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UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS VISITING ETHIOPIA April 24, 2018

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 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein began his second official visit to Ethiopia as of Sunday April 22, “at the invitation of the Government”, his office said in a statement. “During his visit, he will also take part in a high-level dialogue between the African Union and the UN Human Rights Office.”

High Commissioner Zeid last visited Ethiopia in May 2017, when he met the then Prime Minister, [Hailemariam Desalegn], and other high-ranking Ethiopian officials and civil society members to discuss the human rights situation in the country and the work of the UN Human Rights East Africa Regional Office. “The Government of Ethiopia earlier this year invited Zeid to conduct a follow-up visit to the country,” according to Zeid’s office.

“During his four-day visit, Zeid is due to meet with the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as well as other high-level officials, the Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives and the Chairperson of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, representatives of civil society and Government critics who have recently been released from prison.”

Ethiopia is currently a member of both the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council.  However, since 2007, the government consistently denied access to all UN special rapporteurs as well as the African Commission and European parliament for investigations into pervasive human rights abuse committed by the state.  In August 2016 Zeid himself urged Ethiopian authorities to allow international observers to conduct independent investigations into then ongoing killings of protesters by security forces.  It is not clear if the government’s invitation of High Commissioner Zeid signals a change in approach.

In addition to meeting with Ethiopian officials, on Tuesday April 24, “Zeid will deliver opening remarks and participate in the African Union-United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Human Rights,” the statement from his office further said.  AU Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and Zeid will also conduct a joint press briefing at the end of the dialogue. On the same day, he is expected to “deliver a lecture at Addis Abeba University.” OHCHR/AS


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AP News: UN HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF: ETHIOPIA BLOCKED ACCESS TO PROTEST AREAS May 4, 2017

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Zeid expressed alarm at the “extremely large number” of arrests and said some charges against those detained “may be misplaced.”He asked that U.N. staffers be allowed to visit the areas of unrest. “We may then perhaps provide a list to the government and ask for specific releases” of people detained, Zeid said. “This requires more attention.”


AP Photo
AP Photo/STR

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopian officials have blocked United Nations access to areas that experienced deadly protests during one of the country’s most violent periods in recent memory, the U.N. human rights chief said Thursday.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein spoke during a three-day visit to the East African nation at the government’s invitation. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has rejected United Nations and other outside requests to investigate the months of anti-government protests demanding more political freedoms.

The government has said at least 669 people were killed and largely blames the political opposition for the unrest. Opposition figures and human rights groups say security forces killed protesters, while the government has called security forces’ response “proportionate.”

More than 26,000 people were detained amid the protests, and Ethiopia in October declared a state of emergency that recently was extended.

Zeid expressed alarm at the “extremely large number” of arrests and said some charges against those detained “may be misplaced.”

He asked that U.N. staffers be allowed to visit the areas of unrest. “We may then perhaps provide a list to the government and ask for specific releases” of people detained, Zeid said. “This requires more attention.”

The human rights chief also expressed concern about anti-terrorism laws in Ethiopia, saying that “an excessively broad definition of terrorism may be misused against journalists, bloggers and members of opposition parties.”

Earlier Thursday, Zeid addressed the crisis in neighboring South Sudan, saying up to 50,000 civilians in the country’s Upper Nile region are at imminent risk of human rights violations as government troops close in.

Many civilians in Aburoc town, some of whom recently fled a military attack on nearby Kodok town, are ethnic Shilluk and have faced a sharp rise in government attacks as South Sudan’s civil war continues.

Zeid said military commanders on both sides show little regard for protecting civilians.

Separately, the U.N. humanitarian affairs agency said roughly 100,000 civilians have been displaced after a South Sudan government offensive in the Jonglei region.

Army spokesman Santo Domic Chol did not comment on fighting in either location but said government attacks on civilians “didn’t make sense” because civilians are not armed.


Associated Press writer Justin Lynch in Nairobi, Kenya contributed.




Daily Mail: UN rights chief urges Ethiopia to free prisoners after protests


At a press conference, Zeid said he was concerned about the mass arrests last year during protests driven by discontent among the country’s two largest ethnic groups, which left hundreds dead.

“The extremely large number of arrests, over 26,000, suggests it is unlikely rule of law guarantees have been observed in every case,” Zeid said.

“I am requesting the government to consider, if possible, the release of a number of individuals whose arrest or conviction appears to have been motivated by fear of criticism rather than evidence of intent to spark violent overthrow,” he said.  – More at Daily Mail.


 

NewsweeK: U.N. Renews Calls to Investigate Deadly Anti-Government Protests in Ethiopia

The U.N. has renewed calls to the Ethiopian government to let human rights officials conduct independent investigations into allegations of abuses by security forces against protesters in the country in 2015 and 2016.


UN: Ethiopia: UN experts call for international commission to help investigate systematic violence against protesters. #OromoProtests October 10, 2016

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Ethiopia: UN experts call for international commission to help investigate systematic violence against protesters

GENEVA (10 October 2016) –United Nations human rights experts today urged the Ethiopian authorities to end their violent crackdown on peaceful protests, which has reportedly led to the death of over 600 people since November 2015. They further called on the Government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and the violence used against peaceful demonstrators.

“We are outraged at the alarming allegations of mass killings, thousands of injuries, tens of thousands of arrests and hundreds of enforced disappearances,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard. “We are also extremely concerned by numerous reports that those arrested had faced torture and ill-treatment in military detention centres.”

“In light of the lack of progress in investigating the systematic violence against protesters, we urge the Ethiopian Government to allow an international independent commission to assist in shedding light on these allegations,” they stated.

The human rights experts highlighted in particular the 2 October events in Oromia, where 55 people were killed in a stampede.

“The deaths in the Oromia region last weekend are only the latest in a long string of incidents where the authorities’ use of excessive force has led to mass deaths,” Mr. Kiai said noting that peaceful protests in the Ahmara and Konso Wereda regions have also been met with violence from authorities.

“The scale of this violence and the shocking number of deaths make it clear that this is a calculated campaign to eliminate opposition movements and silence dissenting voices,” he added.

The UN Special Rapporteurs voiced particular concern over the use of national security provisions and counterterrorism legislation – the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 – to target individuals exercising their rights to peaceful assembly.

“This law authorises the use of unrestrained force against suspects and pre-trial detention of up to four months,” Ms. Callamard noted while warning that many of the killings could amount to extrajudicial executions. “Whenever the principles of necessity and proportionality are not respected in the context of crowd control, any death caused by law enforcement officials is considered an extrajudicial execution,” she stressed.

The Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances urged the authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of those disappeared and emphasized that” all allegations of enforced disappearances must be thoroughly and independently investigated and perpetrators held accountable”.

Ethiopia’s current wave of mass protests began in the Oromia region in November 2015, in response to the Government’s ‘Master Plan’ to expand Addis Ababa’s boundaries, which would lead to the displacement of Oromo farmers. In Konso Wereda, the protests started in mid-December 2015 after the annexation of Konso into the Segen Area Peoples Zone. Protests later spread to other areas of the country, including the Ahmara region.

“Curtailing assembly and association rights is never the answer when there are disagreements in a society; rather, it is a sign of the State’s inability to deal with such disagreements,” Mr Kiai said. “Suffocating dissent only makes things worse, and is likely to lead to further social and political unrest.”

The experts underlined the urgent need to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the violence. A group of UN experts made a similar call* in January 2016, which went unheeded, they noted.

Mr. Kiai, Ms. Callamard and the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances call has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, Victoria Lucia Tauli-corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez and the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Roland Adjovi.

(*) Check the experts’ January statement: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16977&LangID=E

ENDS

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Ethiopia:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ETIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Marion Mondain (+41 22 91 79 540 /freeassembly@ohchr.org).

To view this press release online, visit:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20663&LangID=E

 

UN Human Rights Briefing Note on Ethiopia October 8, 2016

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UN Human Rights Briefing Note on Ethiopia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Geneva,    7 October 2016

UN Human Rights Office of the High Commission

There has been increasing unrest in several towns in the Oromia region, south east of Addis Ababa, since last Sunday when many people died after falling into ditches or into the Arsede lake while apparently fleeing security forces following a protest at a religious festival in the town of Bishoftu. The protests have apparently been fuelled in part by a lack of trust in the authorities’ account of events as well as wildly differing information about the death toll and the conduct of security forces. We call on the protestors to exercise restraint and to renounce the use of violence. Security forces must conduct themselves in line with international human rights laws and standards.

There is clearly a need for an independent investigation into what exactly transpired last Sunday, and to ensure accountability for this and several other incidents since last November involving protests that have ended violently.

Instead of cutting off access to mobile data services in parts of the country, including in Addis Ababa, we urge the Government to take concrete measures to address the increasing tensions, in particular by allowing independent observers to access the Oromia and Amhara regions to speak to all sides and assess the facts. In August this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requested access to the regions to enable the Office to provide assistance in line with Ethiopia’s human rights obligations. We again appeal to the Government to grant us access.

We are also concerned that two bloggers, Seyoum Teshoume and Natnael Feleke, the latter from the blogging collective Zone 9, were arrested this week. Feleke and a friend of his were reportedly arrested for loudly discussing the responsibility of the Government for the deaths at last Sunday’s Irrecha festival in Oromia. There have also been worrying reports of mass arrests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. We urge the Government to release those detained for exercising their rights to free expression and opinion. Silencing criticism will only deepen tensions.