Human Rights Committee sends strong message to Ethiopia on violations of civil and political rights.
Following its 102nd Session, the Human Rights Committee has issued a number of strong recommendations to both Ethiopia and Kazakhstan regarding their violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
UNPO has monitored the human rights situation in Ethiopia with increasing alarm over the past year. The number of NGOs working in the fields of human rights of human rights and democracy has dwindled drastically following the implementation of a restrictive national law governing civil society in Ethiopia. The human rights situation has grown particularly dire in the Ogaden region, where the army maintains control over all aspects of life and governance. Trade within the region is severely restricted, as is access for outsiders; independent journalists, human rights monitors and even some humanitarian agencies, including the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), are completely banned from the region. In July 2011 two Swedish journalists who had entered the Ogaden region via Somalia were violently apprehended by the army. They are currently detained in Addis Ababa under suspicion of terrorist crimes and are awaiting the results of an investigation. Civilians have been the targets of harassment, imprisonment, torture and even execution at the hands of state security forces in the Ogaden and Oromo regions. With no independent monitoring and a judiciary that is also reported to be under the control of the army, such violations are rarely prosecuted.
UNPO and African Rights Monitor (ARM) have reported on these abuses to both the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture in the past year. Through written reports (click hear) and oral dialogue with the Committees, both have expressed concern about the widespread practice of torture, deplorable prison conditions, human rights violations in the Somali region and the strangling effect of the CSO Proclamation on independent human rights and democracy work in Ethiopia.
In its concluding observations on Ethiopia’s July 2011 review, the Human Rights Committee noted its concern over number of these issues:
- Numerous reports of widespread torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments used against detainees by police, prison officials and the Ethiopian military.
- Numerous reports of serious human rights violations in the Ogaden region by the police and Ethiopian army. Ethiopia’s refusal to have an independent inquiry into the situation in the Ogaden region was also noted in the document.
- The ICRC’s inability to access places of detention throughout Ethiopia, and its outright ban from the Ogaden region.
- The lack of concrete details about Ethiopia’s plan to address alarming prison conditions
- Severe restrictions placed on the operation of NGOs in the fields of human rights and democracy by recent national legislation, which “impedes the realisation of the freedom of association and assembly.”
- Severe restrictions placed on the media by national legislation requiring registration for newspapers, severe penalties for defamation and the inappropriate application of the law to combat terrorism. The Committee noted that many newspapers had been closed and legal charges brought against journalists under this guise.