FREEDOM 4 ALL ETHIOPIANS

FREEDOM,DEMOCRACY.JUSTICE.AND UNITY FOR ALL ETHIOPIANS …by DANIEL TESFAYE

Archive for the month “October, 2016”

Ethiopians face five years in jail for posting on Facebook as ‘state of emergency’ rules set in

The flow of opposition reports about unrest has already started to dwindle

(INDEPENDENT) — Ethiopians who post statuses on Facebook about the country’s growing political unrest could face up to five years in jail, as part of a series of measures under a “state of emergency” that grow more stringent by the day.

We are strong! Ethiopia strong! One Ethiopia strong!

The government has imposed the longest blanket ban on mobile internet services in the capital Addis Ababa since protests began a year ago, and access to messaging platforms like WhatsApp has been heavily restricted.

The measures are designed to stifle people’s ability to organise protests, amid calls for greater political freedoms and recognition from the ethnic Oromo and Amharic groups.

Access to foreign-based media has also been restricted, including Deutsche Welle and Voice of America, which both have popular Amharic stations. Two TV stations run from the US for the Ethiopian diaspora, ESAT and the Oromia Media Network, have been banned.

And the new rules even seek to ban people from carrying out certain gestures “without permission”. They include crossing arms above the head to form an “X”, a political symbol that has become synonymous with the Oromo struggle and featured at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics.

UK rights charities are particularly concerns that under the emergency rules, which are expected to be in place for the next six months, foreign diplomats will have their movements heavily restricted.

The government says diplomats are not allowed to travel more than 40km (25 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa, without permission, and say it is for their own safety.

But the rights group Reprieve told The Independent there are serious concerns this could limit the access Britons have to consular services. They raised the case of one UK citizen, father-of-three Andy Tsege, who is on Ethiopia’s death row and held at a jail some way outside the capital.

“Andy’s family in London, who cannot contact him, are sick with worry,” said Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve. “Amid this crisis, it’s shocking that the UK continues to rely on Ethiopia’s vague, broken promises of regular consular access and a lawyer for Andy. Boris Johnson must urgently call for Andy to be returned home to his partner and kids in Britain.”

Ethiopia is a key strategic ally for the US and European countries in the fight against Somalia’s Islamist insurgency, al-Shabaab, and Addis Ababa is the home of the African Union.

The global importance of the country’s stability has meant Western governments turning a blind eye to its authoritarian leadership. In June, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front cut off nationwide access to social media – on the grounds of preventing exam result leaks.

The new ban on internet services has already made a noticeable impact on the flow of reports of unrest coming out of the country via on-the-ground activists.

Ethiopian state media reported that 1,000 protesters had been arrested in the central Oromia town of Sebeta since the state of emergency was declared on 8 October, and ahead of an investment conference in the town which began on Monday.

FBC said those detained were suspected of damaging property, but there was little in the way of opposition reports to give the other side of the story.

The emergency rules include a ban on using social media to contact “outside forces”, and Ethiopians risk jail if they communicate with any “anti-peace groups designated as terrorist”.

Finally, the rules stipulate a curfew of 6pm to 6am in which members of the public may not visit factories, farms and government institutions, which have come under attack in recent weeks.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Ethiopian government to ensure “the protection of fundamental human rights” during the state of emergency, and the president has announced some electoral reforms in order to try and reach out to protesters.

A Western diplomat told the AFP news agency those changes had not yet materialised, however. “This is a state of emergency and we expect repressive measures,” the diplomat said.

“But we also expect an opening of the political space for the opposition as stated by the president in front of the parliament. This is not what seems to be happening.”

posted by Daniel tesfaye

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Ethiopia Human Rights Abuses Spark U.S. Congressional Action

U.S. Representatives push for legislation targeting Ethiopia after Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document human rights abuses.

by J. David Thompson | Lima Charlie

A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives has proposed legislation targeted at the government of Ethiopia, after Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented hundreds of cases of alleged human rights abuses. House Resolution 861, titled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia,” was introduced by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Al Green (D-TX), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Eliot Engel (D-NY).

Protesters chant slogans in Addis Ababa August 6, 2016.

“It is an abomination when any country tortures its own citizens,” said Rep. Smith, at a September 13th press conference on Capitol Hill. The human rights abuses, waged primarily against the Oromo and Amhara populations, have come to light despite Ethiopian authorities efforts preventing independent screeners from conducting transparent investigations.

The Resolution condemns the killing of peaceful protesters, the arrest and detention of students, journalists, and political leaders, and the stifling of political dissent under the guise of “counterterrorism.”

Ethiopia is a strategic ally of the United States. The country headquarters the 54 nation African Union, and, critical to U.S. interests, assists in counterterrorism efforts against al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda aligned jihadi terrorist group based in Somalia. Ethiopia is also host to a staggering 750,000 refugees from the war torn region.

In a press statement Rep. Ellison said, “While Ethiopia is an important ally for the United States, continuing to let the Ethiopian government oppress its own people will only further destabilize the region. We must do all we can to ensure that the human rights of all Ethiopians are respected.” Rep. Smith added, “A valuable contributor to global peacekeeping missions, growing unrest in Ethiopia in reaction to human rights violations by the government threaten to destabilize a nation counted on to continue its role on the international scene”.

Resolutions, like the one proposed, tend to be more of an opinion that often do little in themselves because they lack the political leverage to prompt much action. They often fail to hold allied nations to a standard of conduct, as countries and international organizations are hesitant to regulate how other nations behave within their own borders.

The bill expressly calls on the government of Ethiopia to end the use of excessive force by security forces; hold security forces accountable after a full, credible, transparent investigation; release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights; respect freedom of assembly and freedom of the press; engage with citizens on development; allow the United Nations to conduct independent examinations; repeal certain proclamations limiting inclusive growth; and investigate shootings and a fire on September 3, that killed 23 people at a prison housing high-profile politicians.

Noteworthy, is that the bill also seeks to apply financial and other pressure towards the government, by calling for the Secretary of State to “conduct a review of security assistance to Ethiopia” and “improve transparency” with respect to such assistance, and to “improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia”.

Oromo and Amhara protesters call for equitable rights, August 6, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Despite the good intention of the bill, critics highlight that it doesn’t go far enough. Henok Gabisa, a visiting Academic Fellow and faculty member at Washington and Lee University School of Law, stated in a personal interview:

“H.RES.861 is generally a good gesture from the United States Congress. It is very specific in a sense that it points out the consistent and constant patterns of corrosion of civil and economic liberties in the country. It also seems to give scrupulous attention to the marginalized groups who remain on the receiving end of the pain. That is really great. Nonetheless, owing to the mammoth financial aid transported to Ethiopian government by the U.S. under their bilateral security partnership, H. RES. 861 failed to deploy the political leverage of the [United States Government], and as a result it is nowhere nearer to fulfilling the goal it promises. In fact, Resolutions by merit are just declaratory statements or positions of a government. They may not be considered law in a positivist school of law. Yet again, H.RES.861 has no teeth to bite those who fail to comply the soft obligations it enumerated under the last sections 3-6.”

Experts give the bill a 32% chance of getting past the Foreign Affairs Committee and a 29% chance of being agreed to completely. Comparatively, from 2013-2015, 46% of simple resolutions made it past committee.

In a country of over 86 million, Oromos and Amharas constitute the two largest ethnic groups, combining for over 61% of the population. Yet, they are the most politically marginalized and economically disenfranchised. In 2015 Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, won every seat in parliament despite little ethnic diversity. The EPRDF has remained in power since the overthrow of Ethiopia’s military government in 1991.

Lima Charlie News, by J. David Thompson

J David Thompson (US Army) is a Juris Doctor candidate at Washington & Lee University School of Law focusing on International Human Rights Law. He is a Veterans in Global Leadership Fellow, and brings experience on human rights, international relations, strengthening civil society, refugee issues, interagency collaboration, and countering violent extremism. Prior to Washington & Lee, he served in the US Army as a Military Police officer and Special Operations Civil Affairs with multiple deployments to Afghanistan and one to Jordan—receiving a Bronze Star amongst other decorations. In Jordan, David worked at the US Embassy in countering violent extremism, strengthening civil society, and refugee response with other United States Government organizations, the United Nations, and various non-governmental organizations.

posted by daniel tesfaye

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