No Country for Ethiopian Human Rights Abusers
Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam June 23, 2014
They are hidden in plain view. They have been hiding in plain view in the U.S. for over 30 years. They have been hiding in plain view in the U.S. for just three years.
They skulk around most of the major urban centers from New York City to Los Angeles. They swagger about in public places and places of worship in designer suits with an air of untouchability. They slither in and out of popular coffee shops. They creep in the shadows and alleys. They are highly educated. They are barely literate. They are loaded with cash they stole when they held power. They own property and operate businesses in the U.S. They are service workers eking out a living and struggling to make ends meet. They signed death warrants against innocent victims. They executed innocent victims.
They conceal their true identities by taking aliases to avoid detection. They are known by the victims they tortured and abused, but their victims do not know what they can do to bring their victimizers to justice in American courts. They live in peace and security certain in their knowledge that they have gotten away with murder, torture and various other crimes against humanity while their victims live each day the nightmare of the abuses they have suffered.
THEY are former high-level and low-level Ethiopian junta Derg officials who have committed gross human rights violations and are now hiding out in the U.S. in plain view.
THEY are high-level officials and low-level functionaries of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and its handmaiden the “Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front”.
THEY have gamed the liberal American asylum system and obtained residency or citizenship fraudulently.
THEY believe they have gotten away with murder and will live in the lap of luxury in the United States of America.
THEY need to be brought to justice in American courts!
Occasionally, these Ethiopian criminals against humanity hiding out in the U.S. make chance encounters with their victims. In May 2011, Kefelgn Alemu Worku (a/k/a Habteab Berhe Temanu, “TUFA”, Kefelegn Alemu) came face to face with one of his victims in Denver, CO. Worku came to the United States in July 2004 as a refugee using the false identity of Habteab B. Temanu. In the late 1970s, a ruthless military junta known as “Derg” launched a “Red Terror” campaign in Ethiopia resulting in the extrajudicial killings and persecution of hundreds of thousands of citizens. Worku served as a prison guard during that period. Samuel Ketema, an Ethiopian political prisoner in Ethiopia in 1978 testified that Worku tortured and executed fellow prisoners. Abebech Demissie, a 16-year-old high school student detainee in 1977, “watched Worku shoot and kill people, including a teenage boy.” Worku ordered other prisoners to “clean the blood off the floor with anything we could find, including our tongues.” Worku “pointed an AK-47 assault rifle at Abebech’s head but for some reason spared her life.
According to court records, in October 2013 Worku was indicted on various charges including unlawful procurement of citizenship or naturalization, aggravated identity theft, and fraud and misuse of Visas, Permits and Other Documents. Following a five-day trial in U.S. District Court, Worku was convicted on all counts and given a 22-year sentence on May 23, 2014. Generally, similar immigration violations are punished by no more than 18 months in federal prison. But the sentencing judge, U.S. District Judge John L. Kane, was so outraged by Worku’s criminality, he “maxed” him out. Judge Kane explained, “The risk that this country becomes regarded as a safe haven for violators of human rights is such that the maximum sentence is required.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Walsh who prosecuted Worku declared, “Our system of justice has successfully removed the defendant from the immigrant community he once terrorized, and in so doing vindicated not only our laws, but the rights of the defendant’s many victims now living here in our country. Today, justice was done. By sentencing defendant Worku to the maximum possible term for his crime, Judge Kane sent a stern, determined message that the United States will not allow its generous asylum laws to be manipulated to create a safe haven for murderers and torturers from abroad.”
Last week, famed exiled Ethiopian investigative journalist, Abebe Gellaw, identified one Tewodros Beharu, as “Ethiopia’s prosecutor from hell (hiding in plain view) in America.” Abebe accused Beharu, a resident of Silver Spring, MD., of being a “wilful participant in the unjust and arbitrary prosecution of dissidents, independent journalists and opposition figures using the so-called anti-terrorism proclamation.” According to Abebe, Beharu “fabricated countless treason and terrorism charges against innocent people whose only crime was exposing and challenging the corruption and tyranny of the TPLF.” (Click here to view the ENGLISH copy of the charging document; click here for the AMHARICversion.)
Abebe alleged that “Tewodros Beharu was one of TPLF’s (ruling regime’s party in Ethiopia) prosecutors trained and employed to fabricate terrorism charges against political prisoners like Eskinder Nega, Andualem Aragie, Nathaniel Mekonnen, Reeyot Alemu, Wubishet Taye, Bekele Gerba, Olbana Lelisa, the Muslim community leaders and the two Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye.” Abebe stated that Baharu had charged him in absentia with “terrorism” as a U.S. citizen along with others including Obang Metho, Neamin Zeleke, Dr. Berhanu Nega, Ephrem Madebo, Fasil Yenealem, Mesfin Negash, Abiy Teklemariam.”
In an electronic communication, Beharu told Abebe that he “was following orders” when he brought the trumped up charges against Eskinder Nega and the rest of the defendants mentioned above. Incredibly, Beharu invoked the “Nuremberg defense” used byNazi perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Adolf Eichmann at his trial testified, “I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and my oath of office. I did not persecute Jews with avidity and passion. That is what the government did.” Likewise, Beharu was just doing his official duty. He is guilty of being obedient and doing his official duties. He did not persecute Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye or dozens of others “with avidity and passion.” That is what the government did.
Serkalem Fasil’s accusations against Tewodros Beharu
The most damning allegations against Tewodros Beharu come from Serkalem Fasil, Ethiopia’s foremost female journalist and publisher until the ruling TPLF regime in Ethiopia imprisoned her and her husband Eskider Nega. Both Serkalem and Eskinder (who is currently serving an 18 year term on trumped up terrorism charges at the infamous Meles Zenawi Kality Prison a few kilometers outside the capital) are arguably the most persecuted and most celebrated dissident journalists in modern African history. Eskinder has been the recipient of practically every major international press award over the past three years including the prestigious 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom which he received a couple of weeks ago. Serkalem is also a recipient of international press awards including the prestigious “Courage in Journalism Award” given by the International Women’s Media Foundation to women journalists that have shown extraordinary bravery in the face of danger.
In a recorded audio interview, Serkalem stated that Tewodros Beharu was not merely “following orders”. He was the one giving the orders in and out of court. Serkalem specifically stated that Beharu persecuted her husband and the others “with avidity and passion.” Beharu was an angry, fierce, harsh, ruthless and pitiless persecutor, according to Serkalem. He went after the defendants not like a professional prosecutor but as political persecutor. Beharu took every opportunity in court to belittle the defendants. He made countless objections to prevent the defendants from introducing exculpatory evidence to show their innocence. He abused procedure to prevent the defendants from receiving a fair trial and to prolong the pretrial detention of the defendants by applying for endless continuances. He fabricated and falsified evidence to obtain a wrongful conviction.
Serkalem specifically alleged that Tewdros Beharu in his individual capacity as a lead state prosecutor knowingly, intentionally and maliciously used his powers to deny her and her husband of due process of law. In 2011, Beharu brought false and unfounded charges against her husband, fabricated evidence, suborned perjury and made allegations and statements he knew to be factually false to secure her husband’s conviction. Serkalem alleged that Beharu falsely alleged Eskinder was a leader of the Ginbot 7 organization and that he had mobilized and recruited youth to engage in terroristic acts. He produced no evidence whatsoever to support this allegation but connived with the judges to convict her husband. She further alleged that prosecutors Beharu and Berhanu Wondimagegn were personally involved in depriving her family of property including homes, cars and other personal property without due process of law. Beharu grossly abused his powers by knowingly, intentionally and maliciously prosecuting other independent Ethiopian journalists and denying them a fair trial and due process including international press award winners Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye and others, according to Serkalem.
Serkalem’s allegations against Tewodros Beharu raise serious legal questions of far reaching implications particularly with respect to the maintenance of the rule of law and the central role played by government prosecutors in protecting innocent victims from human rights abuse. International human rights law requires that prosecutors be active protectors of human rights and must maintain the highest level of integrity under national and international law and ethical standards. Prosecutors are essential to the right to a fair trial and if they abuse and misuse their prosecutorial powers for political ends, they would have committed not only a violation of the principle of the rule of law but also a gross miscarriage of justice for which they must be held accountable.
Both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (the U.S. ratified the ICCPR in 1992 ; incorporated as part of the Ethiopian Constitution under Article 13(1)) guarantee that “everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him’. (ICCPR, Article 14; African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Arts. 6-8.) The Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court (ICC), also defines in detail principles of criminal justice (Articles 22-33) and principles of fair trial (Articles 62-67). The Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 60/147 of 16 December 2005), prescribe that states have an obligation to prosecute individuals suspected of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law that constitute crimes under international law.”
A call to report Ethiopian criminals against humanity hiding in the U.S.
In January 2012, in a commentary entitled, “African Dictators: Can’t Run, Can’t Hide!” I put out a call for Ethiopians in the United States to report Ethiopians living in the U.S. who have committed gross human rights violations to U.S. authorities. In light of the increasing numbers of investigations and prosecutions of human rights violators who have entered the U.S. fraudulently, it is important for Ethiopians in particular to report such suspects to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) which operates the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU) within the National Security Investigations Division (NSID).
HRVWCU “conducts investigations focused on human rights violations in an effort to prevent the United States from becoming a safe haven to those individuals who engage in the commission of war crimes, genocide, torture and other forms of serious human rights abuses from conflicts around the globe. When foreign war crimes suspects, persecutors and human rights abusers are identified within U.S. borders, the unit utilizes its powers and authorities to the fullest extent of the law to investigate, prosecute and, whenever possible, remove any such offenders from the United States.”
Over the past decade, HRVWCU has been quite successful in investigating and arresting hundreds of individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. Its large data base contains the names of thousands of known and suspected human rights violators. The data base has been instrumental in preventing identified human-rights violators from attempting to enter the United States. Currently, ICE is pursuing thousands of leads that involve suspected human rights violators from nearly 100 different countries. Over the past 8 years, ICE has arrested hundreds of individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes and deported hundreds of other known or suspected human rights violators from the United States.
Ethiopian criminals against humanity living in the U.S. must be reported to ICE HRVWCU for investigation
The evidence of widespread crimes against humanity and war crimes in Ethiopia is fully documented, substantial and overwhelming. An official Inquiry Commission report of the TPLF ruling regime in Ethiopia in 2007 documented the extrajudicial killing of at least 193 persons, wounding of 763 others and arbitrary imprisonment of nearly 30,000 persons in the post-2005 election period in that country. There are at least 237 individuals identified and implicated in these crimes. In December 2003, in Gambella, Ethiopia, 424 individuals died in extrajudicial killings by security forces loyal to the TPLF. In the Ogaden, reprisal “executions of 150 individuals” and 37 others were documented by Human Rights Watch in 2008 which charged, “Ethiopian military personnel who ordered or participated in attacks on civilians should be held responsible for war crimes. Senior military and civilian officials who knew or should have known of such crimes but took no action may be criminally liable as a matter of command responsibility. The widespread and apparently systematic nature of the attacks on villages throughout Somali Region is strong evidence that the killings, torture, rape, and forced displacement are also crimes against humanity for which the Ethiopian government bears ultimate responsibility.” These are only the tip of the iceberg.
Why we must take individual initiative to report Ethiopian criminals against humanity hiding in the U.S.
Perhaps the question I have been asked most frequently by Ethiopians over the past several years is, “What can I do as an individual to help improve human rights in Ethiopia?”
Too many Ethiopians, particularly in the Diaspora, feel frustrated by a sense of individual powerlessness. Observing the lack of cohesion among opposition groups and the endless bickering, they stand aside overwhelmed by disappointment. But there are many things Ethiopians can do as individuals to help bring about significant improvements in human rights in Ethiopia.
Last week I called for a boycott of Coca Cola and its 114 different products. When Coca Cola commissioned 32 local versions of the world soccer cup song, released 31 of them and “dumped” the Ethiopian version, I told Coca Cola, “GO TO HELL!!!” I will never, never buy, use or encourage others to buy or use a Coca Cola product. There is no doubt that individuals acting by themselves and collectively can make a difference. Say NO too Coke!
Just last week, it was reported that “Coca-Cola sales nosedived in Spain after boycott call.” Sales of Coca-Cola in Spain slumped by half because the people of Spain told Coca Cola to go to hell!!! (There is substantial anecdotal evidence that a silent boucot of Coca Cola is well underway in Ethiopia.)
If the Spanish can do it to Coca Cola, why can’t Ethiopians?
There are many reasons why Ethiopians with evidence and information on Ethiopian human rights violators hiding in the U.S. should report them to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes. First, it is the inescapable moral duty of any Ethiopian who is directly victimized or has personal knowledge of others who are victimized to report human rights abusers hiding in the U.S. Such criminals against humanity must be exposed and removed from American society. Second, reporting such abusers sends a strong message to those violators in official positions in Ethiopia that America will not be a safe haven for them if they should seek asylum fraudulently by concealing their criminal past. If they enter the U.S. they should be prepared to go to jail because they will be fingered and brought to justice. Third, broad participation in such reporting will send a strong message to the regime leaders in Ethiopia who have committed atrocities that if they step inside the U.S., they risk losing not only their fat bank accounts but also their liberty. They should be prepared to spend their last days in an American federal prison. Fourth, if Ethiopian human rights abusers believe that America is not a safe haven for them, they are less likely to engage in crimes against humanity in Ethiopia. There is no question that nearly all of the regime leaders and their cronies today believe they will relocate to the U.S. if things change in Ethiopia. They had better think again!
Knowingly allowing Ethiopian criminals against humanity to live freely in the U.S. is itself a crime against humanity. It is tantamount to being an accomplice after the fact. These human rights abusers hiding in the U.S. should know that justice is like a delayed train. Victims may have to wait a while, but in the end justice shall arrive with its full might. That is the lesson Kefelgn Alemu Worku learned on May 23, 2014. That is a lesson every Ethiopian human rights abuser hiding in plain view in the U.S. should be taught every day. That is a lesson every human rights violator in Ethiopia who plans to relocate to America should learn today.
A lesson in justice for ALL Ethiopians
Last week, 89-year-old Johann Breyer, who lived in Philadelphia for nearly 65 years was arrested and is facing extradition for crimes he committed during WW II as a Nazi guard at the notorious Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp and at another locations. Breyer migrated to the United States in 1952 and claimed citizenship as a displaced person. He deliberately made false statements to minimize his role in the Holocaust in which over 1.1 million men, women, and children were exterminated. German authorities have charged Breyer “with complicity in the murder of more than 216,000 European Jews.”
Kefelgn Alemu Worku is no different from Nazi prison guard Johann Breyer. Worku was a prison guard for the “Derg” junta. Like Breyer, he committed or was complicit in the commission of untold atrocities. He tortured and killed innocent victims. Like Breyer, Worku tried to conceal his identity and criminality when he sought asylum in the U.S. and tried to minimize his role in the Red Terror massacres. Worku, like Breyer, tried to escape justice; but unlike Breyer, justice caught up with Worku in 10 years.
The fact of the matter is that the Ethiopian human rights abusers hiding out in America are not only those who did their dastardly deeds under the Derg regime. There are many who have committed similar human rights abuses as former members or functionaries of the TPLF ruling regime in Ethiopia today. They must ALL be reported.
Whether it takes 6 or 65 years, these abusers who were TPLF or Derg members must be brought to justice. They should know that there is no statute of limitations on justice! Indifference to such criminals living freely in our midst in plain view must end!
I ask ALL Ethiopians one simple question: When the U.S. Justice Department is willing to do ALL of the heavy lifting to prosecute criminals against humanity hiding in the U.S., is it too much to ask Ethiopians to finger these suspects for investigation and prosecution and cooperate with the Department?
It is easy to report human rights abusers hiding out in America- You do NOT have to give your name when you report.
If you have evidence or information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes, call the ICE HSI tip line at1-866-347-2423 and complete its online tip form.
You do NOT have to give your name when you report.
You may also submit evidence and information to the Human Rights Violator and War Crimes Unit by emailing HRV.ICE@ice.dhs.gov.
Assistance is available to victims of human rights abuses. Call ICE’s confidential victim/witness hotline toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973.
“The United States will not allow its generous asylum laws to be manipulated to create a safe haven for murderers and torturers from abroad.” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Walsh
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.
Previous commentaries by the author are available at:
Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at: