Discontent grows in Ethiopia over a top notch military pilot captured by Eritrea

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#‎Bezabih_Petros (Col) is a distinguished senior Ethiopian fighter pilot, captured by Eritrea as a prisoner of war during the Ethio-Eritrean war (1998-2000) over a border dispute.

His capture was announced by Eritrean Officials and from that moment on, he has been detained in Eritrea. His whereabouts is not disclosed by Eritrean officials to date.

Local people taking the Colonel to officials, after he landed using his parachute when his fighter plane was hit by Eritrean air defence.

Human rights activists argue that Colonel Bezabih is a victim of enforced disappearance, which is a crime against humanity that may lead to accountability at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea has found that systematic killings, torture, and enforced disappearance are widely committed by Eritrean officials on Eritrean citizens.

Human rights activists also allege that the failure of the Eritrean government to repatriate Colonel Bezabih 16 years after the end of the Ethio-Eritrean war is a violation of the 3rd Geneva Convention of 1949.

Besides, he has never communicated to his family ever since he was captured. Lawyers invoke article 70 of Convention, which puts obligation on state parties to allow correspondence between prisoners of war and their families.

However, the Eritrean president Isaias is not the only one to blame. Many Ethiopians, especially Hadiya people question the failure of the Ethiopian government to request for the repatriation of Colonel Bezabih.[1]

It is widely believed that the reason for the Ethiopian government’s silence on this issue is because the Colonel is the brother of a prominent figure of the opposition parties in Ethiopia, Professor Beyene Petros.

This belief has generated a strong reaction from the general public, especially from Hadiya people. Losing hope on the Ethiopian government, they have started campaigning for the release of the Colonel. As their demands have coincided with a series of public grievances and protests in other parts of the country, the outcome of the campaign remains to be seen.

*Abiy Alemu is a Comparative public lawyer, Human rights activist and electoral law researcher.

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