rights issue. Terrorists come from countries where governments failed to respect their human rights. In promoting human rights in Ethiopia, we are attacking terrorism at its roots. America's commitment to promote respect for human rights around the world demands that we prevail upon Prime Minister Meles to respect human rights. I call upon our government to withdraw forms of aid and support to the Meles government to release its remaining political prisoners, to spare civilians in its counterinsurgency operations, and to permit humanitarian aid in the Ogaden.