July 13, 2011

UNPO And African Rights Monitor Participate In Human Rights Committee Review Of Ethiopia

Along with a coalition of organizations working on human rights in Ethiopia, UNPO and ARM briefed the Committee about violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Ethiopia.

In cooperation with an informal coalition of African rights advocacy organizations, representatives from UNPO and African Rights Monitor (ARM) are in Geneva this week to observe and participate in the 102nd Session of the Human Rights Committee. Ethiopia’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is being assessed during this Session.

Ethiopia ratified the covenant in 1993, and submitted its first report to the review committee in 2009 immediately prior to the country’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council; the report was approximately 15 years overdue. In 2010, the Committee’s Country Report Task Force met to compile a list of issues requiring further explanation by the state. UNPO and ARM both submitted reports for consideration by the Task Force, resulting in the inclusion of important questions about rights in the Ogaden and Oromo regions, as well as the dire situation for civil society organizations throughout the country resulting from the so-called CSO Proclamation.

On Monday, 11 July 2011, members of the Human Rights Committee met in a closed meeting with representatives of UNPO, ARM and other NGOs including Human Rights House Foundation, the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia and the Ogaden Youth and Students Union. UNPO and ARM again highlighted the Ethiopian blockade on humanitarian and monitoring access to the Ogaden region, whose population is currently in dire need of assistance due to a prolonged drought. UNPO and ARM also focused on arbitrary arrests, unlawful searches and entry into private homes, and the eviction of residents and burning of villages in the Ogaden, as well as the use of rape and torture in prisons and unofficial places of detention.

The official dialogue between the State and the Committee began Monday afternoon continued through Tuesday [12 July 2011]. The delegation was strongly questioned on recent cases of detained journalists, including the two Swedish journalists recently arrested in the Somali region; the delegation claimed that the two had been brought before a judge within 48 hours of their arrest but was unable to tell the Committee what they had been charged with, despite the presence of a Prosecutor from the Ministry of Justice in the delegation.  

UNPO and ARM plan to closely monitor and participate in the follow-up to this meeting, particularly given a number of disturbing responses from the state delegation and a number of issues raised which got no response. A number of responses from the state delegation are cause for concern, including statements that torture is not an issue in Ethiopia, and that claims to the contrary are pure “fabrications.”, and an outright refusal to discuss the reason why the ICRC continues to be barred from accessing Ethiopia’s prisons as well as the entire Somali Region. The delegation was also not sufficiently forthcoming in its responses to issues related to the country’s anti-terror legislation, its restrictive laws governing the operation of human rights and democracy organizations and the lifting of restrictions on humanitarian aid to the crisis-stricken Somali region.

The Human Rights Committee Session was webcast live by the CCPR Centre, and the recordings can be viewed at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/un-human-rights-committee

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