By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE
What you need to know:
- The rights body also claims the flag carrier has increased ticket prices for the route as a form of “collective sanction” against the people of Tigray.
- 42-year-old Daniel Hadgu (whose last name changed for safety reasons) claimed that he was blocked from entering Mekelle’s Alula Aba Nega airport on February 26, 2023.
The Ethiopian Federal High Court has fixed June 30, to deliver a ruling on jurisdiction over a suit against Ethiopian Airlines, where the state-owned carrier is accused of blocking ethnic-Tigrayans from travelling to both local and international destinations.
The suit brought by Human Rights First, a local rights organisation claims the airline is preventing “Tigrayans aged 15 to 60” from buying tickets for flights from the northern Tigray region to the capital Addis Ababa and further to foreign destinations.
The rights body also claims the flag carrier has increased ticket prices for the route as a form of “collective sanction” against the people of Tigray.
Several passengers who spoke to this reporter said the Ethiopian Airlines has more than doubled air ticket prices from the Tigray region to Addis Ababa in recent months.
Human Rights first said the ongoing discrimination against ethnic-Tigrayans violates Ethiopia’s constitution, which contains articles ensuring equality among ethnic groups and guaranteeing freedom of movement.
“By discriminating between citizens and limiting their freedom of movement, the accused has infringed upon their fundamental and democratic rights” the lawsuit document states.
Tigrayans trying to travel to Addis Ababa say they have been prevented from buying tickets and they had to bribe Airlines staff and airport security to board Ethiopian Airlines flights.
42-year-old Daniel Hadgu (whose last name changed for safety reasons) claimed that he was blocked from entering Mekelle’s Alula Aba Nega airport on February 26, 2023. He was traveling to Addis Ababa to apply for a new passport.
“My friend and I had to pay 15,000 birr (roughly $270) each in bribe to board the Ethiopian Airlines flight,” Hadgu said.
Daniel and his friend are only among thousands of Tigrayans who were deprived their right to free movement.
In a bid to end these unprecedented violations, Human Rights First, took the case to court last month.
“We filed a lawsuit against the Ethiopian Airlines on May 16, 2023. The Ethiopian Airlines presented written response to the lawsuit on June 1,” Mr Mebrihi Berhane, one of the two Human Rights First lawyers who filed lawsuit against Ethiopian Airlines told this reporter.
“There will be a ruling on the jurisdiction of the court on June 30 at the Federal High Court,” he added.
The lawyer said the local rights organisation’s lawsuit is achieving its goals.
“We already achieved it. Because our main goal was to stop the price discrimination and the prohibition of age groups from traveling.”
“The Ethiopian Airlines have stopped the travel restrictions days after it received the lawsuit” the lawyer added.
This publication on Saturday learned that ticket prices from Mekelle to Addis Ababa had lowered almost by half.
Human Rights First is seeking the tribunal to order the airline to “lift its prohibition on 15-60 year-olds from travelling from Tigray to Addis Ababa and foreign destinations,” to provide equal service to all customers and to stop the “price discrimination.”
It is also seeking the Ethiopian Airlines to ask an official apology for the “monetary and moral” damage caused.
In a statement last week, the Ethiopian Airlines said it “does not have the legal authority to impose prohibitions.
It also denied claims of price discrimination targeting ethnic Tigrayans as “false” allegations.
Commercial flights resumed to Tigray on 28 December, 2022 following a November peace deal signed between Tigray regional authorities and the federal government of Ethiopia.
But two weeks later, a travel restrictions were imposed to nearly all age groups for unknown reasons.
Only the elderly, children and patients with medical referral letters can only fly out of Tigray.
(Source: Daily Monitor)