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Revealed: Evidence of Serious Human Rights Abuses Fails to Halt Flow of Aid

Despite ample evidence of ethnic cleansing, widespread torture and extra-judicial killings by Ethiopian government forces, the US, UK and EU continue to lavish aid on Addis Ababa

 Britain and the international community stand accused of turning a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses in Ethiopia, by providing billions of dollars of aid despite evidence that it is used as a tool of political oppression.

An undercover investigation by the Bureau and BBC Newsnight reveals that as areas of Ethiopia fall victim to drought and famine, whole communities are being denied basic food, seed and fertilizer for failing to support Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The investigation has also gathered evidence of ongoing ethnic cleansing, mass detentions, the widespread use of torture and extra-judicial killings by Ethiopian government forces.

And we can reveal that senior officials in both the EU parliament and the UK failed repeatedly to act on similar reports of horrific human rights abuses.

In one instance the EU Commission allegedly tried to water down an official report, which detailed major concerns about the actions of the Ethiopian government.

Ethiopia receives $3bn in development aid every year, with Britain the second largest donor after the US.

This year the UK will hand out £290m, not including the £48m in emergency aid announced last month, a massive 24-fold increase over the past decade. The EU provided £152m last year.

Yet since 2005, when Zenawi was accused of ‘stealing the election’ after the opposition won a landslide in the capital, evidence of horrific human rights violations have poured into the international community.

Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes, who was the chief election observer for the European Union during the 2005 Ethiopian election, is outspoken about the ongoing human rights abuses in Ethiopia.  She has spoken to the Bureau and accused the international community of a deliberate agenda of ‘hear no evil, see no evil’.

She said: ‘There is this industry of aid not only in the European Commission but in the different member countries, namely those who are the biggest aid donors to Ethiopia, like Britain, like Germany who want the business to continue as usual because they have their own interests at stake.’

Gomes even suggested that EU commission officials attempted to water down reports she produced in 2005 documenting problems with that year’s election. The reports are seen and edited by several people.

‘What really stunned me was the feedback I got from Brussels… the department for development of the commission was completely rewriting my own report and was actually toning down, watering down, all the most difficult passages which were detailing the situation and the repression of the opposition… I was really shocked.’

The problem is that Ethiopia commands a strategically important geographic position.

‘Western leaders resist speaking up against Zenawi’s repressive regime by invoking stability interests. Besides attempting to depict Ethiopia as a success story of development assistance, EU and the US like to portray their ‘aid darling’ as a partner in the fight against terrorism and a crucial actor for stability in the Horn of Africa,’ said Gomes.

The Bureau has been passed confidential daily reports by the former EU Ambassador for Ethiopia, which show abuses were routinely reported to senior officials at the European Commission as far back as 2005.

Violent crackdowns on opposition supporters by Zenawi troops are detailed in 61 emails sent by Ambassador Timothy Clarke to 27 top officials in the highest offices of the European Union.

The emails were sent over three months in the days after the 2005 ballot.  They expressed increasing concern about reports of murders and arrests of thousands of civilians by government forces.

Members of the Council of Europe and the Commission’s offices for external relations, development and aid were all contacted.

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