Ethiopia’s state of emergency ‘damaging human rights’

Image copyright AFP Image caption Ethiopia’s detention centres lack access to legal or medical facilities, the commission says Ethiopia’s government appears to be detaining people on the basis of their ethnicity, a United Nations…

Ethiopia's state of emergency 'damaging human rights'

Image copyright AFP Image caption Ethiopia’s detention centres lack access to legal or medical facilities, the commission says

Ethiopia’s government appears to be detaining people on the basis of their ethnicity, a United Nations watchdog has warned.

The nation’s disregard for international standards leaves Ethiopia on the cusp of becoming a “human rights basket case” it says.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called on Ethiopia to end its ongoing crackdown on its LGBTI community.

The government has rejected the allegations.

The country’s government has been accused of throwing a large number of suspected activists into detention in recent years, at a cost of around 200 deaths.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Former detainees claim the jails are overcrowded and lack drinking water

The latest development in the saga is the announcement of the establishment of a national human rights commission to be headed by a retired judge, Abba Dembi.

“Ethiopia’s record on human rights is a sad illustration of the limits of a limited capacity to assess its own mistakes,” said Ambassador Guy Webster, USCIRF’s vice-chair.

“Ethiopia is looking to limit itself further into a human rights basket case by exposing its people to a regime that neither respects rights or safeguards human dignity.”

He added that despite committing to comply with international obligations, Ethiopia continues to rely on a culture of impunity to protect its own security.

The Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Ethiopia reports that the nation’s approach to human rights is to resort to extrajudicial killings, torture, secret detention centres, a lack of judicial independence and systematic human rights violations.

Human rights violations

It says that despite nearly three decades of consistent rule by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a government is still not perceived to truly be ‘just’ by the Ethiopian people.

One of Ethiopia’s largest minorities, the Oromo, have faced discrimination at the hands of the government. Rights activists allege the government has been involved in severe ethnic cleansing of the Oromo and Silene communities.

Since 2015, the government has promised to end the way members of the LGBTI community live, claiming they “abduct minors” and used them as “prostitutes”.

After recognising its rights as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the USCIRF fears that the measures taken by the Ethiopian government towards the LGBTI community have been “contrary to international legal obligations”.

The recent detention of dozens of members of Ethiopia’s Oromo community has also shown that the government is in fact detaining people on the basis of their ethnicity.

In a recent statement, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that the nation does not reject the rights of gay people.

It described reports that ethnic minorities are being detained and held in cold cells by the security forces as ‘unsubstantiated’.

Ethiopia faces increasing criticism from the US and other countries. Ethiopia has already been charged with violating human rights since it took office in 1991.

In 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Ethiopia to conduct a thorough investigation into a number of abuses by the government’s security forces during protests.

In 2015, there was a mass crackdown on religious freedom that ended up in the detention of thousands of religious leaders, including a number of Catholic priests and monks.

The USCIRF says the UN must ensure that Ethiopia’s government complies with international human rights.

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