Saturday, October 22

Caravan Reloaded

The Caravan Passes and the Dog Barks examined in detail the implications of the Ethiopian government-ruling elite lawsuit against, a critical radio station and web site in the US. Caravan Redux took a look at the resolution and meaning of it all as the government withdrew their case.

Here is some more detail from the International Journalists' Network, 'Ethiopian government drops U.S. lawsuits against journalists' details the charges against the four being sued by the government and their alleged accusations against the goverment officials in question.

The whole thing is worth a read for background but this is the money quote
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in Virginia because they knew at least one of the defendants lived in the area. It is fairly common for public officials in many countries to file lawsuits against journalists who publish critical stories. But for officials to sue journalists from their own country in foreign courts is unusual.

If the lawsuits had proceeded, all the parties involved – including the prime minister, his wife and cabinet officials – would have had to come to Virginia to give their depositions in October. Gregg Murphy, a lawyer for the defendants, said dropping the suits “is nothing more than a delay tactic of basically stopping it right now with the right to bring it back again.

To be fair we should note that the article is not fair in places. For example it details charges brought by the Ethiopian government against one of the journalists while in Ethiopa without pointing out that the persecution of the press with such bogus charges is simply a matter of business as usual in current Ethiopian governance.

Even if the purpose of the suit was pure harassment, setting up a situation where the government elite of one of the least transparent (translation = most corrupt) countries in the world according to Transparency International, would have to come to give live depositions on financial matters in a Virginia courtroom is unbelievable.

If someone had made this story up they would have been greeted with yawns for having an overactive imagination.

The Prime Minister and the elite of a government just up and presented themselves to the authority of a suburban Virginia court. Even if this particular lawsuit is over, the legal precedent is voluntarily established that the Ethiopian Government considers itself to be under the jurisdiction of either Virginian, American or just all international courts.

Given the habit of judges and prosecutors in Europe in particular to entertain lawsuits against folks like Pinochet, it is not a stretch to imagine such courts accepting cases brought by Ethiopians abroad or frankly anyone who wants to do so. Human rights issues are a favorite for such courts. After all, there is nothing that courts and lawyers like to do more than extend their legal powers and have a bit of fun against tyrants while doing so.

We rather doubt that the Ethiopian government's 'progressive' credentials and revolutionary rhetoric will shield them from the interest of activist courts all over the world. Especially if the crackdown against the opposition continues in its current bloody and brutal form, world opinion and politics would readily accept criminal or civil suits against such a government.

Amazing. The legal departments of Presidents, Prime Ministers and Potentates of nations all over the world must be shaking their heads in bewilderment.

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