War Criminals Set to Leave Embassy After 29 Years

Regime officials fled to Italian embassy as rebels seized Ethiopian capital
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2021 1:31 PM CST
War Criminals Set to Leave Embassy After 29 Years
A tank in Addis Ababa after rebels seized the capital, May 27, 1991.   (Msgt. Ed Boyce/Department of Defense)

As rebels entered Addis Ababa on May 27, 1991, ending 17 years of Marxist rule in Ethiopia, four senior officials in the Communist regime fled to the Italian embassy. The two surviving ones might finally be leaving soon. Berhanu Bayeh and Addis Tedla, who were sentenced to death for war crimes in 2008, had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment just before Christmas and have been granted parole by a federal court, meaning that after almost 30 years, they are finally free to leave the embassy without fear of execution or imprisonment, CNN reports. Bayeh served as foreign minister and Tedla was defense chief of staff for the Derg regime, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The Italian government never granted the men's request for asylum, but it allowed the men to remain in the embassy because it was opposed to the death penalty. Hailu Yimenu, another official who fled to the embassy, is believed to have taken his own life. The fourth, Tesfaye Gebre Kidan, was fatally injured by Bayeh in a brawl in 2004. Temesgen Lapiso, a director in the Addis Ababa federal court attorney general’s office, said the men's punishment for war crimes "shall not be commuted by pardon or amnesty," the Irish Times reports. But "given that the continued detention of these individuals for 30 years would not be conducive to the achievement of the cause of justice," parole will be granted. The men's embassy stay is believed to be the longest on record. Julian Assange spent seven years in Ecuador's London embassy. (Assange won't be extradited.)

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