EU, U.S. Senate pressure Ethiopia to investigate political repression

Ethiopia | More than 26,000 people have been arrested since the country enforced a state of emergency last year
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 5/19/17, 11:15 am

The European Parliament Thursday passed a resolution calling for an independent investigation into reports of abuse and killings against opposition groups and activists in Ethiopia. Some members of the US Senate introduced a similar resolution earlier this week, signaling mounting pressure against the Ethiopian government to end political repression.

The parliament’s resolution asked the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy within the European Union (EU) to mobilize EU member states to pressure the Ethiopian government to allow a United Nations-led investigation into the monthslong violence.

Demonstrators in the country’s Oromo region launched protests for more political freedom in November 2015. The demonstrations escalated and became more violent last year after protesters began to damage property. An October stampede triggered by clashes between security officials and protesters killed more than 52 people.

Ethiopia’s government in October declared a six-month state of emergency, but extended it by another four months in March. Security officials have arrested more than 26,000 people and repeatedly turned down requests for independent investigations into the unrest.

The EU Parliament resolution urged the Ethiopian government to stop employing anti-terrorism laws to repress dissent, and to ensure greater ethnically diverse democratic participation.

Fourteen U.S. senators on Wednesday introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for an end to the state of emergency in Ethiopia and the excessive use of force by security officials. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., co-sponsored the bill.

The U.S. senators called on the Ethiopian government to release activists arrested in the crackdown and to provide the UN Human Rights Commission and special rapporteurs full access to conduct an independent investigation. They also called on the United States to impose sanctions on some of the Ethiopian perpetrators abusing their power.

The United States partners with Ethiopia for its counterterrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa. 

Ebrahim Deen, a researcher with the Afro Middle East Center in South Africa, said Ethiopia has persisted in denying the investigation requests because it views its partnership as leverage. But Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairs a subcommittee on human rights and civilian security, said the partnership is the very reason why the United States must speak up against attempts “to stifle legitimate political dissent.”

“It is critical that the United States remains vocal in condemning Ethiopia’s human rights violations against its own people,” Rubio said.

Felix Thorne, a Horn of Africa senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, said in a report today that the resolutions could help put an end to impunity in Ethiopia, if they are implemented. The UN inquiry could also be a source of restitution for Ethiopians, or “at least begin to answer pleas for justice that have too often gone unheard,” Thorne said.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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