Human Rights Watch Objects To Ethiopia’s Anti-terrorism Law – ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AFP)
An anti-terrorist law currently before Ethiopia’s parliament will violate human rights if passed, Human Rights Watch, or HRW, warned Tuesday.
“Ethiopia’s draft counterterrorism law could punish political speech and peaceful protest as terrorist acts and encourage unfair trials if enacted,” the New York-based organization said in a statement.
The law presented by the government of President Meles Zenawi to counter the activities of some separatist groups is currently being discussed in parliament and has been closely studied by HRW.
“The draft law’s overly broad definition of terrorist acts could be used to prosecute peaceful political protesters and would in some circumstances impose lengthy prison terms and even the death penalty as a punishment for damaging property or disrupting public services,” the statement warned.
“The law would even eliminate protections against the use of confessions obtained after torture,” according to HRW, which urged Ethiopia’s parliament to make amendments to prevent potential rights abuses.
Zenawi has expressed a determination to crack down on terrorism and deal with armed separatist movements, declaring last week that “no political objective whatsoever can justify terrorism. Terrorism is unacceptable.
“Political differences owe to be resolved by political means,” Zenawi told a press conference, where he defended the anti-terrorist law. “If that is the principle the opposition accepts, then opposition will not lead to terrorism, so this law will not affect people with different opinions.”
In recent months, Ethiopia’s parliament has passed a series of laws tightening up on the activities of non-govermental organizations, associations and the local media, while most political opponents are in prison or living in exile.