The Office of Attorney General has requested the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) to pressuresenior officials of the Tigray RegionalState to handover the former National Intelligence and Security Service Head GetachewAssefa and otherssuspected of serious human rights violations and corruption.
The request was made on Tuesday whenBerhanuTsegaye,Attorney General appeared before the House to present a 5-month performance report.
During the session, Berhanu presented details of major activities carried out in the past five months including the specific legal measures undertaken against crimes related to human right abuse, grand corruptionas well as organized crimes.
Among others, specific issues highlighted in his report includes why suspects such as the former IntelligenceChief was not brought before justice. Furthermore, suspects of organized crimes, human rights abuses, and economic and corruption crimes were also highlighted.
However, several MPs raised specific questions as to why the government hasnot been forthcoming in disclosing the identities of individuals to facetrial.This includesthe details of the case involving Getachewand the alleged refusal of officials in Tigray to cooperate with the federal authorities to handover the fugitives.
“We havea good track record of detaining criminals who have managed to flee the country in cooperation with Interpol. And yet,are you telling us that we could not bring criminals in our own midst before justice,” asked TadesseMeselu,an MP.
Highlighting the nations’ history of not providing cover to criminals in the past and track record of the security apparatus in cooperating with the global law enforcement;TesfayeDaba, a seasoned MP, said that he wondered why the regional government is unwilling to hand over the suspects to face justice.
He further asked the AG for his opinion in relation toconductingthe trial in the absence of the suspects.
Responding to the questions raised in the House, the AG explained that his Office will keep exerting its efforts to bring suspected human rights abusers and corrupt persons to justice despite the protection.
He, however, had to providelonger explanation reacting to why the Tigray Regional administration remainsadamantabout the suspects.
“We have the evidence he is still hiding there (in Tigray Region), and what we know is that he is neither a member of the Tigray regional Council nor any other lawmaking body,”Birhanu said asserting, “we will not risk the lives of innocent citizens to detain him.”
Criticizing the Tigray Regional Government for giving a safe haven for the former Intel chief, Birhanusaid that despite the unwillingness from the region, he is confident that Getachew, other suspects who are sheltered in Tigray, and who have fled abroad will be brought to justice no matter how long it takes.
“Anyone who has committed a crime is bound to face justice, no matter their political contributions,” he further stated pointing out that the attempt of arresting the suspects are being complicated with some individuals and politicians taking the security’s attempt of arresting them as a politically motivated action.
In addition, he also responded to MPs questions on the recent statement released by theRegion which said that it did not receive the federal government’s request to hand over the suspects.
“The detention of the suspected criminals has nothing to do with ethnicity,” he added. “Such assertion that regional states were not requested to arrest suspects is untrue and we have asked them like what we did with other regions.”
The AG also hinted that there is another alternative like the possibility of proceeding with the trails in absence.
In addition to the suspects, Birhanu also gavea detailed explanation about the victims coming to his office to give evidence, tips and their desire toseek the truth and justice rather than compensation.
Effort to insuring the rule of law especially in relation to human rights abuse cannot be achieved by the AG alone. In this case, theHouse should be firm in taking actions that will also be a lesson for the future and also current officials.Hence, this should also be denounced by this parliament,” he pleaded to lawmakers.
Despite many outstanding questions regarding the overall security and justice sectorremain unanswered; MPs praised the AG for several improvements in the country particularly in human rights issues that address the plight of citizens who were suffering from wide range of injustices over the past 27 years.
Nevertheless, they still urged the AG to intensify efforts to arrest criminals and bring them to justice.