UN Human Rights Council – 39th regular session
Item 4: General Debate
Oral statement delivered by Nicolas Agostini
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.