Prof Mesfin Woldemariam
Professor Mesfin Woldemariam is one of Ethiopia's well-known intellectuals and rights and political activists. He taught geography at Addis Ababa University from 1959 to 1985 and wrote several books and monographs on various issues.
Professor Mesfin is the founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, established in 1991 to encourage and monitor the respect of human rights in Ethiopia. Soon after the current EPRDF government took power in 1991, Professor Mesfin took a bold step to embark on the task of creating Ethiopia's first independent human rights organization with the purpose of educating Ethiopians about their basic human rights and also exposing human rights violations in the country.
This organization has been exposing countless human rights violations in Ethiopia by the current government. Politically motivated systematic killings and abductions that would normally go unreported have been made public in detail by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council. Through its affiliations with other international human rights organizations, it has also been able to bring, with compelling evidence, the violations of basic human rights in Ethiopia to the attention of the international community. Not only has it been exposing violations, it has also been relentlessly calling on the government to abide by the principles of the international declaration of human rights and international principles of free speech, freedom of association and freedom of expression.
It is a well-documented and reported fact that human rights violations in Ethiopia have dramatically increased over the past few years and Professor Mesfin Woldemariam himself was also one of the victims of the government’s crackdown on critics. Along with senior opposition figures, some of Ethiopia 's most vocal political activists, human rights campaigners and independent journalists, he was thrown into jail facing a charge of treason after the 2005 sham elections. But in July 2007, the charges were dropped and Professor Mesfin was released.
As a result of Professor Mesfin’s pioneering bold efforts to establish Ethiopia’s first independent human rights organization, many Ethiopians have come to be aware of their basic human rights and they have been able to see countless instances of the violations committed by the EPRDF government. The rest of the world is also under no illusion as to the state of human rights in Ethiopia due to what Professor Mesfin’s Human Rights Council has managed to expose.