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News: Amnesty calls on Ethiopian authorities to stop using emergency law ‘to silence peaceful dissent’

The House of People’s Representatives has voted to extend the six-month state of emergency in the Amhara region during a special meeting held on 02 February, 2024 (Photo: HoPR/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – Amnesty International accused Ethiopian authorities of using the extended state of emergency law in the Amhara region “to silence peaceful dissent by arbitrarily detaining prominent politicians critical of the government and journalists” and called an end to the practice.

The global rights watchdog said in a new report released today that Ethiopian government “must stop resorting to old tactics of denying basic rights through the pretext of emergency laws.”

On 02 February, Ethiopian lawmakers voted to prolong the six-month state of emergency declared in the Amhara region in August by four more months.

The extension of the emergency rule was presented by the Minister of Justice, Gedion Timothios and came as the region continues to grapple with a region-wide militarized conflict involving federal and regional state forces on the one hand and the Fano militia on the other.

“Ethiopians face another armed conflict in Amhara region, a serious humanitarian crisis in Tigray, a dire security situation in Oromia and pervasive impunity nationwide. The role of the media and the right to freedom of expression is as vital as ever,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

The Ethiopian government initially announced the imposition of a six-month state of emergency in August 2023, and said the decision was “essential to implement emergency measures aimed at preserving public peace and security and enforcing law and order.”

It was preceded by a series of instability in the regional state that began with mass protests in several major cities against the federal government’s decision to reorganize regional special forces into regular police and the national army.

The protests have quickly deteriorated to widespread clashes and instability and the subsequent assassination on 27 April of the Head of the ruling Prosperity Party in the region, Girma Yeshitila.

The regional state has since been the epicenter of the latest militarized conflict involving government forces armed groups that swept large parts of the regional state.

“The extension of the state of emergency proclamation has not yet been published in the country’s Negarit Gazette. This lack of transparency violates the right of access to information and the principle of legality, as Ethiopians are not able to determine whether their conduct amounts to a breach of the law, or whether the law continues to apply nationwide,” Tigere Chagutah said.

Five politicians and the three journalists have been arrested and remain detained without charge under the state of emergency, according to their family members interviewed by Amnesty International. 

Among those detained under the emergency rule include Christian Tadelle, an opposition members of parliament, and Yohannes Buayalew, a member of the Amhara Regional Council.

Systemic impunity continues to embolden perpetrators of crimes and several successive states of emergencies have placed people at risk of rights violations

Furthermore, shortly before the emergency was extended on 2 February, “federal security forces detained Desalegn Chane, a member of the federal parliament opposition party also known for his criticism of the prime minister,” Amnesty confirmed earlier media reports. It also cited media reports that since the declaration of the state of emergency in August 2023, “mass arrests in the capital Addis Abeba and in Amhara region.”

“Ethiopian authorities must stop detaining people en masse with disregard for due process under the country’s state of emergency law. They must uphold the country’s national laws and international human rights obligations by either pressing charges or releasing everyone detained under the state of emergency, including high-profile politicians and journalists.

“Amnesty International stands with Ethiopians calling for justice and accountability for human rights violations committed in Ethiopia. Systemic impunity continues to embolden perpetrators of crimes and several successive states of emergencies have placed people at risk of rights violations,” Tigere Chagutah further said. AS

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