Rule of Law, Political Space and Human Rights in Ethiopia

It has been five years since the government of Ethiopia enacted anti-terrorism law (Anti-terror proclamation no. 652/2009). According to the proclamation, Ethiopia’s security, peace and development is seriously endangered by the act of terrorism and, hence, there is a need “to legislate adequate legal provisions since the laws presently in force in the country are not sufficient to prevent and control terrorism”. However, since the introduction of the anti-terror law up to October 2014, personalities from all walks of life, from the engineer to the politician, from religious leaders to journalists, from armed rebels to contraband dealers, have all been proved to be ‘terrorists’ or are awaiting to be proved so. As it has been argued by many, not only the law contains many articles which are open for wide interpretations but also the context, in which the law is promulgated, gives unprecedented power for the ruling party to make any politically motivated charged under this law.

There are significant amount of reports, analysis and review documents on the anti-terrorism law. Yet, much of the documents lack clarity on the degree of challenges that posed by the law on the state of democracy, rule of law, political unity of the country. To address this gap, this article aims to shed light the implication of this law based on factual investigation on the ground. Mainly secondary data is collected from terrorism related court cases and charges between the first day of the introduction of the law up to October 31, 2014. the collected data is systematically categorized based on the victims’ political background, their quest and the nature and process of their court cases.

Notwithstanding the constitution and the law itself, the search for terrorists and the investigation process have been similar and unchanged. First victims are arrested by national intelligent and security services, detained in one of the detention centers and beaten and tortured until they confessed their crime. Then, the federal police crime investigation center or Maekelawi will start investigation while they are in custody. The investigation will proceed under this department in its anti-terror unit that deploys over twenty investigators. Lastly, any needed evidences will be cooked by the anti-terror unit investigators using different mechanisms. Then, the court will penalize the victims for crimes they did not commit.

One of the main reasons for restructuring of the Ethiopian polite along ethno-linguistic federal system is guarantee a shared and self rule in order to avoid balkanization of the Ethiopian state. However, the Ethiopia’s aborted federalism did not serve its promise by brining practical changes. As a result, there are numerous armed struggle group in today’s Ethiopia. Around 48 people have been charged by the federal prosecutor under different fill numbers for their “terrorist act” and for supporting or being members of the armed groups. The existence of armed groups in over two third of the regional state speaks by itself about the failure of the Ethiopian federal system.

The introduction of the anti-terrorism law is intertwined with the justification of Ethiopia’s geo-political conditions in which the act of terrorism threatens Ethiopian security. Since the global war on terrorism many has argued that the war is not against terrorism rather against Islam. Historically, the relationship between Islam and the Ethiopian State has been very problematic in which Muslim people considers as secondary citizen. Given this historical fact, the struggle against terrorism in Ethiopia needs an-all rounded strategy in which the state must ensure not to marginalize Muslim Ethiopians and not to paralyze further the Muslims and the state relationship. However, More than 56 Muslim Ethiopians have been charged under this law for asking their religious-related questions. Most of these people are members Muslim Affairs Committee who are delegated by the Muslim community. Thus, the Muslim community which in history has been a victim of oppression is now a primary victim of the anti- terrorism struggle.

The Anti-terrorism law seems to be at odds with the state of democracy in Ethiopia. Around 11 people who are in the front raw of among those who pursued a peaceful political struggle but were persecuted by the anti-terrorism law. Also, 7 journalists and 7 bloggers are also accused for “act of terrorism”. So, a critical look at anti-terrorism law with other laws like civil society, press freedom and political parties’ registration laws, the context-content intents of these laws are against the norm of democracy.

This report has been published in Amharic at the end of the year 2014. EHRP took the initiative to translate it to English in order to give future information about the use of Anti- terrorism proclamation in Ethiopia for non- Amharic readers.

Final anti terrorism investigative report

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