HRC39: DefendDefenders welcomes reforms in Ethiopia and encourages further steps for greater respect of human rights

UN Human Rights Council – 39th regular session
Item 4: General Debate

Oral statement delivered by Nicolas Agostini

Mr. President,

DefendDefenders welcomes the proposed reforms by the Ethiopian government in favour of greater respect for Ethiopians’ fundamental rights and free­doms, accountability for past and ongoing hu­man rights violations and abuses, security sector reform, and inclusive political
dialo­gue and recon­ciliation.

Its initial steps, namely the release of political prisoners, the closing of de­tention centres, the lifting of the State of Emer­gency, the replacement of high-level officials sus­pec­ted of violations, recon­ci­liation with Eritrea, and the establish­ment of a committee tasked with re­viewing laws and the justice system, have sent a powerful signal to all Ethiopians that their rights matter.

To further advance the reform agenda, systemic human rights issues facing the country should be addressed. We encourage Ethiopia to look at all aspects of accountability, including sanctions, but also reparation in the form of apologies, compensation and/or reha­bi­lita­tion; truth-telling;
recon­ciliation; guarantees of non-recurrence; security sector reform; vetting; and the provision of training to security and law enforcement officials. Grave crimes should not be the object of any amnesty.

Free and fair elections and an open civic space providing for a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, civil society, journalists and other independent voices are also of critical importance. The process of revision of the following laws should be fast-tracked in a transparent and inclusive manner: the Civil Society Proclamation; Regulation No. 168/2009; the mandate and powers of the Charities and Soc­ieties Agen­cy; Proclamation No. 3 (1991) on peaceful assembly; and media-related laws, in par­ti­cular pro­visions that enable censorship, restrict ownership of media houses and residency of me­dia outlet own­ers, and criminalise defamation.

We wel­come Ethiopia’s engagement with bilateral, regio­nal, and international actors, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OH­C­HR), and look forward to further en­gaging with the authorities in order to explore cooperation and ways in which we and civil society partners can contribute to, and participate in, the consolidation of democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law in Ethiopia.

Thank you for your attention.



Human Rights Defender of the Month: Anny Kapenga

As a young student, Anny Kapenga used to cringe at the cult-like worship of Mobutu Sese Seko, the then Zaire’s President. By then, in the early 1990s, Zaire was still under one party rule, and calls were increasing for Mobutu to open political space to allow other parties to operate. In the meantime, however, all Zairians were expected to show affection for Mobutu wherever they gathered in public.

Students across Zaire’s schools were required to sing and dance adoringly before his (Mobutu)’s portrait every morning before they went to class, and all school scholastic materials were emblemed with his portrait. A young Anny never really appreciated the obsession:


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