Ethiopia: Release of human rights defender welcome but end to arbitrary detentions must follow

18 October 2018, 20:32 UTC
Updated: 22 October 2018, 17:23 UTC

Following news that human rights lawyer Henok Aklilu and his friend Michael Melak were released without charge on Saturday after spending three days in jail, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher Fisseha Tekle said:

 “Henok Aklilu and Michael Melak’s release is welcome news, but they should never have been arrested in the first place. They were detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.

“This lamentable episode of arbitrary detention shows the need for the Ethiopian authorities to adjust and align their practices to their country’s commitments to uphold human rights.”  

Ethiopia Release immediately and unconditionally human rights defender arrested for exercising freedom of expression

The Ethiopian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release a human rights defender and his friend who were arrested and charged for advocating for a more autonomous capital - Addis Ababa, with self-governance similar to other regional states, and for “receiving training from the Palestine Consulate” in Ethiopia, said Amnesty International.

Henok Aklilu - a lawyer renowned for representing people accused of terrorism-related offences - was arrested at his office in Addis Ababa together with a friend, Michael Melak, with whom he intends to form an association of Addis-born Ethiopians.

“The arrest of Henok and Michael highlight the difficulties human rights defenders continue to face despite the Ethiopian government’s stated commitment to open up space for dissenting voices.

“The two must be released immediately and unconditionally as they are being simply held for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.

“Instead of arresting and harassing human rights defenders and activists, Ethiopian police should work towards ensuring a safe and enabling environment in which defending human rights can be done without fear of reprisals,” said Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International’s Horn of Africa Researcher.

The two were arrested on Wednesday evening and charged in court today.