Human Rights and Democracy Report 2013 - Ethiopia - Country case study update

A country case study update on Ethiopia which forms part or the 2013 Human Rights and Democracy Report.

Progress on most economic and social rights continues on a broadly positive trend. Ethiopia is on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Most recently, Ethiopia achieved the MDG 4 target reducing mortality of children under five by 67%, the maternal mortality rate has declined by 69% since 1990, and the incidence of malaria has halved. Over two thirds of government expenditure is allocated to basic service provision. Ethiopia is also taking steps to address gender and sub-regional inequalities. At the Girl Summit in London in July 2014, Ethiopia committed to ending early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation by 2025.

There are concerns in relation to civil and political rights. Ethiopia will hold national elections in May 2015. In this context, we have seen some worrying developments in recent months. These include the terrorism charges brought on 18 July against seven bloggers from the “Zone 9” group, and three journalists; criminal convictions against some publishers; and arrests of opposition party members. The UK will continue to press the Ethiopian government to create the conditions necessary for an inclusive political process.

Two pieces of legislation in particular restrict Ethiopian citizens’ ability to exercise some of the civil and political rights guaranteed in the constitution. Civil society organisations’ operations continue to be constrained by the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP), which introduced limits on foreign sources of funding for Ethiopian charities undertaking certain types of work. Those working on human rights, advocacy, election monitoring, governance, gender equality and security and justice have been particularly affected. The Ethiopian government has made some revisions in implementation of the law, but we are yet to see any amendments on issues such as the regulation of administrative costs.

We have continued to raise concerns about the use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) with the highest levels of the Ethiopian government. In May 2013, following an agreement with the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a UK government legal advisor visited Ethiopia to discuss Ethiopian and UK anti-terrorism legislation with senior Ethiopian government legal experts. Former Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, was in correspondence with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister on the outcomes. In July 2014, the EU issued a joint statement calling for due process and respect for international human rights in relation to the detention under the ATP of the “Zone 9” bloggers, journalists and opposition figures. We will monitor the trials and continue to raise our concerns with the government.

The UK has joined multi-donor visits to regions where communities are being relocated for development investment, and where the Commune Development Programme (CDP, often referred to as “villagisation”) is operating. The visits have found no evidence of systematic or widespread human rights abuses, but have found evidence of poor implementation of the CDP, including in terms of community consultation, grievance redress mechanisms and service provision – although implementation appears to have improved over time. The UK will continue to raise these and other concerns with the government of Ethiopia through the Donor Assistance Group.

The UK was particularly concerned by developments in Oromia in April and May this year. An estimated 28 people, perhaps more, died when student protests against plans to expand Addis Ababa into the neighbouring Oromia Regional State turned violent and security forces used lethal force. We have stressed to the government the importance of an investigation into what happened, and for any members of the security forces who have used excessive force to be held to account.

We have conveyed our deep concern to the authorities about the removal from Yemen to Ethiopia of Andargachew Tsege, and have sought assurances that due legal process will be followed and the death sentence imposed in absentia will not be carried out. As soon as we were made aware that Andargachew was in Ethiopia, the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, Mr Simmonds, and our Ambassador to Ethiopia all pressed senior officials and ministers in the Ethiopian government for immediate and regularised consular access. On 11 August, our Ambassador to Ethiopia made a consular visit to Andargachew to check on his welfare. We are now pressing at the highest levels to regularise this access.

This case study is part of the 2013 Human Rights and Democracy Report.