December 06, 2016
Ethiopia: End State of Emergency restrictions on political dissent and targeting of human rights defenders
The Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) is deeply concerned with the wide-ranging restrictions the state of emergency decree has enabled, which severely affect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, association and peaceful protest in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s close allies and partners in the international community unequivocally condemn the grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the misuse of the directive to silence political dissents, to threaten and systematically targeting journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and peaceful protestors across the country.
Since, the six-month nationwide State of Emergency was declared on October 9, 2016, tens of thousands of individuals have been arrested arbitrarily arrested. Dissent and independent reporting on the state of emergency directives has been quashed through the arrest of journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and opposition leaders and their members. On 12 November 2016 the Ethiopian the authorities have announced that they arrested some 11, 607 people since the declared state of emergency was enforced. However, different sources on the ground confirmed that the number of arrests is in reality much higher. According to AHRE, nearly twenty thousand people have been arrested in Oromia region, and over fifteen thousand have been arrested in Amhara region, notably in Gondar and Gojjam.
Our sources on the ground confirmed that most the authority has use harsh treatments in those detention centers, including denying medical treatments while knowing that the location of most of these prison centres are affected by high degree of malaria. Our sources confirmed most of the prisoners are suffering with malaria and other related infection with lack of medical attention. Prisoners are also forced to do some heavy military exercises for the purpose of punishment. The whereabouts of most of the detainees are also unknown, and access to information has been severely limited by a two month long suspension of 3G mobile internet network in several regions, including the capital Addis Ababa.
On 18 October 2016, journalist Abebe Wube, the general manager of ‘Ye Qelem Qend’ newspaper, was arrested in Addis Ababa, by security forces. On 11 November 2016, police detained one of the Zone 9 bloggers and a co-founder of the collective, Befiqadu Hailu, who received the 2015 CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award from his parents’ house in Addis Ababa. It is also reported by CPJ that Befekadu was arrested in relation with an interview that he gave to the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America’s Amharic service, criticizing the government’s handling of protestors.
On 18 November 2016, former leader of UDJ, Daneil Shibeshi with other two journalists Elias Gebru and Ananiya Sori were arrested by security forces. The outspoken journalist and former political activist Ananiya Sori was arrested following his recent critic against the policy of the government and its reaction during the large protest in the country on a radio debate that was organized by the pro-government media, Fana Broadcasting, in October 2016.
CPJ also reported about the disappearance of Abdi, Gada in its report. Abdi is an unemployed television journalist who disappeared since November 9 and his family fear that he might be arrested. On 31 November 2016, prominent opposition party leader Dr, Merera Gudina, Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) was arrested upon his return from Europe after he delivered a speech to members of the European Parliament, in Brussels, on the current situation of Ethiopia.
Three of the main opposition parties, the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), Blue Paty and All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) have claimed that a large number of their leaders and members were targeted by the Command Post and arbitrary arrested. It is reported that tens of UDJ members were arrested during and before the state of emergency announced. AEUP reported that around 20 of its members were arrested in the last few weeks. Blue Party also reported to AHRE that 23 of its members including three leaders of the party, Bilen Mesfin, Abebe Akalu (teacher) and Yidnekachewu Kebede (lawyer) were arrested under the order of the Command Post. AHRE also informed about the criminal charge of the Wolqayit Committee members who have been targeted by security forces since the beginning of the popular protest in Amhara region, particularly in Gonder and Gojam, in July 2016. Including Colonel Demeqe Zewude, other members of the committee have faced criminal charge under the 2009 anti-terrorism law of Ethiopia.
In addition, the authorities have not given any information on the thousands who have been arbitrarily arrested since November 2015 throughout Oromia and Amhara regions during and after the protests. There has been no international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the security forces’ use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force to disperse and suppress peaceful protests that costs the life of hundreds. According to Amnesty International recent report released on 18 November 2016 heavy-handed measures by the Ethiopian government risk escalating a deepening crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 800 protesters.  On 4 November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted a resolution calling for the government to authorize the Commission to conduct a fact-finding mission to Ethiopia.
The state of emergency directive gives ultimate power to the Command Post that has appointed by the House of Representative to enforce the decree, including suspending basic and fundamental political and democratic rights granted under the constitution of the country, the African Charter on Human and People Rights and international standards of human rights.
AHRE strongly urges the Ethiopian government:
- to lift the ban on basic freedoms and fundamental rights that are enforced by the authorities and Command Post following the declaration of the state of emergency;
- to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners, journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and opposition leaders;
- to ensure due process of law for those who were arrested before and during the time of the state of emergency and to respect basic rights of prisoners,
- to allow independent and impartial investigation into allegations of gross human rights violation during the enforcement of the state of emergency and since November 2015 when the protest were began.
For further information, please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 486 336 367, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)