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6 Afr. Hum. Rts. L.J. 64 (2006)
Apology and Trials: The Case of the Red Terror Trials in Ethiopia

handle is hein.journals/afrhurlj6 and id is 74 raw text is: AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAW JOURNAL
Apology and trials: The case of the
Red Terror trials in Ethiopia
Girmachew Alemu Aneme*
Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia; Research Fellow,
Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, Norway
Summary
The Red Terror was a campaign of terror by the military government (Derg)
that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. The Derg era was characterised by
massive human rights violations, including crimes against humanity. The
Red Terror trials are the prosecutions of the Derg officials who are suspected
of committing mass human rights violations. The trials are unique in the
sense that they have largely taken place in Ethiopia, with local impetus and
without the involvement of the international community, as was the case in
Rwanda, Sierra Leone or the former Yugoslavia. The author argues in favour
of retributive justice, making the prosecution of mass human rights viola-
tions the duty of the state. In this regard, the author provides the major
arguments in favour of the prosecution of human rights violations. The
article also examines the major problems in prosecuting human rights vio-
lations in general, and the problems presented by the Red Terror trials in
particular. However, the author also argues that the recent request on the
part of the Derg officials to make a public apology to the Ethiopian people
needs to be part of the remedial process. It is argued that apology should be
part of the acceptance of responsibility and accountability for mass human
rights violations (as retributive justice demands) and not necessarily as part
of an incipient strategy of amnesty.
1 Introduction: Background to the 'Red Terror'
While the pre-1974 Ethiopia experienced different human rights viola-
tions, the most severe human rights violations in the country's recent
* LLB (Addis Ababa), MA (Oslo); g.a.aneme@student.jus.uio.no. The author would like to
thank Prof Richard A Wilson, Director of the Human Rights Institute at the Dodds
Research Centre, University of Connecticut, USA, for his constructive comments on an
earlier version of this paper.

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