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Cablegate: U.S. Soldier Based at Embassy Involved in Fatal Motor

VZCZCXYZ0013
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #2030/01 1790514
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 280514Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6799

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 002030

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR: D, CA, AF/EX, PM AND DS/IP/AF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC KJUS MASS ODIP ET
SUBJECT: U.S. SOLDIER BASED AT EMBASSY INVOLVED IN FATAL MOTOR
VEHICLE ACCIDENT WITH LOCAL PEDESTRIAN

1. (U) On June 25, 2007, at approximately 0950 hours, an Amcit
active duty U.S. Army soldier (E-4 Specialist) based at the U.S.
Embassy in Addis Ababa was involved in a fatal motor vehicle
accident resulting in the death of a Ethiopian national pedestrian
(female, 40 to 50 years of age).

2. (U) The soldier was driving a vehicle rented by his organization
from his residence in Addis Ababa en route to the Embassy. Another
soldier serving with the same organization was a passenger in this
vehicle. The Ethiopian female pedestrian reportedly crossed the
street into the direction of the vehicle's travel from a blind spot
(behind a transit bus), when she struck the vehicle's passenger side
door in the area of the side view mirror.

3. (U) After the accident, the soldiers reportedly continued driving
approximately one quarter to a half a mile where they located a
police officer and reported the accident. The police officer
boarded the vehicle and returned to the scene of the accident with
the soldiers. The pedestrian was reportedly lying on the ground
with her head covered by a plastic bag, presumably deceased.

4. (U) A large crowd of local bystanders was at the scene, some
acting in a hostile manner (yelling and spitting on the soldiers).
The bystanders loaded the female pedestrian into the soldier's
vehicle, and the soldiers proceeded to a local hospital accompanied
by the police officer.

5. (U) Upon arriving at the hospital, the pedestrian was officially
declared deceased. The soldiers contacted Addis Ababa MSG Post 1 at
1055 hours via cell phone. MSG Post 1 notified the Regional
Security Office (RSO), and the Embassy's Local Guard Force (LGF)
mobile patrols were dispatched to the hospital, followed by the RSO
Foreign Service National Investigator (FSNI) and Assistant RSO
(ARSO).

6. (U) The LGF mobile patrol, FSNI, and ARSO remained with the
soldiers for the duration of the day, proceeding from the hospital
to the local morgue, to the scene of the accident (to document the
incident) and eventually the local traffic police command.

7. (U) While the soldier driving the vehicle had an Ethiopian
driver's license, he did not posses a diplomatic identity card
granting him the necessary immunities from arrest. Throughout the
course of the day, the Embassy's RSO, Management Officer, and
Defense Attach contacted their respective local contacts in an
effort to resolve this matter. The Director General of the
Ethiopian Police agreed to release the soldier to the custody of the
Embassy in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in
effect, with the assurance from the Chief of Mission and RSO that he
would not leave the country until this matter is resolved.

8. (SBU) At approximately 1945 hours, the soldier was released and
returned to the Embassy compound with the ARSO. The soldier agreed
to not leave the Embassy compound until this matter is resolved (he
will reside in a residence on the compound and not leave for any
reason). The soldier's Commanding Officer (Captain) understands
this situation and expressed his support and appreciation for the
efforts taken to resolve this matter. In accordance to the SOFA, it
is unlikely the soldier will face criminal charges. However, a
local compensation board will likely require that compensation be
paid to the victim's family. The day after the accident, the soldier
was issued a diplomatic identity card (already in process) from the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, providing him protection from criminal
prosecution but not civil immunities.

9. (SBU) On June 27, RSO met with the Director General (DG) of the
Ethiopian Federal Police to express appreciation for the assistance
rendered, as well as to seek guidance on this matter. The DG
advised RSO that the police investigation was completed and that the
matter would be referred to the prosecutor's office upon completion
of the autopsy report. The DG stated that given the immunities
provided by the SOFA and the soldier's diplomatic status, criminal
prosecution was not likely; however, a civil case (seeking monetary
compensation for the victim's family) was likely. The DG
recommended that the Embassy engage an attorney to follow this case
and bring all the various elements together to closure.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: Motor vehicle accidents involving vehicles and
pedestrians are almost always locally adjudicated in favor of the
pedestrian regardless of the situation. Expatriate motorists face
an even more difficult situation in these types of situations. The
RSO has no reason to believe this incident was anything more then a
unfortunate accident resulting in a tragic death of a pedestrian who
suddenly entered the roadway into the direction of the vehicle's
travel.

11. (SBU) The Director General of Police is a close and readily
available contact for the Embassy, and deserves special recognition
for quickly ordering the release of the soldier in light of possible
public criticism. It is in the best interest of all concerned that

the USG quickly resolve this situation in accordance with local
custom and jurisprudence. Failure to do so could complicate
bilateral relations between the U.S. and Ethiopian military. END
COMMENT.

YAMAMOTO

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