Release, not Clemency!

by Dr Tsegaye Ararssa
Releasing prisoners through pardon and amnesty (on a case-by-case basis) is a normal, if infrequent, juridical process implemented through the exercise of the Executive’s clemency power. It is done as an act of mercy exerted to ‘humanize’ legal justice or ‘to give legal justice a human face’. It is a thin supplement to the judicial work of convicting and correcting the guilty and acquitting and releasing the innocent.

Tsegaye Ararsa

This Executive act of clemency is not to be confused with the political act of releasing political prisoners unconditionally. The former is technical but the latter, as the name indicates, is political. Opting for a technical response to a supremely political question, trying to apply technical-legal solutions for preeminently political problems–as the TPLF regime is trying to do in Ethiopia today–is to invite more trouble, thereby deepening the crises further.
Political prisoners are released precisely because they are innocent as such. Political prisoners are POLITICAL PRISONERS only because they are innocent victims of political violence.
In a country where one’s Oromo identity is securitized and all forms of dissent are criminalized, it stands to reason to demand an unconditional release of all Oromo (and other) political prisoners.
For otherwise, the protesters will destroy the prisons and all of the regime’s torture chambers in order to free themselves. We have seen this happen in various towns in Oromia before, albeit at a small scale, and there’s no reason why it can’t happen again only at a larger scale.
The mandate to exercise clemency power has expired, if it ever was there. Releasing political prisoners is not about granting pardon and amnesty! It is not about clemency! Releasing political prisoners demands a political decision not an exercise of the (non-existing) executive power of clemency!
#ReleaseAllPolPrisoners #FreeEthiopia


  1. The “technical” and “political” dichotomy is superfluous. As a person who claims to have learned the law, T. Ararssa should have used the term “legal” instead of “technical” no matter how “thin” he thinks it is, since it is still governed by law that cannot be broken willy – nilly. It troubles me when somebody like Ararssa calls for rampage in the name of politics.
    Let alone breaking, even bending the constitution and other laws should not be encouraged. Given this fact that should be maintained at all times, it makes sense the PM made a reservation on blanket amnesty.
    Not many of us know who is investigated, charged and sentenced for what crime of a political nature. Without knowing who has done what, it is stupidity to make a call for blanket amnesty. Personally, I feel members and supporters of legal opposition political organizations who participated in the resistance but have not taken part in violence (such as attacking people or destruction of property) should be freed. Regarding others belonging to the same legal opposition but engaged in violence, I am of the opinion that they should get clemency in forms of reduced term or considered for immediate release. Those on trial or in investigation should complete the process for their sentence to be assessed for clemency. The members and supporters of the illegal opposition claiming armed struggle should stay locked up. Who is left? Unaffiliated riff-raff road blocking and rock throwing mob should be told to stay out of trouble and sent home.
    As a poor country and people, we can’t afford to reward political violence. People should learn the hard that political violence results in death and spending time in prison.
    Peaceful struggle backed by elections is the only way to go.

  2. Tsegaye Ararssa, having being schooled and couched in TPLF’s legal system his legal analysis never seems capable of widening his prism to give him the bird’s eyes view of the problem. Look at this phrase “In a country where one’s Oromo identity is securitized “ is it only Oromo’s identity being securitized in today’s Ethiopia? Not really. Any one’s identity is prone to be scrutinized as long as that identified group resisted to TPLF’s appetite to abuse, robbery, and brutalization” so Identities are scrutinized not specifically because of what is being identified I.e. an Oromo or otherwise. Look at this cage mentality Tsegaye states “it stands to reason to demand an unconditional release of all Oromo (and other) political prisoners.” For Tsegay other political prisoners are just an afterthought (bracted in between- for him political prisoners by itself doesn’t seems to suffice). Except these minor flaws his arguments are sound.
    Then comes this- as they say “ከማጡ ወደ ዳጡ” – TPLF legal goon. Damena Taye- comes out to tell us that the technical and political dichotomy is so superfluous under TPLF governance.! The TPLF rule that governs Ethiopia cannot be broken willy-nilly, except when it is done by TPLF itself (just a week before there was no political prisoner in TPLF’s Ethiopia, remember Damena, till they are just made to appear by snap of TPLF fingers). TPLF has been bending the constitution like a pretzel as it likes for 27 years. Had TPLF operated even within the confine of the “TPLF constitution” it wouldn’t have faced the popular uprising that is ready to consume it. The people who are thrown in jails are there because they resisted injustice. The need to be release immediately, and unconditionally and should be compensated for their suffering. TPLF whenever it gets a breathing room it thinks always its lease on life has extended for century. This time it is different. Size it while you can. There is no Legal opposition or illegal opposition. The only difference is that the Legal opposition you can fiddle them using Ethiopian people tax many, using Ethiopian security establishment, to make them TPLF pupates; damena, what you call Illegal opposition are a real threat to you because they give you an answer with the langue you quit will understand. When it comes to violence and deceit TPLF is an incubator of both, but those tools of yours are made toothless by Ethiopian people defiance.

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