Press Release: Human Rights Defenders Under Siege in Ethiopia – The Northwestern University School of Law
Soon to be Implemented, Ethiopia’s Civil Society Law is the Most Restrictive of its Kind in Sub-Saharan Africa; Law Draws Inspiration from Similarly Repressive Laws in Zimbabwe, Russia and Singapore
Chicago, Ill. – The Northwestern University School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights, in a report released today and available at http://www.law.northwestern.edu/humanrights/, has found that Ethiopia’s new Civil Society Law violates Ethiopia’s human rights obligations by effectively silencing independent civil society organizations, particularly human rights defenders and advocates of democratic governance that provide critical services to Ethiopia’s most vulnerable citizens.
The report, entitled Sounding the Horn: Ethiopia’s Civil Society Law Threatens Human Rights Defenders, concludes that the new CSO law violates Ethiopia’s human rights obligations as well as the Ethiopian Constitution and thus should be rescinded immediately. Upon implementation of the new law in January 2010, all foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be prohibited from engaging in activities pertaining to human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, disability rights, citizenship rights, conflict resolution or democratic governance. Even local NGOs that receive more than ten percent of their funding from foreign sources are considered “foreign” under this law. The report finds that: “Since the vast majority of domestic human rights NGOs in Ethiopia receive the bulk of their funds from foreign sources, the new CSO law will force them to either close their doors or drastically alter the scope of their work.”
The Ethiopian government has long been hostile to human rights defenders. For decades the government has harassed civil society organizations and their leaders. In fact, the director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association (EWLA) recently fled the country after the government retaliated against the EWLA for its description of the government’s human rights record.
Unless the Ethiopian government repeals the CSO law, it will be implemented one year after its enactment, on January 6, 2010. The report calls upon the Ethiopian government to rescind the law as soon as possible.
The Center for International Human Rights is part of the Northwestern University School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic. The Center provides a comprehensive range of classroom courses on the norms and mechanisms of international human rights law, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law, provides valuable clinical experiences for students interested in the protection of human rights on a global scale, and engages in research and other projects regarding emerging human right norms and related issues.
Sandra Babcock, email@example.com
Nicolas Martinez, firstname.lastname@example.org
Center for International Human Rights
Bluhm Legal Clinic
Northwestern University School of Law
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Chicago, IL 60611-3069