Ethiopia: Terrorism Law Undercuts Free Speech (Human Rights Watch)

July 25th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Promptly Charge or Release Detained Journalists

(New York, July 25, 2011) – The Ethiopian government should stop using a restrictive and vague counterterrorism law to repress free speech and due process rights, Human Rights Watch said today. An Ethiopian court ruled the week of July 17, 2011, that under this law, two Ethiopian journalists – already held for over a month without being charged or given access to counsel – will remain imprisoned for another 28 days.

Woubshet Taye of the Awramba Times and Reeyot Alemu of Feteh newspaper have been detained without charge since June 19 and 21 respectively. On June 29, the government publicly accused them, along with two members of an opposition party, the Ethiopian National Democratic party, and five people it did not identify, of conspiracy to commit terrorism.

“The Ethiopian government should not rely on an overly broad anti-terrorism law to silence independent reporting in Ethiopia,” said Rona Peligal, deputy Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “It should either bring credible charges against the two journalists or quickly release them.”

The journalists are being held at the infamous Federal Police Crime Investigation Department, known as Maekelawi prison, in Addis Ababa, where torture is frequent. Their detention without access to legal counsel heightens concerns about their treatment, Human Rights Watch said.

The restrictive Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, adopted in 2009, makes the publication of statements “likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts” punishable by imprisonment for 10 to 20 years. The overly broad description leaves journalists in jeopardy of being accused of encouraging terrorism.

The law also violates due process rights guaranteed under Ethiopian law and international law. Human Rights Watch has called previously for its amendment in line with those standards.

The Ethiopian constitution requires the government to bring a person before a court within 48 hours of being detained and to inform that person of the charges against him or her. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Ethiopia ratified in 1993, provides that anyone arrested for a criminal offense shall be brought before a judicial authority and promptly charged.

However, the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation permits the police to request additional investigation periods of 28 days each from a court before filing charges, for up to a maximum of four months. While the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation does not explicitly deny access to legal counsel, the authorities have frequently denied this right to people held under its provisions.

Human Rights Watch is aware of at least 11 people in pretrial detention under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, and 14 people who were charged in June 2011 under this law with belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a banned rebel armed group.

“Every detainee in Ethiopia should be granted immediate access to counsel and to their families,” Peligal said. “Accusations under the terrorism law should never mean the denial of basic human rights.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Ethiopia, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/africa/ethiopia

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law, please visit:
· The June 2009 press release, “Ethiopia: Amend Draft Terror Law”: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/06/30/ethiopia-amend-draft-terror-law
· The June 2009 “Analysis of Ethiopia’s Draft Anti-Terrorism Law”: http://www.hrw.org/node/84132

For more information, please contact:
In London, Ben Rawlence (English, Swahili): +44-207-7132793; or +44-798-481-6013 (mobile); or rawlenb@hrw.org

  1. Beya
    | #1

    Zenawi has no concerns about the people of Ethiopia or the country.

    The man who said, Axum is no concern for amhara or Wolayta, the man who has dismissed the Ethiopian flag as a piece of rag, the man who incites and encourages ethnic and relegious violence and uses division among the people as a means to rule the country cannot be expected to do any thing good to Ethiopia.

    -Zenawi is a man who rules by muzzling the people, harassing and intimidating citizens.

    -There is poverty in Ethiopia in every aspect of life. The fabric of the country is made up of famine everywhere. The is famine in the political , socal, economic life of the country. Famine is not just associated with the fact that people have no food to eat.

    -By the way zenawi has been selling millions of acres of fertile land the size of Wales, according to the latest report, to Arab, Pakistani, Indian and Chinese landlords by uprooting the local population in western and southern Ethiopia. The ethiopian people are being herded up like cattle and placed in settlement camps like refugees waiting for handout from the UNHCR.
    This is how zenawi is manufacturing famine in Ethiopia by a deliberate policy of uprooting people from their lands, inciting tribal warfare, dividing communities , starving them of education, jobs and means of livelihood. No one can get a job in present day Ethiopia unless you support TPLF/eprdf. this is how famine is being manufactured. that is why we say famine is man made in Ethiopia.

  2. Abu Anja
    | #2

    Who installed to power Meles Zenawi? It is the same Agency and company that put the crown on Mobtue of Zaire, Mubark of Egypt among others, who safe guard the interst of the US not their kinsmen. The interference in the national Affaires of our dear friend and beloved Somalia and the Sudan now. Who does not love this uncle Tommish behaviour of Meles which is unlike Tewdros, Menelik, Haile and even Mengistou who left us for the wolves of Tigray in the dark night. People of my country there is no omelet without breaking the egg. When are we going to attack with tooth and nail this kooky and creepy meles once and for all.Twenty years is too long. Think about it!

  3. DRAMA
    | #3

    HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH IS JUST A RECORD KEEPING ORGANIZATION. THAT IS IT. WE ARE GETTING TIRED OF THIS ORGS. THAT MAKE NO DIFFERENCE. THE US AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES DON’T LISTEN TO THESE ORGS. WHEN IT COMES TO OUR TURN. SO WHAT IS THEIR USE?

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