Ministry for Foreign Affairs 09 January 2009
Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation
Gunilla Carlsson on the arrest of Birtukan Midkessa
On 29 December 2008, Birtukan Midkessa, the chair of the largest opposition coalition in Ethiopia, was arrested and imprisoned by Ethiopian police.
"The imprisonment of Birtukan Midkessa is a source of great concern, both for her personally and for democratic development in Ethiopia," says Gunilla Carlsson.
"Scope for democracy and pluralism is shrinking in Ethiopia. The imprisonment of Ms Midkessa and the recently adopted law regulating the activities and funding of NGOs are examples of this negative development," emphasises Ms Carlsson.
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Birtukan Midkessa was one of the many opposition politicians imprisoned after the parliamentary elections in 2005. She was pardoned and released from prison in the summer of 2007 along with several others. The Ethiopian authorities have announced that Ms Midkessa's pardon has been withdrawn and that the previously announced ruling on life imprisonment applies. The reason for the withdrawn pardon is said to be statements made by Birtukan Midkessa, including those during her visit to Sweden last autumn.
On 6 January 2009, the Ethiopian parliament adopted a new law regulating the activities of NGOs in Ethiopia. Under this law, NGOs receiving more than 10 per cent of their funding from abroad are not permitted to work in such fields as human rights, gender, the rights of children and people with disabilities, conflict resolution and efforts to make the legal system more effective.
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