Annual Report: Ethiopia 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Ethiopia 2011

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Counter-terror and security

The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, whose broad definition of terrorism appears to criminalize freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, remained in place. The threat of prosecution contributed to a climate of self-censorship including among journalists, who can be prosecuted for publishing articles referring to individuals or groups deemed to be "terrorists".

Prisoners of conscience and political prisoners

A large number of political prisoners and possible prisoners of conscience remained in detention.

The government continued to imprison numerous ethnic Oromos on accusations of supporting the OLF. These charges often appeared to be politically motivated.

  • In March, 15 Oromo men and women were convicted of membership of the OLF in a group trial and given sentences ranging from 10 years' imprisonment to death. The 15 - arrested in 2008 along with other Oromos who were subsequently released - came from a variety of professions, and many did not know each other before being arrested and tried as a group. There were concerns that the trial fell short of international standards and was politically motivated in the run-up to the elections. Many of the detainees reported that they had been tortured. Two male detainees who were released before the trial died immediately after their release, reportedly as a result of their treatment in detention.
  • Prisoner of conscience Birtukan Mideksa, leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, was released in October. She had been detained since December 2008 following a previous two-year imprisonment.

Conflicts in the Somali and Oromia regions

Low-level conflict continued between the OLF and government forces. Ethiopian refugee children reported that they had been forcibly recruited by the OLF in Kenya and trafficked back to Ethiopia to serve as porters and cooks.

Clashes continued in the Somali region in the long-running conflict between the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and government forces. The ONLF published a statement on 4 February calling on the AU to investigate human rights violations, in particular alleged war crimes by government forces in the region. Access to the Somali region for international journalists and certain humanitarian organizations was restricted by the government and it remained largely inaccessible. A Voice of America journalist was expelled from Ethiopia in June after reporting on clashes between the government and the ONLF.

On 12 October, a peace deal was reportedly signed between a breakaway faction of the ONLF and the government. It was reported that under the agreement, members of the faction received immunity from prosecution and prisoners taken by the government would be released. The main ONLF group reportedly dismissed the deal as "irrelevant".

In November, reports were received that over 100 civilians had been detained in the town of Degeh Bur and transferred to a military prison in Jijiga. In December, it was reported that Ethiopian troops had burnt a village in the Qorahey zone, resulting in the deaths of three civilians.

Death penalty

Death sentences were imposed but no executions were reported.

  • A former regional official, Jemua Ruphael, was sentenced to death in June for murder and supporting an Eritrean-backed armed group.
  • Hassan Mohammed Mahmoud, a former member of the armed Somali group Al-Itihad Al-Islamiya, was found guilty in March of committing terrorist acts in the 1990s and sentenced to death.