Posts Tagged ‘“Zone 9” bloggers’

NGOs jointly address (again) the human rights crisis in Ethiopia

May 26, 2017

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They draw attention to persistent and grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia and the pressing need to support the establishment of an independent, impartial and international investigation into atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent. And they ask countries to prioritise and address through joint statements the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council from 6 – 23 June 2017. [for last year’s call see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]

In the wake of unprecedented, mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, Ethiopian authorities routinely responded to legitimate and largely peaceful expressions of dissent with excessive and unnecessary force. As a result, over 800 protesters have been killed, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters have been arrested, and in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency, that was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.

The State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to a Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental and non-derogable rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. More information on the human rights violations occurring under the current State of Emergency is included in the Annex at the end of this letter.

Lack of independent investigations

Few effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses exist in Ethiopia, given the lack of independence of the judiciary – the ruling EPRDF coalition and allied parties control all 547 seats in Parliament.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, concluded in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The written Amharic version of the report was only recently made public, and there are long-standing concerns about the impartiality and research methodology of the Commission. On 18 April 2017, the Commission submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.” Both reports are in stark contrast with the findings of other national and international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning the latter has failed to meet fully the Paris Principles.

Refusal to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms

In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”, and recently renewed his call for access to the country during a visit to the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call, citing its own investigation conducted by its Commission. UN Special Procedures have also made similar calls.

In November 2016, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights adopted a resolution calling for an international, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces to disperse and suppress peaceful protests. Recent European parliament and US Congressional resolutions have also called for independent investigations. The Ethiopian embassy in Belgium dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution citing its own Commission’s investigations into the protests.

As a member of the UN HRC, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9), yet there are outstanding requests for access from Special Procedures, including from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others.

The letter urges Ethiopia to:

  1. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
  2. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures,
  3. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
  4. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials; and
  5. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

Download PDF (401.12 KB)

The Ethiopian Zone 9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 MEA, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/ 

Source: Joint NGO Letter Addressing the Pervasive Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia – Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

The 4th Werner Lottje Lecture showcases the Zone-9 Bloggers from Ethiopia (15 February)

January 26, 2017

This year’s Werner Lottje Lecture is dedicated to freedom of speech in Ethiopia, to which two Zone-9 bloggers (Zelalem Kibret und Jomanex Kasayehave been invited. The Zone-9 bloggers were finalists for the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (of which the late Werner Lottje was one of the founders). See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/

The event “We blog because we careDas Recht auf Meinungsfreiheit in Äthiopien” takes place in Berlin on 15 February 2017 at 17h30 in there building of Bread for the World– Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst, Caroline-Michaelis-Straße 1, and is co-organised with the German Institute for Human Rights. To attend please contact Alexandra Prieß: alexandra.priess@brot-fuer-die-welt.de.

2000 appr Werner LottjeSee also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/10/18/2nd-werner-lottje-lecture-on-10-november-in-berlin-with-alejandra-ancheita-and-michel-forst/

Martin Ennals Award 2016: relive the ceremony in 13 minutes or in full

October 15, 2016

For those who missed the amazing Martin Ennals Award ceremony in Geneva on 11 October here is the 13-minute summary

For those who would like to relive the whole event please go to: new MEA_logo with text

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ueCvkmTf59u

Summary and streaming are courtesy of THF

One of Ethiopia’s Zone-9 Bloggers, Natal Feleke, arrested

October 6, 2016

On 4 October, 2016 Natnael Feleke, a Zone-9 Blogger and two of his friends, Tsedeke Digafe and Addisalem Mulugeta were taken into detention. The reason given by the police about their arrest is that while sitting at Lalibela restaurant and talking loudly about the death of hundreds on 2 October this year at the yearly thanksgiving ceremony in Bishoftu, Ethiopia. They blamed the government for the deaths that occurred, and thus uttered ‘seditious remarks’. Natnael and his friends were brought to the Federal First Instance court, Kera Branch Criminal Bench awaiting a decision on the bail issue. Zone-9 bloggers are one of the finalist for this year’s MEA (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/ethiopia-high-commissioner-marathon-runner-and-mea-jury-agree/)

Ethiopia: High Commissioner, Marathon runner and MEA Jury agree

September 16, 2016

Last week I reported that a number of NGOs had written to the UN Human Rights Council [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/un-human-rights-council-urged-to-address-situation-in-ethiopia/]. Speaking at the opening session of the Council, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “While Ethiopia has made impressive gains in terms of economic development, we are deeply concerned about repeated allegations of excessive and lethal use of force against protestors, enforced disappearances, and mass detentions, including of children, as well as by worrying restrictions on civil society, the media and opposition.” The High Commissioner said it was “mystifying” that the Ethiopian government refused to allow his office access to parts of the country where human rights abuses – including the recent shooting of protestors – have been alleged.[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]. The UN High Commissioner used the occasion to criticise Ethiopia for a recent crackdown on opposition which has included the kidnapping and sentencing to death of a British man, Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege.

The Voice of America reported that Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian silver medalist in the marathon at last month’s Rio Olympics, was in Washington this week, calling on the U.S. Congress to take action in solidarity with Ethiopians protesting their government. Lilesa gained worldwide attention when he crossed his wrists as a sign of protest as he approached the finish line during the Rio men’s marathon. He is Oromo and made the gesture in solidarity with Oromo protests that have occurred in Ethiopia since last November over issues including land rights and fair representation in the government. He met with Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, in New York to discuss human rights issues in Ethiopia.

FILE - Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia crosses his writsts as he celebrates on the podium after the men's marathon at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 21, 2016. He had made the same gesture of protest as he approached the finish line of the race.

Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia crosses his writsts as he celebrates on the podium after the men’s marathon at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,

The Martin Ennals Award has in the meantime published a short video with comments by its Jury members about the Final Nominee from Ethiopia: Zone 9 Bloggers:

 

sources:

http://www.voanews.com/a/ethiopian-runner-calls-united-states-push-human-rights/3509965.html

http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2016/09/13/un-human-rights-chief-deeply-concerned-over-ethiopia-abuses

UN Human Rights Council urged to address situation in Ethiopia

September 9, 2016

15 major human rights rights groups have written a joint letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council urging an immediate halt to “excessive” use of force by Ethiopian security forces. The letter dated Thursday 8 September also calls for an independent investigation into the reported killings of hundreds of people in Ethiopia’s Amhara and Oromia states since November 2015 amid protests. “Authorities have also arbitrarily arrested thousands of people throughout Oromia and Amhara during and after protests, including journalists and human rights defenders,” the letter says. The Human Rights Council convenes next week in Geneva.

Earlier this  year UN Rapporteurs had already expressed their concern: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/un-rapporteurs-urge-ethiopia-to-end-violent-crackdown-and-impunity/

Read the rest of this entry »

An early Save the Date: 11 October, 2016, Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva.

July 1, 2016

poster MEA 2016

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony, organized annually by the City of Geneva and the Martin Ennals Foundation, will this year take place on 11 October, 6.00 pm, at Uni Dufour, Geneva, as the the opening of the Human Rights Week hosted by the University of Geneva from October 11 to 14 and with the support of the Canton of Geneva.

The laureate will be selected from among three 2016 finalists:

Mr. Ilham Tohti
(China) was sentenced to life imprisonment after working for two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese.

Mrs. Razan Zaitouneh (Syria) was kidnapped after dedicating her life to defending political prisoners and documenting crimes against humanity in Syria.

Zone 9 Bloggers (Ethiopia) have been prosecuted for documenting human rights abuses in their country.

See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/breaking-news-final-nominees-2016-martin-ennals-award-tohti-zone-9-bloggers-razan-zaitouneh-annoucement/

The finalists and laureate are selected by the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award, made up of ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Frontline Defenders, the International Commission of Jurists, EWDE-Germany, the International Service for Human Rights, and HURIDOCS. The detailed programme of the ceremony will follow at the beginning of September.

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

For the conversation in the social media, use the hashtag: #Ennals2016.

You can register already now through: http://www.martinennalsaward.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=296%3Amea-2016-save-the-date&lang=en.

Breaking News: Final Nominees of the 2016 Martin Ennals Award are known

April 27, 2016

Just now the Martin Ennals Foundation announced that the three Final Nominees of the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders are: new MEA_logo with text Read the rest of this entry »

UN Rapporteurs urge Ethiopia to end violent crackdown and impunity

February 10, 2016

On 21 January 2016 a group of United Nations Rapporteurs (Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances) called on the Ethiopian authorities to end the ongoing crackdown on peaceful protests by the country’s security forces, who have reportedly killed more than 140 demonstrators and arrested scores more in the past nine weeks. “The sheer number of people killed and arrested suggests that the Government of Ethiopia views the citizens as a hindrance, rather than a partner,” the independent experts said, while also expressing deep concern about allegations of enforced disappearances of several protesters.

The current wave of protests began in mid-November, in opposition to the Government’s ‘Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan’ to expand the capital’s municipal boundary. The ‘Master Plan’ could reportedly lead to mass evictions and the seizure of agricultural land in the Oromia region, as well as extensive deforestation. The UN experts welcomed the Government’s announcement on 12 January 2016 suspending the implementation of the ‘Master Plan’, but were concerned about continuous reports of killings, mass arrests, excessive use of force and other abuses by security forces. “The Government’s decision is a positive development, but it cannot be seen as a sincere commitment until the security forces stop their crackdown on peaceful protests,” they said. “The role of security forces should be to protect demonstrators and to facilitate peaceful assemblies, not suppress them.”

We call on the Government to immediately release protesters who seem to have been arrested for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, to reveal the whereabouts of those reportedly disappeared and to carry out an independent, transparent investigation into the security forces’ response to the protests,” the experts said.  “Impunity, on the other hand, only perpetuates distrust, violence and more oppression.

The UN independent experts also expressed grave concern over the Ethiopian Government’s application of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 to arrest and prosecute protesters, labelling them as ‘terrorists’ without substantiated evidence. This law authorises the use of unrestrained force against suspects and pre-trial detention of up to four months. “Ethiopia’s use of terrorism laws to criminalize peaceful dissent is a disturbing trend, not limited to the current wave of protests,” they experts noted. “The wanton labelling of peaceful activists as terrorists is not only a violation of international human rights law, it also contributes to an erosion of confidence in Ethiopia’s ability to fight real terrorism. This ultimately makes our world a more dangerous place.”

How the law was used recently is clear from the case of the “Zone 9” bloggers. Fortunately, on 16 October 2015 Front Line was able to report that all “Zone 9” bloggers were cleared of terrorism charges by the Federal Court in Addis Ababa. All bloggers and journalists whose terrorism charges have been dropped are members of the “Zone 9” and prominent social media activists. With the exception of Soliana Shimelis, the other human rights defenders, namely Mss Mahlet Fantahun and Edom Kassaye and Messrs Natnael Feleke, Befekadu Hailu, Atnaf Birhane, Zelalem Kibret, Abel Wabela, Tesfalem Weldyes and Asmamaw Haile Giorgis, were arrested on 25 and 26 April 2014 and remained in detention for over a year before being freed.  The human rights defenders’ lawyer stated that “all the evidence presented was very weak to prove they were planning any kind of terrorism”. However, charges of inciting violence remain pending against Befekadu Hailu, who might face a ten-year imprisonment sentence if convicted. See: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/29137

On Ethiopia: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/suffocating-dissent-in-ethiopia-counterpunch-tells-the-facts-and-names-the-names/

http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16977&LangID=E