How much would you risk to exercise your right to engage in the electoral process?

This week we are blogging about human rights to commemorate International Human Rights Day on December 10th.


Just over 64% of eligible voters voted in the 2008 US Presidential election. Though that was one of the highest turnouts in decades, that’s not even three-quarters of the electorate.

For most US citizens, the risk of voting today is potentially a long wait in line.

Sunday I learned about a woman whose conviction to participate in electoral politics is so strong that she is facing life in prison.

Birtukan Mideksa, a 35 year old former judge and mother of a four-year-old daughter,  is serving a life sentence in Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for her leadership in the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy party.

Write a letter, save a life

You can read more about her case here and also  find a sample letter to petition on her behalf.

Why is Birtukan Mideksa in jail?

She was arrested in November 2005 after her party disputed results of local and parliamentary elections. Because post-election demonstrations had turned violent — Ethiopian security forces shot and killed 187 people and wounded 765 others while six police  officers were also killed — the government charged Mrs. Birtukan, who had neither used nor advocated violence, with treason.

She was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Local leaders negotiated a pardon which lead to her release in 2007. In December 2008 she had her pardon revoked and was re-arrested and re-sentenced to life in prison after she refused to recant public remarks she had made in Sweden about the events that led to her pardon and release.

In today’s action for universal Human Rights, you can send a message of hope and support to Birtukan Mideksa by sending her a postcard or letter mailed to:

Birtukan Mideksa
c/o Ethiopian Women for Peace and Development
P.O. Box 1318
Wheaton, MD 20915

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