Ethiopia needs wider civil space, says High Commissioner for Human Rights

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein


The Ethiopian government needs make policy adjustments in order to realize their achievements, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The Commissioner who visited Ethiopia this week and held discussions with several government officials, members of opposition parties as well as civil society, stated that although there seem to be some improvements, the government should invest more in making the civil space wider.

Speaking on the unrest that broke out in Ethiopia in 2015 and 2016, the Commissioner underlined that the large number of arrests made imply that rule of law may not have been up held by forces. “Although I benefited from the briefing provided to me by the Attorney General’s office, the extremely large numbers of arrests, over 26,000, suggest it is unlikely rule of law guaranties have been observed in every case,” he stated. He further pointed out that he has renewed his request to the Ethiopian government UN Human Rights Commission to be given access to the affected areas of the unrest and carry out an investigation and he is hopeful the government will grant that access.

Pointing out to the consequences of oppression of freedom, the commissioner stated that “Failure to uphold fundamental freedoms and rule of law always generates huge cost downstream, repression of people’s voices and rights are damaging to public order, they contribute to tension, mistrust and defiance of the government, and ultimately, this repression may lead to violence.”

The Ethiopian government has been criticized a number of times for using the so called anti-terrorism law to science opposition and jail journalists.

“The charities and societies proclamation, anti-terrorism and mass media laws, do not appear in line with international legal norms and should be reformed. I am also concerned that an excessively broad definition of terrorism maybe misused against journalists, bloggers, and members of opposition parties,” the commissioner said.

The commissioner underlined that although there are many things that need to improve, the fact that he was invited by the government to come into Ethiopia and speak to civil society, opposition leaders and government officials, is a positive step for the country. He also mentioned that he held a lengthy talk with a high profile opposition leader that is currently in jail.