The following is the statement made by Mr. Garoma Wakessa, Executive Director of the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 23rd Session, Geneva, Switzerland, on June 4, 2013.
United Nations Human Rights Council
23rd Session, Geneva, Switzerland
June 4, 2013
Oral Statement by Mr. Garoma Wakessa, Executive Director the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA)
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention – Ethiopia
Thank You, Mr. Chairman,
Human rights violations in Ethiopia are gross, are of all kinds and widespread. Due to the limited time allotted to this Oral Statement, I will focus on the most crucial components.
The current Ethiopian Government has continued systematic restrictions on basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, including freedom of thought and expression, and civil and political rights. The independent media, political opposition parties, and civil societies, are continuously harassed and intimidated by the government; many of them are outlawed, and political leaders are sentenced to long prison terms under the so- called Anti-Terrorism proclamation.
The provisions of Ethiopia’s 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation define terrorist activities so vaguely that they are easily used to criminalize all civil society activists and political opposition leaders, supporters, and peaceful demonstration organizers.
Today, media practitioners in Ethiopia face charges such as treason and terrorism simply because they put information on paper -and publish it. Opposition political party leaders and supporters face the same charge because they exercise their political freedoms.
In the past two years, Muslims who demanded non-interference of government in their religious affairs have been harassed, sometimes killed or imprisoned. University students who staged demonstrations to demand better treatment at their University campuses were beaten or imprisoned under the Proclamation.
In Ethiopia, the giving away of land to Transnational Corporations and other wealthy states has become a critical and burning issue for millions of family members. Thousands of small land holders in Gambela, (South Ethiopia), in Oromia Regional State ( Central and Western Ethiopia) and Benshangul ( South-West part of Ethiopia) have been forcefully evicted from their ancestral lands and become jobless and homeless; those who resisted forced eviction or demanded compensation for their plundered land have been killed. Others were charged as terrorists and now languish in prison.
Today, children, women, senior citizens in Ethiopia regularly face starvation and are dying every day. They require the attention of the UN Human Rights Council. The Ethiopian Government has the legal obligation to respect and protect human rights set out in the international human rights conventions it ratified. Investors also should abide by the UN Global Compact – the ten principles which clearly explain their responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labor, and environmental rights in the country in which they are investing.
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa is very concerned with the deteriorating situation of human rights in Ethiopia and calls upon the UN Human Rights Council,
● Urge the Ethiopian authorities to carry out their obligations under domestic, regional and international obligations to protect and promote freedom of expression, by immediately ending the practice of arresting and prosecuting those who hold different political opinions;
● Call on the government of Ethiopia to allow the Special Rapporteur on the land issue to visit the country to determine the extent to which the government of Ethiopia and the investors are complying with their domestic, regional and international human rights obligations. It is their responsibility to respect human rights.