Ethiopia: New prime minister must address the country’s deep-rooted human rights crisis

March 28, 2018 – Ethiopia’s incoming prime minister must prioritize addressing the deep-rooted human rights crisis in the country, said Amnesty International following the election of Abiy Ahmed as chairman of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party, paving the way for him to become the next premier.
If approved by parliament, Abiy Ahmed, who also currently heads the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) – an EPRDF member party – will replace Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who announced his resignation in February “in an effort to facilitate reforms.”
“Abiy’s election could herald a new dawn in Ethiopia if it is followed by concrete steps to implement far-reaching reforms towards respect for human rights in the country,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“If approved as prime minister, Abiy and his government must take urgent measures to address the human rights crisis in Ethiopia, through concrete and genuine reforms.”
Abiy’s elevation to the helm of the ruling coalition comes at a time when the country has declared a state of emergency, the second of its kind in less than two years, imposing severe restrictions on the exercise of human rights and freedoms at a time when Ethiopians are demanding greater freedom and respect for human rights in their country.
In one of the most shocking incidents since the announcement of the state of emergency on 16 February, security forces killed at least 12 civilians and wounded many more in the southern town of Moyale. The Command Post for the state of emergency admitted wrongful killings of civilians in Moyale, alleging it was caused by “mistaken intelligence report”.
Over the weekend, 12 recently released political prisoners, including Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience Eskinder Nega, were re-arrested in Addis Ababa, barely a month after release. Another 19 people, including academics, were also arrested in Bahir Dar, in the Amhara region.
“The killings of civilians, re-arrest of recently released political prisoners and the new wave of arrests bodes ill for the long-promised reform agenda in Ethiopia,” said Salil Shetty.
“If endorsed by parliament, Abiy’s new government must start by releasing all prisoners of conscience and reforming or repealing all repressive laws, including the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Ethiopian Charities and Societies Proclamation, which have played a significant role in rolling back the human rights gains in the country.”
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