Ethiopia Lifts Some State of Emergency Restrictions

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Time to End Mass Arbitrary Detentions

Felix Horne
Senior Researcher, Horn of Africa

Ethiopian president Mulatu Teshome addresses members of the Ethiopian Parliament and the House of Federation about the declaration of the state of emergency, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 10, 2016.
© 2016 Reuters

Ethiopia announced this week that some of the restrictions around its five-month-old state of emergency have been lifted. The government announced that the command post, charged with enforcing the country’s state of emergency in the wake of unprecedented mass protests against government policies, would no longer be able to arbitrarily arrest people or conduct property searches without warrants. Further, curfews and some restrictions on media reporting will end.
The government says that it has detained more than 20,000 people in “rehabilitation camps” – one of its long-standing approaches to obstructing protests and expressions of dissent – during the state of emergency. Detaining tens of thousands of people without charge in horrible conditions in order to indoctrinate them on government polices is not only unlawful, but unlikely to deter future protests. Human Rights Watch has interviewed many people who were detained in these camps, and they all say the experience only served to increase their anger and frustration with the government.

The announcement that arbitrary detentions – long a significant and underreported problem in rural Ethiopia – are no longer permissible under the state of emergency is welcome news. The government hasn’t permitted the United Nation’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to investigate allegations despite requests from the UN body in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2015.

Human Rights Watch and other groups have documented the Ethiopian government’s use of arbitrary detention, especially outside of Addis Ababa, over many years – in police stations, prisons, military camps, and unknown places of detention. There is a lack of due process, mistreatment and torture are common, and most detainees never face trial. A Human Rights Watch report last year detailing the brutal crackdown against protesters in Oromia region highlighted the problem of mass arbitrary detention. Just two of the 46 people we interviewed who had been detained outside of Addis Ababa had been brought to court.

As part of Ethiopia’s “deep reform” process, it should send a clear message to its security forces that they cannot arrest people for lawfully protesting government policies, for being members of legal opposition parties, or for other peaceful forms of dissent. Now is the time for Ethiopia to give the UN Working Group access, and stop hiding its rights record from scrutiny.

One Response to Ethiopia Lifts Some State of Emergency Restrictions

  1. This is moving in the plausible direction. Privileges can be given and taken away but rights are so inalienable that infringing upon them on permanent basis is just impossible. History has shown us so vividly that such foul play has been tried numerous times before even by the most powerful. Even in our country, some one doesn’t have to look back in too distant past to find out that it was tried in earnest before. That demonic Mengistu had tinkered with it backed by a nuke armed super power. He had an army of a million men and every dime the country generated flowing into his coffers. Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pinochet, every demonic junta in the rest of Latin America and their look alike goons around the globe had gone to the distant to keep such Almighty given rights to make them their dispensations only. They tried to keep them just among their inner circle buddies. They made everyone outside their inner circles fair game for anything they want to do with them. That is anything rewarding or banishment. At one time or another everything seemed to go their way and looked to be able to do anything they wanted. Pinochet did much better a job for the good of many Chileans in the economic area but he was mastering the art of jailing and making people disappear because they did or said something that was not to his liking. Where are he and his fanatic entourage now? Well, well, well. I let you do the telling on that one. And there is Marcos of the Philippines the most eloquent and artful human rights grabber of all. You do the telling about him too. That Park Chung-hee of South Korea? Well his daughter just found out the hard way that South Korea is not a country of her daddy’s kind. But also her dad did a lot good economically for the country at the same time busying himself jailing and making actual and potential opponents disappear. That is why I rather believe in my own home-made cliché – You can take away human/democratic rights for some time but you can’t keep denying them the whole time!!! Would the Great Bob Marley Please Stand Up!!! Forewarned!!!!
    Reply

    Ittu Aba Farda
    March 18, 2017 at 4:46 pm
    Reply

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