Mesfin Woldemariam

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Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam
ፕ/ር መስፍን ወልደ ማርያም
Born (1930-04-23) April 23, 1930 (age 87)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Nationality Ethiopian
Alma mater Punjab University, Chandigarh
Clark University
Occupation Academician
Professor of Geography and Philosophy

Mesfin Woldemariam (also spelled Mesfin Wolde Mariam; Ge'ez: መስፍን ወልደ ማርያም born 1930) is an Ethiopian Academician and human rights activist. He is a founding member of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC), and later founded the Rainbow Ethiopia: Movement for Democracy and Social Justice.

Mesfin has won numerous awards for his struggle for equality and justice to the disadvantaged in his country.[1] In 2006, he was nominated for the Sakharov Prize, the highest European Unions prize for human rights defenders.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Addis Ababa, Mesfin received his early education at Teferi Mekonnen School, and was a student of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, receiving ordination as a deacon in 1946. He completed his further education in London in 1951, and won a scholarship to study abroad. He received his BA from Punjab University, Chandigarh in 1955 and his MA and PHD from Clark University in 2007 by dissertation rural vulnerability to famine in Ethiopia. Mesfin was professor of geography at Haile Sellassie University (now Addis Ababa University or AAU), and for a time was head of the geography department. He was also a senior Fulbright scholar in 1971, 1986 and 1987. He retired from AAU in 1991.

Political activism[edit]

Responding to a student petition, on 8 April 2001 Mesfin and Berhanu Nega held a day-long panel discussion at the hall of the National Lottery on academic freedom. They were arrested on the allegations that this panel incited a student protest at AAU the next day, but released on bail 5 June and neither were ever tried.[3]

In November 2005, the government of Ethiopia detained Mesfin on charges of treason, genocide and outrage against the constitution, along with other leading members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). This charge was considered to criminalize actions of free speech, freedom of association and freedom of expression that are guaranteed by international human rights laws, and has been condemned by many international observers including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the European Union. He was held at Kaliti Prison. During his incarceration, Mesfin took part in two hunger strikes in December 2005 and January 2006, protesting his detention and trial. He later contracted pneumonia, collapsing in his prison cell 18 August, and was taken to the hospital.[4] The court was supposed to deliver the verdict on 19 February 2007. However, Mesfin, and 37 others were pronounced guilty on 11 June 2007.

This judgment occurred after Mesfin refused to defend himself, insisting that the arrest, charges, detention and trial was politically motivated and that the trial was not likely to be fair. Along with 37 others, he was convicted on the basis of the prosecution evidence and prevented from making a statement in court after the prosecution case ended. The prosecutor is said to have presented video and audio evidence. The judge ruled that as they had not submitted a defense and were guilty as charged.

Mesfin, along with the 37 other Ethiopian opposition party officials, prominent human rights defenders and journalists on trial with him, were freed on July 20, 2007. They received a pardon and had their political rights restored four days after most were sentenced to life in prison and others to prison terms of up to 15 years.[5]


  1. ^ Tang, Jennifer (5 September 2006). "Pagels Human Rights Award Recipients to be Honored". Retrieved 5 March 2007. 
  2. ^ "2006 Sakharov prize nominees". European Parliament. 13 September 2006. Retrieved 5 March 2007. 
  3. ^ "Ethiopian academics released on bail". American Association for the Advancement of Science. 11 June 2001. Retrieved 5 March 2007. 
  4. ^ "Ethiopia: Medical concern/ Prisoner of Conscience: Professor Mesfin Woldemariam", Amnesty International website, Report AFR 25/024/2006 (accessed 20 May 2009)
  5. ^ "Mesfin Woldemariam". Amnesty International. 20 July 2007. Retrieved 14 August 2007. 

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