Ethiopia: Declines to accept UN member states’ recommendations on free expression

Ethiopia: Declines to accept UN member states’ recommendations on free expression - Civic Space

ARTICLE 19 regrets the Ethiopian government’s rejection of United Nations member states’ genuine concerns about freedom of expression in the country. The government failed to make any concrete statements at the Universal Periodic Review aimed at improving freedom of expression at a time when it has initiated an unprecedented crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders. 

“The delegation led by Berhane Gebre-Christos, Ethiopian Minister for State for Foreign Affairs, has missed the opportunity to pledge steps to reverse the deteriorating human rights situation in Ethiopia. The delegation seems to have set their minds on downplaying the gravity of violations taking place,” said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Director.

While responding to questions and recommendations from over 100 UN member states, the Ethiopian delegation said that the rights to freedom of expression and association are respected and denied that there are any jailed journalists in the country.

The delegation argued that there are 3,078 charities operating in Ethiopia, and ignored the Charities and Societies Proclamation being cited by human rights organisations as a hindrance to the growth of NGOs.

The delegation also said that the constitution outlaws torture and inhuman treatment and that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has been training police officers to respect the rights of detainees. It denied accusations that it has been using the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to silence opposition and independent journalists, saying the law was being used strictly for safeguarding the country.

“It is unfortunate that the Ethiopian government has used the UPR to deny all the credible reports that have been filed at the UN by human rights organisations regarding the situation of human rights in the country. As we near the May 2015 elections in Ethiopia, the situation has the potential to become worse since the government does not seem to have any interest in promoting human rights,” added Maina.

During a side event at the UPR co-organised by ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS, Freedom Now and Pen International, the Ethiopian delegation said that UN special rapporteurs on freedom of expression and freedom of association will not be allowed to visit the country since they are “biased”. This is despite the delegation promising at the UPR to engage in “constructive dialogue” with the UN and its mechanisms.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon member states to continue pressuring Ethiopia to respect its international human rights obligations given that no tangible step was taken at implementing recommendations made during the first cycle. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique state-driven process at the United Nations which provides the opportunity for each state to explain how it has improved its human rights situation, and for other states to make recommendations for improvement, which the reviewed state should either accept or reject.

We urge states not to relent in asking the government to stop intimidating, harassing, arresting and detaining journalists and human rights defenders. As a member of the Human Rights Council, Ethiopia must he held to the highest levels of accountability for human rights violations.

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For more media interviews please contact: Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa; Email: [email protected] or call on +254 20 3862230/1/2