As Ethiopia Charges Bloggers as Terrorists, US Concerned, UN Silent

Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law becomes a convenient justification to criminalize legitimate dissent from journalists, bloggers and opposition politicians through a politicized prosecution, in a closed court hearing.
Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law becomes a convenient justification to criminalize legitimate dissent from journalists, bloggers and opposition politicians through a politicized prosecution, in a closed court hearing, of course, with out any consequences from the International community.

By Matthew Russell Lee,

THE attack on Ethiopia’s Zone 9 bloggers, which Inner City Press covered in late April, now has Ethiopia charging them with terrorism.

The UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon has after pressure condemned just this in Egypt. But when Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Ban’s deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about the terrorism charges on July 18, at first there was no comment at all. 

Then the UN Spokesperson’s Office sent Inner City Press a link to a statement by Navi Pillay — from May 2. Nothing since?

Now later on July 18, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has said:

The United States is deeply concerned by the Ethiopian Federal High Court’s July 18 decision to press charges against six bloggers and three independent journalists under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

We urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is fair, transparent, and in compliance with Ethiopia’s constitutional guarantees and international human rights obligations. We also urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is open to public observation and free of political influence.

We reiterate Secretary Kerry’s May 1 call on Ethiopia to refrain from using anti-terrorism laws as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas. The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation in previous cases against journalists, activists, and opposition political figures raises serious questions and concerns about the intent of the law, and about the sanctity of Ethiopians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fundamental elections of a democratic society. The arrest of journalists and bloggers, and their prosecution under terrorism laws, has a chilling effect on the media and all Ethiopians’ right to freedom of expression.

Now will Ban’s UN say something?

Previously we asked, after US-based Twitter has suspended Natnail Feleke’s account, what would the US say? Did Twitter give in to Ethiopia, as it has been doing in Turkey, where Ergodan has also claimed it have “copyrights” his own leaked phone calls?

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UK Aid Should Respect Rights

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By HRW

A UK High Court ruling allowing judicial review of the UK aid agency’s compliance with its own human rights policies in Ethiopia is an important step toward greater accountability in development assistance.

In its decision of July 14, 2014, the High Court ruled that allegations that the UK Department for International Development (DFID) did not adequately assess evidence of human rights violations in Ethiopia deserve a full judicial review.

“The UK high court ruling is just a first step, but it should be a wake-up call for the government and other donors that they need rigorous monitoring to make sure their development programs are upholding their commitments to human rights,” saidLeslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director. “UK development aid to Ethiopia can help reduce poverty, but serious rights abuses should never be ignored.”

The case involves Mr. O (not his real name), a farmer from Gambella in western Ethiopia, who alleges that DFID violated its own human rights policy by failing to properly investigate and respond to human rights violations linked to an Ethiopian government resettlement program known as “villagization.” Mr. O is now a refugee in a neighboring country.

Human Rights Watch has documentedserious human rights violations in connection with the first year of the villagization program in Gambella in 2011 and in other regions of Ethiopia in recent years.

A January 2012 Human Rights Watch report based on more than 100 interviews with Gambella residents, including site visits to 16 villages, concluded that villagization had been marked by forced displacement, arbitrary detentions, mistreatment, and inadequate consultation, and that villagers had not been compensated for their losses in the relocation process.

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