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Joint submission ahead of Ethiopia’s fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS has members in more than 180 countries throughout the world.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders) is a regional CSO registered and based in Uganda. Established in 2005, DefendDefenders seeks to strengthen the work of human rights defenders (HRDs) throughout the East and Horn of Africa region by reducing their vulnerability to the risk of persecution and enhancing their capacity to defend human rights effectively.

Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC) is a board-led, non-partisan CSO founded in December 2019 and legally registered as of November 2020 with the aim of protecting HRDs in Ethiopia by strengthening their capacity, creating a safe working environment and defending and advocating for them.

In this submission, the authors examine the Government of Ethiopia’s compliance with its international human rights obligations to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society, HRDs and journalists. We analyse Ethiopia’s fulfilment of the rights to freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly and harassment and intimidation of, and attacks against, civil society activists, HRDs and journalists since its previous UPR examination in 2019. We assess Ethiopia’s implementation of recommendations received during the 3rd UPR cycle relating to these issues and provide follow-up recommendations.

During the 3rd UPR cycle, Ethiopia received 10 recommendations relating to the space for civil society (civic space). The Government accepted nine recommendations and noted one. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in this submission demonstrates that the Government of Ethiopia has partly implemented eight of these recommendations. While the government has made significant strides in amending restrictive legislation since its last UPR examination, it also enacted new restrictive laws, including the Hate Speech and Disinformation Legislation, 2020.[1]

We are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention and lack of protection of civil society personnel, activists and journalists, and by restrictions on freedom of assembly.

We are further alarmed by the civic space-related violations committed under the state of emergency, particularly regarding the right to peaceful assembly, including the prohibition of protests, indiscriminate killings of protesters and prosecution of peaceful protesters.

As a result of these issues, civic space in Ethiopia is currently classified as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor, which indicates the existence of severe civic space restrictions.[2]

Section 2 of this submission examines Ethiopia’s implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards concerning freedom of association.

Section 3 examines Ethiopia’s implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards related to the protection of civil society activists, HRDs and journalists.

Section 4 examines Ethiopia’s implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards concerning freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information.

Section 5 examines Ethiopia’s implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards related to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Section 6 contains recommendations to address the concerns raised and advance implementation of recommendations under the 3rd

Section 7 contains an annex on the implementation of 3rd cycle UPR recommendations related to civic space.

[1] ‘Hate Speech and Disinformation Prevention and Suppression Proclamation – Proclamation No. 1185 /2020’, Federal Negarit Gazette of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’, 2020, https://www.accessnow.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Hate-Speech-and-Disinformation-Prevention-and-Suppression-Proclamation.pdf.

[2] CIVICUS Monitor: Ethiopia, https://monitor.civicus.org/country/ethiopia.

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