Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dismantling Dissent: Intensified crackdown on free speech in Ethiopia » ElectionGuide Digest - Democracy assistance news from the CEPPS partners

Dismantling Dissent: Intensified crackdown on free speech in Ethiopia

Amnesty International published a report on the arrest of opposition party members and journalists in Ethiopia who are accused of supporting terrorism. Most of those arrested were members of Oromo political parties and many were former members of Parliament. Much of the evidence against the detainees is related to their criticism of the government. The report provides evidence that the government has tortured the detainees and has not made provisions to ensure they receive a fair trial. The report notes that the government has warned that other opposition members may be arrested soon and calls on the government to comply with international human rights standards.

Since March 2011, at least 108 opposition party members and six journalists have been arrested in Ethiopia for alleged involvement with various proscribed terrorist groups. By November, 107 of the detainees had been charged with crimes under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Criminal Code. A further six journalists, two opposition party members and one human rights defender, all living in exile, were charged in absentia. Trials in all these cases have begun, and are ongoing at time of writing.
Amnesty International believes that the prolonged series of arrests and prosecutions indicates systematic use of the law and the pretext of counter-terrorism by the Ethiopian government to silence people who criticise or question their actions and policies, especially opposition politicians and the independent media. Whilst these groups have often been arrested and prosecuted in the past, the large numbers of arrests indicates an intensified crackdown on freedom of expression in 2011.

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