TASSC and its partners in the human rights and Ethiopia diaspora community have achieved a major victory in the U.S. Congress. The House of Representatives will finally vote on House Resolution 128 on human rights abuses in Ethiopia in April. Survivors and the TASSC Advocacy Program have worked hard for over a year to secure supporters for this bi-partisan Resolution, which now has 99 cosponsors and passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 27, 2018.
HR 128 condemns the “killing of unarmed protestors” by Ethiopian security forces and calls on the Ethiopian government to “hold accountable those responsible for killing, torturing or otherwise abusing the human rights of civilians exercising their constitutional rights” such as freedom of speech and assembly. It says Ethiopia must release political activists, journalists and opposition leaders imprisoned for speaking out against the government.
HR 128 says Ethiopia must allow a UN rapporteur to report on the “state of human rights” in the country and that the United States could use the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Act to sanction individuals and entities guilty of gross human rights violations or corruption.
Over 80 TASSC survivors have visited congressional offices to tell their stories and express their support for HR 128. They have had an enormous impact on Congress Members—nearly one-fourth of the 99 co-sponsors signed on after hearing about survivors' stories.
Guya Deki, a survivor who once headed the Ethiopian organization for people with physical disabilities, testified on March 9 before the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa Subcommittee. Guya was excited that the House will finally vote on HR 128. “This Resolution is important to torture survivors like me, now in the United States, and to the thousands of Ethiopians imprisoned in official and secret prisons by the TPLF (Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front), which controls Ethiopia.
Fekade Ancho, a survivor who was a senior accountant in Ethiopia for over 20 years, walked the halls of Congress more than almost any other survivors, even though he is disabled from polio. “I want to be a voice for all torture victims, for TASSC and our partners. I am so grateful that the United States is living up to its values of freedom, democracy and equality by supporting this Resolution.”
House Resolution 128 was introduced by Congressman Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), a long-time supporter for human rights and also the author of the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998, which supports grants to torture treatment centers in the United States and abroad. Smith and Congress Members Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) Karen Bass (D-California) have been strong advocates for this Resolution. TASSC has given all of them special awards to thank them for standing with torture survivors.