Press statement on the situations of Human Rights Defenders during the Pre-election Period (May 10, 2021 )

Press statement on the situations of Human Rights Defenders during the Pre-election Period

May 10, 2021

Free and fair elections are essential components in the protection and upholding of human rights. Every person has the right to vote or be elected in free and fair elections held regularly to engage in government and public affairs. Political participation includes organizations of political parties and campaigning at the local, regional or national level, the process of formal politics, such as voting, joining a political party, helping a political campaign, or standing for elections.  To increase the political participation of citizens, the government should open up spaces for advocacy of human rights and democratization.  The pre-election situation in Ethiopia shows that human rights advocates particularly individual human rights defenders are currently facing intensified intimidation, harassment, assaults, and violence from both state and non-state actors, which will have a negative impact on the upcoming election.

Despite different legal reforms made by the government, violence against human rights has increased in Ethiopia with the highest levels of civilian deaths on record in the last three years since the reform. CSOs and human rights defenders have condemned the incidents and expressed their frustrations. Threats and violence from both state and non-state actors are increasing and creating strains against human rights defenders. HRDs were arrested, bullied, and intimidated as a result of heightened violence in the run-up to the election.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center has documented the recent attacks against human rights defenders in Ethiopia. This includes the case of journalists in the Tigray region who have been detained by the Ethiopian defense forces for allegedly preparing to disseminate false information but their cases are yet unknown. Also,  the arrest of Mohamed Deksiso, a student at Jimma University who was detained in Jimma after expressing his concerns for the release of political prisoners at the University’s graduation ceremony,  and the harassment of activist Seyoum Teshome and his friend, activist Muktar Osman Adem, who was kidnapped and beaten by organized groups  In addition to this, recently Asres Mare  Damte and Tina Belay were detained at Bahir Dar city Police Station after they called for a peaceful demonstration in the region. The arbitrary arrest of journalist, author, historian, and HRDs Tadios Tantu, who is now under the custody of the Federal Police Commission and the killing of OBN journalist Sisa Fida has who was killed by two armed forces near his house at Kellem Wollega on 5/9/2021 are some of the recent attacks on Human Rights Defenders that EHRDC interviewed the victims and the collected evidence.

Thus, EHRDC expressed its concern as follows:

  • EHRDC is concerned about the violation of HRDs rights especially in relation to the upcoming national election.  Being a human rights activist and advocating for human rights is becoming difficult given the country’s volatile situation. Therefore, EHRDC urges the Ethiopian Government to ensure the protection of human rights as provided under the FDRE Constitution and international human rights instruments.
  • Although the attack on Seyoum Teshome and his friend Muktar Usman is still under investigation by the police, it is clear that human rights defenders face serious threats from several sources. As a result, the government must be the first to provide sufficient human rights safeguards for human rights defenders. Thus, EHRDC urges the Ethiopian government to establish an appropriate security system to protect  Ethiopian human rights defenders.
  • EHRDC is still concerned about arbitrary arrest threats, bullying, and attacks against HRDs, regardless of who is involved. EHRDC urges the government to conduct an urgent investigation into their attacks and hold alleged perpetrators accountable.
  • The EHRDC also calls on the international and local community to take an active role in protecting human rights defenders. They must acknowledge and actively help human rights defenders in this extremely challenging time.
  • Finally, the EHRDC honors the valiant efforts of thousands of human rights defenders in Ethiopia to ensure the successful implementation of human rights. The Center promotes and supports human rights defenders, recognizing that they serve as a link between civil society and the international system for human rights protection.

Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC) has been established in December 2019 with the vision of creating and strengthening a countrywide network of individuals, human rights defenders, and rights-based organizations with the aim of working together to create a safe and enabling working environment for HRDs in Ethiopia; protecting HRDs when they are at risk and actively engaging with national, regional and international mechanisms to advocate the situation of HRD’s in Ethiopia.

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