“17,765 Prisoners Pardoned?”
September 15, 2007

Conflicting reports are emerging from Ethiopia that 17,765 prisoners were pardoned and released from prison in the eve of the country’s recent Millennium celebrations.

Some reports state that the released were political prisoners whereas other reports state that they were inmates serving prison terms having been convicted of such crimes as rape, murder, armed robbery, and so on.

In either case, the release of this many prisoners may not be shocking to many who have been following reports that Ethiopia’s prisons house a large number of political prisoners. Many have been calling for the release of political prisoners in the spirit of reconciliation in the eve of the Ethiopian Millennium celebrations.

If the Ethiopian government gave deaf ears to the calls to release political prisoners, even if it pardoned this many convicted inmates, raises questions about the government’s sincerity in the release of the prisoners. On the other hand, if the released are political prisoners, while their release is a welcome gesture, it calls into question why all these many people were incarcerated in the first place.

The government is duty bound to give explanations about its actions and its rights under the country’s constitution.