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Joint Submission to the 19th Session of the Universal Periodic Review

In this document, CIVICUS, EHAHRDP and HRCO outline urgent concerns related to the environment in which civil society activists and human rights defenders operate in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and discuss threats faced in the exercise of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

CIVICUS, EHAHRDP and HRCO are greatly concerned by legislative and extra-legal measures taken by the Ethiopian Government which drastically curb civil society activism and the freedom of association.

CIVICUS, EHAHRDP and HRCO are deeply alarmed by undue and arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression, independence of the media and access to information.

CIVICUS, EHAHRDP and HRCO are greatly concerned by ongoing restrictions on the free exercise of the right to freedom of assembly, including unwarranted use of excessive and sometimes fatal force to disperse nonviolent demonstrations.

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“The 35th Regular Report presents information collected by Human Rights Council’s Human Rights Monitoring and Investigation Department. The report provides a comprehensive look at the contemporary human rights situation in Ethiopia in 2010 and 2011. The gamut of human rights violations, including forced disappearance, denial of justice, excessive use of force by police officials, illegal detention, arbitrary arrest, torture, extra-judicial murder, cruel and inhuman treatment are covered in HRCO’s 35th Regular Report.

During the reporting year, HRCO documented an escalation in the proliferation of systemic human rights violations relating to arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and illegal forced eviction. The overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism outlined in the 2009 Anti-terrorism proclamation (proclamation 652/2009) are increasingly being used to silence political dissent and suspend due process rights.1 The proclamation implicates individuals who report on or provide ”indirect encouragement” for the activities of perceived terrorists allows police to arrest any individual he ”reasonably suspects” of having committed a terrorist act without a warrant.”

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Report: Impact of the CSO Proclamation on the Human Rights Council

In 2008 there were 127 rights-based, non-governmental organizations operating in Ethiopia.1 Largely dependent on foreign donor assistance, Ethiopia’s nascent human rights community acted as a bulwark against the rapidly deteriorating respect for civil liberties and political rights in Ethiopia. However, with the advent of Proclamation 621/2009 (CSO Proclamation) ― which prohibits national, rights-based NGOs from receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources and provides the government with a powerful tool of supervision and obstruction ― Ethiopia’s once vibrant human rights community is on the verge of extinction. While specific statistics are not available, today, with international human rights organizations barred from working in Ethiopia and national human rights organizations denied access to foreign funding, it can be assumed that numerous human rights organizations have been forced to rescind their human rights mandate or dissolve completely.

The Human Rights Council (HRCO), as the first and only national, independent civil society organization (CSO) mandated to monitor, investigate and report on human rights in Ethiopia, resolved not to rescind its right-based initiatives following the adoption of the CSO Proclamation in 2009. This decision, to forgo most foreign funding in exchange for authorization to continue conducting human rights activities, has significantly reduced HRCO’s capacity to discharge its mandate. Due to an 80 percent reduction in staff, HRCO has been forced to either dissolve or reduce all of its operations and programs. The resulting decrease in exposure and institutional capacity has greatly reduced the Council’s ability to provide essential rights-based services to Ethiopian denizens and combat oppressive and unconstitutional legislation introduced by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) Government. While this report focuses primarily on how the passage of Proclamation 621/2009 has adversely affected the Human Rights Council, it should be not forgotten that the true victims of the government’s crackdown on independent human rights activity are the millions of Ethiopians who are now deprived of the protections, information and resources previously provided by international and national human rights organizations.

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Protect the Rights of Displaced Citizens! March 28, 2011

“In search of a more fertile farmland, persons originally residing in Northern Ethiopia, particularly from the Amhara Regional State, have migrated to the Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s Regional State (SNNPRS) of Ethiopia. Beginning around from the year 1990 these people have originally settled specifically in Gura Farda Woreda in the Bench Maji Zone of the SNNPRS. With the acquiescence of the regional administration, these individuals were permitted to form a distinct community with numerous families establishing sustenance and commercial farms. At the time of reporting, the number of Northern migrants residing in Gura Farda Woreda is now estimated to be in tens of thousands.

At the request of the Bench Maji Zone administration, which claimed that these settlers have caused inconvenience to the indigenous societies of the area, the Office of the President of the SNNPRS passed a decision on June 18, 2009, stating that in accordance with the sequence of their arrival in the area, the settlers must be provided with legal tenure of a specified area or face eviction.”

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UPR Submission by Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO)

” Suspend the application of the Charities and Societies law and amend the restrictive provisions of this law in a manner that guarantees the rights of human rights defenders to promote human rights and democratic values.

– These severe restrictions on the rights of free association of persons to provide an alternative voice for the citizenry or by promoting human rights, accountability and transparency in government are not limited to the Charities and Societies law. The government seemed to have resorted to a legalistic approach to silence any form organized dissent and activism. The patterns shown by the laws enacted or amended during the post 2005 period clearly show a growing trend of using the law and the judicial system as an instrument of suppression.

– In this regard, the Amended Electoral law of 2007, the Media and Freedom of Information law of 2008 and the Amended Political Party Registration and the Charities and Societies law of 2009 are a few cases in point. The amended Electoral law severely restricts the involvement of civil society organizations in electoral activities by requiring them to choose between voters’ education and election monitoring. An NGO cannot engage in both during elections. Apart from this, NGOs are required to obtain permission from the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia to engage in voters’ education or election monitoring activities. A decision by the Board denying this permission is not subject to judicial review. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia ignored repeated written application by EHRCO to monitor and observe the April 2008 local and by elections. The law requires the Board to give written explanations when it denies permission for a request to observe elections.

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110th Special Report: Worsening Situation of Ethnic Clashes Needs due Attention

“Members of the Oromo, Gumuz, Amhara and other ethnic groups live in the bordering kebeles of Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz regional states. There have been clashes in the past particularly between members of the Oromo and Gumuz ethnic groups over claims to farmlands. As the cause of the clashes has not been addressed adequately, the clashes turned violent and caused the loss of lives and damages to property.

The conflict occurred starting on May 17, 2008 in the Anger locality in a place called Haro Wata (Arategna), Amestegna, Sementegna, Zetenegna and Aseregna villages in Sasiga wereda, East Wollega zone of the Oromia regional state between members of the Oromo and Gumuz ethnic groups. Survivors of the conflict told EHRCO that more than hundred people were brutally killed and injured and thousands were displaced from their homes. Local transportation services were disrupted for security reasons by the time this report was being compiled. As a result, EHRCO investigators could not get access to all the areas affected by the conflict. The information in the following tables were documented based on interviews conducted with local authorities, survivors of the conflict who are receiving medical treatment in Nekemt Hospital and persons who fled their homes and sought refuge in Nekemt and neighboring towns.”

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