May 18, 2017

European Parliament Resolution Condemns Crackdown on Civil Society in Ethiopia

Photo credit: Antoine Lemonnier via CC BY-NC-SA

On 18 May 2017, the European Parliament passed a resolution on Ethiopia, drawing attention to the violent crackdown on civil society in the country and shedding light more particularly on the case of Oromo opposition politician Dr Merera Gudina, still behind bars. The resolution urges the Ethiopian government to end the state of emergency and the restrictions it entails, as well as to stop using anti-terrorism legislation to suppress peaceful opposition. The European Union (EU) High Representative is called to “put pressure on the Ethiopian government” for it to allow an independent investigation into the killings of protesters. The current humanitarian crisis affecting the Ogaden region and beyond is also tackled in the document.

The last eight months have been a synonym of political repression and humanitarian distress for Ethiopia’s most vulnerable peoples and particularly for the inhabitants of Oromia and Ogaden. On 8 October 2016, in response to ongoing protests after the Irrecha massacre of 2 October, during which 600 demonstrators were killed, the Ethiopian government declared a six-month state of emergency for Oromia. In the following week alone, the Ethiopian authorities had already arrested more than 1,600 people, mainly from the Oromia and Amhara regions. At the end of March 2017, the government announced an extension of the state of emergency by four months.

One emblematic case of the violent crackdown on human rights and civil liberties in the country is the arrest, on 1 December 2016, of Dr Merera Gudina, a high-level Oromo opposition politician, shortly after his return to Ethiopia. In his speech from 9 November in the European Parliament, Dr Gudina had roundly condemned the arrests that followed the institution of the state of emergency. On 23 February 2017, Dr Merera Gudina was charged with terrorism by Ethiopian prosecutors and since then he remains in jail, along with other political leaders, journalists and prominent elders.

Along with a dire human rights situation, the people from the region of Ogaden and beyond face a life-threatening crisis involving a devastating wave of deaths due to a cholera epidemic and famine. Due to this, since November 2016, it is estimated that 2,000 people have died in the remote rural areas of Ogaden.

During the debate that preceded the vote, MEPs raised their concerns over the recent events in Oromia and the overall human rights and humanitarian situation in the country. The text was supported by six parliamentary groups and authored by more than 90 MEPs.

A little bit more than a year after the last European Parliament resolution on Ethiopia, UNPO is glad to see that the MEPs are keeping up their efforts to bring up the plights of the Ethiopian peoples in the hemicycle. More than ever, our organization is committed to pursue its work with its Members, partners and decision-makers to urge Ethiopia to guarantee the protection of the human rights of its citizens, especially those who are the most vulnerable.

You can access the resolution by clicking here.

To watch the video of the plenary debate, please click here.

To read the details of the debate, click here.

To read Human Rights Watch's article on this topic, please click here.