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TITLE: ETHIOPIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993 DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE ETHIOPIA The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power in 1991 at the conclusion of a lengthy civil war with the dictatorial regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam and established the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE). The EPRDF also organized a National Conference which approved a National Charter to function as the Constitution during the transitional period. The TGE, headed by President Meles Zenawi, pledged to oversee the establishment of Ethiopia's first multiparty democracy, based on a constitution still being drafted in 1993. The TGE projects elections in 1994 for a constituent assembly and a new national government. The Council of Representatives, comprising 65 members, is dominated by the four constituent parties of the EPRDF and serves as a quasi-legislature. The EPRDF and, by extension, the TGE are dominated by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), whose members include the President and most key officials dealing with national security. The accession of Tigrayans and a policy promoting ethnic identity and regionalism have engendered animosity from Amharas who have traditionally held centralized power in Ethiopia. In 1993 the TGE continued to implement its planned devolution of authority to regional governments and its planned establishment of an independent judiciary comprising regional and central courts. The TGE has developed warm relations with Eritrea, which formally became independent of Ethiopia on May 24, l993. The EPRDF domination of the Government and the Council of Representatives increased following the departure of the major non-EPRDF partner in the TGE, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), in June 1992. The OLF withdrew over the Government's handling of the regional elections--which were flawed by numerous irregularities, including fraud, harassment, intimidation, and political assassination--and the OLF forces took up arms against the Government. In subsequent clashes, the EPRDF forces defeated the OLF units and, at the beginning of 1993, the TGE held more than 20,000 OLF prisoners in several camps (see Section l.d.). During 1993 most of these detainees were released; the remaining 1,200 are to face criminal charges. The OLF remains outside the Government; much of its senior leadership is abroad. The EPRDF military wing serves as both the national armed forces and an internal security force during the transitional period, although the Government is slowly reconstituting police forces to assume internal security responsibilities. Progress was made in improving the professionalism and effectiveness of the regional police forces, although not all regions benefited equally. In 1993 there were credible reports that EPRDF security personnel--often from the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO)--were implicated in beatings of detainees and arrests alleged to be of a political nature. The Ethiopian economy is based on agriculture, with more than 85 percent of the population living in rural areas in very poor conditions. Coffee accounts for 60 percent of Ethiopia's export revenue. The TGE is implementing an internationally supported economic reform program designed to undo 17 years of Marxist rule. This program includes an important role for the private sector, which in 1992-1993 helped stimulate positive economic growth for the first time in many years. In contrast to the Mengistu years, the human rights situation in Ethiopia has improved. The TGE's actions did not match, however, its announced respect for human rights. In the face of opposition, it showed increasing intolerance of political dissent. Following the departure of the OLF in 1992, the TGE expelled in 1993 four non-EPRDF parties from the Council of Representatives. Opposition political parties made credible allegations that they had been intimidated by the authorities, for example, by having their offices closed and their staffs harassed. Further, the TGE circumvented the 1992 press law by invoking the Criminal Code to harass and intimidate the independent press; interfered with peaceful assembly; detained briefly officials of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC); and infringed academic freedom with the firing of 42 university professors. The TGE also continued to deny fair public trial to hundreds of detainees. However, in the course of 1993, the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) released on bail about 1,300 of the 2,400 detainees held for crimes committed under the previous government. Although the cases are subject to judicial review, none had come to trial by year's end. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There were no reports of officially sanctioned political or other extrajudicial killings by TGE security forces or by opposition groups during 1993. However, there were many unconfirmed reports of sporadic, low-level fighting between EPRDF forces and various opposition groups in the countryside. There was no indication of the number of casualties, civilian or military, but reports confirmed that government forces took prisoners during those exchanges. There were also reports of killings, some of which involved errant members of the security forces in unclear circumstances. For example, in April TGE troops killed Tesfaye Meja, the brother of a leading member of an opposition party, and placed his body on public display in the town of Sodo. According to the TGE and local sources, Tesfaye was a bandit who had recently escaped from prison. According to the TGE and the EHRC, there was no official investigation into the circumstances of Tesfaye's death. Security forces used excessive force on several occasions in 1993. The TGE overreacted in containing a demonstration for which the students had not given prior notification, as required by Ethiopian law. TGE troops encountered the students as they emerged from the university grounds, and, in the ensuing melee, at least one student was killed. Unofficial accounts by university students, supported by an international human rights organization, put the number at about seven. The Ethiopian Human Rights Council confirms one death but believes other deaths may have occurred. A commission to investigate this incident was created in March, and, although mandated to report its findings within 3 months, the TGE had not made public the commission's findings by the end of the year. In September TGE security personnel used excessive force to quell a disturbance at the Gondar municipality, resulting in 13 confirmed deaths (see Section 2.c.). The protagonist in the incident, Amha Yesus, was subsequently arrested in Addis Ababa. The Gondar police Department was conducting an investigation into the matter; the results of this investigation were pending at year's end. b. Disappearance Since the TGE came to power in 1991, its constituent political parties have traded charges and countercharges regarding politically motivated violence and disappearances throughout the country. An Ethiopian human rights organization alleges that dozens of people arrested when the TGE took power are still unaccounted for. According to the TGE, these arrestees were included among the thousands of war prisoners taken by the EPRDF, most of whom were released after rehabilitation. Those still held are under investigation and awaiting trial accused of crimes committed against the civilian population. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The National Charter prohibits torture and mistreatment, and in July the Council of Representatives ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Under the TGE, there have been no allegations of systematic torture of EPRDF opponents. Nevertheless, there were credible reports that in some instances security forces, often OPDO, beat suspects believed to be associated with the OLF while they were detained at local administrative buildings. As far as is known, no members of the security forces had been punished for these offenses by year's end. There was no evidence of beatings or torture at the detention camps where OLF forces and supporters are detained. In the latter half of 1992 and early 1993, the TGE detained large numbers of Oromo militants and former Mengistu officials in special centers (see Sections 1.d. and 1.e.). According to firsthand reports, a small number of persons incarcerated in these centers--notably the OLF centers--died of endemic diseases. International inspection of the Didessa and Hurso centers in October indicated that conditions were not inferior to the living conditions of the local population. However, conditions at the Korea camp near Didessa and at some local prisons were poor. The detention centers were also used for the political reeducation of opponents. The curriculum focused on the mechanics of the transition, the merits of the National Charter, and the virtues of the EPRDF. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The National Charter and both the Criminal and Civil Codes prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention as well as exile. Nevertheless, there were credible reports of persons being detained for expressing anti-TGE views. In particular, there were many reports of harassment and detention of political activists in the rural areas. There were no confirmed reports of detentions for political reasons. At the beginning of 1993, the TGE held approximately 20,000 OLF soldiers and about 2,400 former officials of the Mengistu regime (see Section 1.e.) in several detention camps around the country. For the most part, the OLF soldiers and supporters had been arrested in 1992 after taking up arms against the TGE. In the spring, the TGE released most of these soldiers but subsequently rearrested about 4,000, ostensibly for resuming military activity. At the end of 1993, according to the TGE, the detention camp at Hurso contained about 2,000 people, most of whom were members of the OLF. Of this number, some 800 were accused of serious crimes against civilians, while the remainder, many of whom were former OLF detainees at Hurso, were accused of possessing weapons. The 1,600 detainess at Didessa were released in October and November. There remain about 400 detainees awaiting trial at the nearby Korea camp who are suspected of having committed serious crimes while serving in the OLF military. The Government does not practice political exile. It continued to welcome back to Ethiopia exiles from the Mengistu years. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The TGE is currently restructuring its judicial system along decentralized lines. Each of Ethiopia's regions will administer local (Woreda), district, and regional courts. Each will also have a Supreme Court which can hear both original cases and appeals. A federal high and Supreme Court system has also been created to hear cases involving federal law, transregional issues, or national security. The lack of trained personnel in many regions (some have no trained attorneys or judges), the serious financial constraints, and the absence of a clear demarcation between federal and regional jurisdiction have delayed effective implementation of this system. Under the Criminal Procedure Code, any person being held for trial is to be appropriately charged and informed of the charges against him within 48 hours and be offered release on bail. Those believed to have committed capital offenses, such as murder and treason, may be detained for 4 weeks while the police conduct an investigation and for 15 days while the prosecutor prepares and brings charges against the suspect. Trials are public, and defendants have the right to a defense attorney. Ethiopian law does not grant the defense access to accusatory material before trial. Until regional legislatures are established to pass laws particular to their region, the Criminal Code will remain the same at both the regional and federal levels. Ethiopia also has Shari'a (Islamic) courts which hear religious and family cases involving Muslims. Some traditional courts still function in remote areas but are not sanctioned by law. In 1992 the Council of Representatives issued a proclamation declaring the independence of the judiciary from the executive branch. In 1993 Ethiopia's Supreme Court appeared to enjoy judicial independence, as evidenced by its reversal of a high court decision in a labor case. The judge who presided over the initial case had close associations with the TGE. There were no known cases in 1993 of judges being dismissed or transferred for political reasons. However, there were credible reports that Ethiopian courts, particularly in the regions, were subject to executive branch political interference, especially when EPRDF members were on trial in lower courts. In one region, the administrator convoked high court judges and instructed them to be lenient towards EPRDF members who might stand trial in their court. In August 1992, the Government established the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) to create a historical record of the abuses of the Mengistu regime and to bring those criminally responsible for human rights violations and corruption to justice. The SPO is investigating the cases of about 2,400 persons detained on suspicion of having committed serious crimes during the previous government's campaigns, including the "red terror" campaign and forced resettlement and villagization. In February the Government lifted the suspension of the right of habeas corpus, which had been in effect since the change of government, and, as a result, all these cases became subject to judicial review. The authorities released about 1,300 of the detainees, either on bail or on condition that they not leave the country. None of the 2,400 had been formally charged or brought to trial by year's end. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence Judicial search warrants are required by law, but they are rarely utilized. There have been credible reports of people being summarily, and illegally, evicted from their residence by security forces who possess neither a court order nor the consent of the housing authority. Many ethnic Oromos believe that they have been under surveillance. The TGE admits that it monitors the movements of some people suspected of breaking the law. Since the arrival of the TGE to power, forced political membership and forced resettlement have been terminated. As in 1992, the TGE continues to search private and commercial vehicles, as well as private homes, for unlicensed firearms and weapons. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press Although by May as many as 65 private publications (weekly tabloids and monthly magazines) were being sold on the streets of Addis Ababa and to a lesser extent elsewhere, the TGE sometimes used the controversial Press Law (Proclamation 34/1992) to curtail press freedom. The Law purports to support press freedom, stating, inter alia, that "censorship ("prior investigation" in Amharic) and restrictions...are hereby prohibited." However, the Press Law also gives the Government strong prosecutorial powers to ensure that any printed material is free from "any criminal offense against the safety of the State...any defamation or false accusation against any individual, nation/nationality, people, or organization; any criminal instigation of one nationality against another or incitement of conflict between peoples; and any agitation for war." Against this background, the TGE undertook a number of actions that had the effect of curtailing press freedom. In May the police called in the editors of six leading politically oriented magazines to discuss the sources of much of their material. In June the authorities seized and destroyed selected magazines. At midyear the Ministry of Information prohibited the managements of private publications from advertising in the official media, the principal source of public information. In August and September, the police again summoned editors for questioning, presumably about articles critical of the Government. In some of these cases, the Government did not bring formal charges but warned press officials against undertaking "activities against the Press Law." Invoking the Criminal Code, the TGE launched prosecutions in August against publishers of what it deemed "pornographic" magazines. Late in the year, the authorities confirmed that legal proceedings had been instituted against 19 people affiliated with 11 publications for violations of the Criminal Code. In some cases, the courts required editors or publishers to post bail equivalent to 3 years' salary. Such harassment and intimidation of the private press led to a considerable degree of self-censorship by press officials. Radio, the most influential medium in reaching the rural population, and the sole television station are government owned and operated and reflect TGE policies in their programming. The official media devote little coverage to the activities of opposition groups and, when given, coverage is either negative or neutral, such as reporting on party conferences. The TGE also acted to restrict academic freedom. In April it discharged 42 professors from their positions at Addis Ababa University, informing them that their services were no longer needed due to reorganization. Another 38 professors were placed on probation. The Government dismissed the professors without an investigation by relevant university departments or the administration as dictated by custom and, in the case of tenured professors, by law. The professors were also denied severance pay, and some may lose their pensions. Credible reports indicated that some of the professors were fired for expressing antigovernment views. TGE officials admitted as much by stating that some professors were dismissed for inappropriately using their classrooms for political purposes. The manner of the dismissals has raised questions of procedural fairness and academic freedom and has had a chilling effect on campus debate. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The National Charter endorses peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and the right to engage in unrestricted political activity, including the right to organize political parties. There are allegations, however, that the TGE and regional governments have employed social and economic pressures and existing provisions of law to make it more difficult for opposition parties to organize. The TGE Proclamation of August 12, 1991, requires organizers to inform authorities of peaceful demonstrations or public political meetings 48 hours in advance. The authorities may, and on occasion do, require that the demonstration or meeting be held at another location or time for reasons of ensuring public order. Failure to seek authorization was the reason given by the TGE for declaring a demonstration by university students against the Eritrean referendum in January to be illegal. The authorities from region 14 (Addis Ababa) withheld permission for the All-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO) to demonstrate in Meskal Square in July on the grounds that such a rally would interfere with traffic and another scheduled demonstration (a hunger strike by laid-off maritime authority workers demonstrating against the Government). The AAPO rejected as unsatisfactory the alternative sites proposed by regional authorities, including the nearby stadium, and ultimately decided not to hold the demonstration. In December local authorities in Region 14 issued a permit for an opposition-sponsored gathering called the "Peace and Reconciliation Conference" to meet at the government-owned Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa. About 165 persons assembled for the conference, whose conclusions and press conferences presented criticisms of the TGE. Eight conference attendees or supporters were arrested by TGE officials after arriving in Addis Ababa from abroad. The arrestees were charged with supporting violence against the Ethiopian Government, based on their status as leaders of groups allegedly advocating or participating in political violence. The TGE soon released three arrestees, two of whom had issued personal statements disavowing violence; five arrestees were still detained at year's end. The TGE permits the existence of independent organizations but requires associations to have government-issued permits. The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) did not receive a permit, and the Ethiopian Teachers Association had its permit revoked. Credible reports from many sources indicated that harassment of opposition political parties took place during 1993. These reports indicated that government officials closed some of the regional and local offices of opposition groups, often monitoring their activities or arresting local members. Opposition political groups have encountered many difficulties, including fear of government intimidation, in propagating their policies anywhere in Ethiopia, especially in the countryside where 85 percent of the population lives. Much of this fear stems from the June 1992 elections, which were marked by irregularities, harassment, intimidation, and political assassination by both government and opposition parties. Even in the larger cities, including Addis Ababa, political activity by opposition parties is minimal, although this reflects the inexperience and disorganization of opposition parties as much as government efforts to curtail opposition political activity. c. Freedom of Religion The National Charter provides for freedom of religion, including the right of conversion, and TGE officials have advocated complete freedom of worship. There is no state religion. Roughly one-half of the population claims to belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC). Most of the remainder are Muslims who, for the first time in Ethiopia's history, have been able to participate fully in Ethiopia's political, economic, and social life. The TGE recognizes both Christian and Muslim holidays. In 1993 the Orthodox Church enjoyed greater autonomy of decisionmaking since it no longer had any state-sanctioned role. However, the installation in 1992 of a new Patriarch from the same ethnic group as the President has generated much internal controversy within the EOC along ethnic lines. This controversy was reflected in physical harassment--including attacks with rocks and other missiles and disruption of church services--of the Patriarch, Abune Paulos, by Amharic-speaking dissidents during his trip to the United States in late 1993. There were no reports of official discrimination against Muslims, non-Orthodox Christians, or Jews. Nevertheless, tensions mounted in 1993 between Muslims and Protestants on the one hand, and the Orthodox community on the other. A hermit (an Orthodox prophesier unsanctioned by the EOC) drew a large following in Gondar in September by protesting incursions by Protestants and Muslims into this traditionally overwhelmingly Orthodox region. His followers ultimately clashed with security forces, resulting in deaths and casualties on both sides (see Section 1.a.). The hermit was subsequently arrested and at year's end awaited trial in Gondar. The authorities arrested another hermit, Bahatawi Gebre Meskel, twice in March, ostensibly for unlawfully entering the grounds of St. George's Church. Unofficial observers have suggested he was arrested for preaching against the EPRDF and against Eritrean secession. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The National Charter recognizes freedom of movement, including the right to foreign travel and emigration. Nevertheless, Ethiopian citizens and residents of Ethiopia are required to obtain an exit visa before departing, which is issued in most cases. There are exceptions in the cases of persons with pending court cases and persons with debts; there are no reports of denial of exit visas for political reasons. Travel within Ethiopia is unregulated. Citizens may freely change their residence or workplace. There are no restrictions on travel for women or minority groups. Virtually all remaining Ethiopian Jews (Falashas) who wished to emigrate from Ethiopia did so during 1993. Almost all of them went to Israel. Some Falash Mora, a group of Ethiopians who claim Jewish heritage but have not been accepted as Jews by the Israeli Rabbinate, have begun emigrating to Israel under family reunification provisions of Israeli law. In July the TGE deported from Ethiopia a lay group of eight Americans and one Israeli for violations of Ethiopian immigration law. They had been operating without a permit, educating the Falash Mora in the tenets of Judaism and teaching them Hebrew. The TGE maintained that this conformance with Ethiopian law rather than a restriction on religious observance. In November the group was again directed to leave Ethiopia, after their application to register as a nongovernmental organization was denied because of TGE concerns that the group was engaged in sectarian activities (i.e., trying to recruit Ethiopians to go to Israel). Citizens who have left the country are guaranteed the right of return. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and foreign diplomatic officials, the TGE is fair in its treatment of asylum seekers and cooperative on issues concerning the repatriation of Ethiopian refugees. However, the TGE has refused to issue valid travel documents to Ethiopian citizens living abroad who are facing deportation proceedings in their countries of residence. No problems were reported with treatment of refugees. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government The right of citizens to change their government has yet to be exercised in Ethiopia. The TGE is preparing for a transition to multiparty democracy in 1994, but the Constitutional Commission charged with drawing up a draft constitution was far behind schedule at year's end. The new constitution will be subject to ratification in 1994 by an elected constituent assembly. Former members of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia will not be allowed to vote in the constituent assembly elections, but it is expected that they will be enfranchised thereafter. An election to choose a new national government is planned for late 1994. Voting is expected to be by secret ballot. The EPRDF, which is actually a coalition of four parties, dominates the TGE. The EPRDF itself is dominated by the TPLF, whose members include the President; senior officials in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Internal Affairs; and virtually the entire leadership of the armed forces. The TGE quasi-legislative Council of Representatives comprises 65 members representing 25 parties and ethnic groups. In April the TGE expelled five parties belonging to the southern coalition from the Council; one was later readmitted. The TGE claimed that these parties had violated the National Charter by signing and not repudiating the Paris communique which claimed, inter alia, that "at present there is not (a) legitimate government in Ethiopia." The EPRDF, which controls 32 seats in the Council of Representatives and has strong ties with a number of other parties, completely dominates Council debate. No other political party has more than three seats. The TGE is establishing stronger regional political and administrative organs of government. This devolution of power, if completed successfully, would be a radical departure from the tradition of strong central government led by an authoritarian ruler, usually an Amhara. The TGE claims that regionalization will give people more direct responsibility for the decisions affecting their lives. The regions will be responsible for devising and maintaining numerous public services, including the judiciary, primary education, and the police. These functions will operate in the language chosen by that region, not necessarily Amharic as in the past. While the regionalization policy appears to have widespread support, the delimitation of regional boundaries along ethnic lines has aroused concern among many people, particularly the Amharas, that ethnic tensions will be aggravated (see Section 5). There are no restrictions in law or practice on the participation of women or minorities in politics. Women hold 3 of the 20 Cabinet seats; 3 additional women hold ministerial rank. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights There are two active human rights monitoring groups in Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) and GADADO, Oromo Ex-Prisoners For Human Rights. Both are independent of the Government. The EHRC has criticized the TGE on a number of issues and operates relatively freely. However, the TGE claimed the EHRC is politically biased against the EPRDF, refused to grant the EHRC a permit, and arrested the EHRC Secretary General in May on unspecified charges. Subsequently, the TGE released the Secretary General upon presentation of a guarantor and, at year's end, had not brought charges against him. According to the EHRC Secretary General, the TGE arrested two other members of the EHRC in 1993: one was released on bail, the other remained in prison, yet neither had been formally charged. The Ethiopian Human Rights and Peace Center (EHRPC) was established as an autonomous and neutral body at Addis Ababa University in 1993. It is affiliated with the law faculty. The EHRPC's goals are to educate the public about human rights and to be a research and documentation center. The Ethiopian Congress for Democracy, Forum-84, and the InterAfrica group conduct civic education programs on human rights subjects. The TGE was willing to discuss human rights concerns with diplomatic missions, international, and nongovernmental organizations. The EHRC received an official reply from the Government to its fifth report on human rights. The All-Amharic People's Organization received a reply from the Addis Ababa police commission to accusations in a press release. International human rights groups are welcomed by the TGE and enjoy good relations, access, and freedom to travel where they wish. Amnesty International was granted access to prisoners during its visit in 1993. The SPO actively courts and accepts assistance from foreign governments and legal and forensic experts. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The National Charter does not explicitly address discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status. The Charter does, however, incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. Women The TGE took a number of steps to improve the position of women. In September it launched a national policy to promote through legislation the equality of women and the inclusion of women's concerns in the Government's development planning. The TGE also established a national committee on traditional practices considered harmful to women, including female genital mutilation, tattooing, and child marriage. The national committee, composed of representatives of various ministries and NGO's, is Ethiopia's liaison to the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices, which is composed of representatives from 28 African countries. It has developed a program whereby employees of rural-oriented institutions are trained to educate rural populations on the harmful effects of some traditional practices. The Ethiopian Government established a women's rights section in the Ministry of Justice in 1992; however, this office still was not organized by the end of 1993. Women played a prominent role, including in combat, during the rebellion by the TPLF which ended when it and its allies in the EPRDF took power in 1991. Nevertheless, women do not enjoy equal status with men. Since men are considered head of the household and representative of the family, rights of land tenure and ownership of property are registered in their names. In the rural areas, where 85 percent of the population lives, women work over 13 hours a day fulfilling household and farming responsibilities. In urban areas, women have fewer employment opportunities than men and are considerably less well remunerated. Domestic violence, including wife beating, remains pervasive. While women in theory have recourse to police protection and official prosecution in cases of domestic violence, societal norms inhibit many women from seeking legal redress. The media do not cover rape because of the stigma attached to the crime. There has been media coverage of domestic violence but not on a routine basis. Children Governmental expenditures on children's welfare are minimal. In 1993 the TGE shifted increased resources from the military to social services which should benefit children. The 1993-94 allocation for education will exceed the military budget for the first time in many years. Many of the few social services that exist are operated by private organizations, but their resources are limited, and an increasing number of children are seen selling goods and begging in urban areas. The vast majority of Ethiopian women have undergone some form of female genital mutilation, which is usually performed at an early age. According to an independent expert in the field, the percentage of Ethiopian females who have undergone genital mutilation may be as high as 90 percent. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Ethiopia comprises more than 80 different ethnic groups. At various times in the past, one or another (usually the highlanders) of these groups has predominated in the political, cultural, and economic life of the country. Some ethnic groups, such as the Oromos, claim to have been dominated for centuries by the highlanders. The declared aim of the TGE is to promote the interests of all ethnic groups through a decentralized, federal system of government. The TGE delimited regional boundaries in 1992 to encompass an entire ethnic group or a multitude of ethnic groups more completely. Regions are now free to use their local language in public services. As implementation of this plan proceeds, it has aroused opposition from some groups, notably the Amharas, who warn against the disintegration or Balkanization of Ethiopia. The plan has also raised difficulties for people who do not know the newly selected language of the region. For example, many teachers and judges, including some ethnic Oromos, in region 4 (Oromia) do not speak Orominya. Many people fear being expelled from the region in which they currently reside and the possibility of not being able to practice their profession. While some overt discrimination of this sort occurred in 1993, the TGE tried to combat it. People with Disabilities There is no officially condoned or legally sanctioned discrimination against people with disabilities. Nevertheless, cultural attitudes towards the disabled are often negative. The TGE, with international support, established a commission for rehabilitation to provide ex-servicemen and civilians injured in the civil war with vocational training, assist them in finding employment, and provide them with physical rehabilitation. An official at the rehabilitation agency, a semiautonomous institution under the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, estimates that there are 5.3 million disabled persons in Ethiopia out of a population of 53 million. Limited resources restrict assistance to an estimated 20,000 beneficiaries. Ethiopia has no legislation mandating access for the disabled. Legislation addressing other problems of the disabled was under consideration at the end of 1993. As in many other areas, Ethiopia's extreme poverty is both a cause of the problem and an obstacle to its solution. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association Only a small percentage of Ethiopia's 53 million people is involved in wage labor employment, which is largely concentrated in the capital. Some 80 to 85 percent of the work force lives in the countryside, working as subsistence farmers. Under the National Charter and the Labor Law promulgated in January, most workers are free to form and join unions. Employees of the civil and security services, judges, and prosecutors are not allowed to form unions. Workers who provide an "essential service" are not allowed to strike. Essential services include air transport and railways, city cleaning and sanitation, urban and interurban bus services, gas stations, electricity generating plants, police and fire services, post and telecommunications, banks, pharmacies, and water supply. Unions are not affiliated with the Government or political parties. Workers are free to form as many federations and confederations as they wish. The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) was established in November 1993. CETU is organized by industrial and service sector rather than by region. The elected leadership will take over and transform the existing Ethiopian trade union, whose senior level management is expected to be released. The TGE did not interfere in the process. The Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA), which is not affiliated with the National Confederation, claims it was subject to governmental interference in 1993. ETA alleged that the TGE closed 133 of ETA's 137 branch offices, blocked its bank accounts, and fired 22 of its officers. The 1993 Labor Law explicitly gives the workers the right to strike to protect their interests. Many restrictions on the right to strike apply equally to an employer's right to lockout. Both must make efforts at conciliation, provide at least 10 days' notice, and provide the reasons for the action. In cases already before a court or labor board, the party must provide at least 30 days' warning. Strikes must be supported by a majority of the workers affected by the decision. It is unlawful to strike against an order from the Labor Relations Board (LRB). The Labor Law prohibits retribution against strikers. If an agreement between unions and management cannot be reached, the case may be arbitrated by a Labor Relations Board (LRB). One or more LRB's will be created in each region and at the national level. The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs will appoint each chairman. The Board's four members are composed of two each from trade unions and employers associations and serve 3-year terms. Where more than one union or employers association exists, the organization with the most representative membership will appoint the member to the LRB. There were no strikes organized by unions in 1993. There were, however, numerous actions taken by former employees of state agencies who had been laid off in the process of economic restructuring or had lost their jobs in May when Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia. In most cases, the TGE offered the employees a severance package, but this was not always accepted by the affected employees. Some former employees of the Ethiopian Maritime Transport Authority conducted a hunger strike for several months in the central square of Addis Ababa to protest what they believed to be inadequate compensation. Independent unions and those belonging to the National Confederation are free to affiliate with and participate in international labor bodies. The International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee of Experts noted with satisfaction the issuance of Labor Proclamation No 42/1993 repealing the imposition of a single, official trade union system and recognizing the right of workers and employers to establish and join trade unions and employers' associations respectively, in order to represent their members in collective bargaining. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively Under the Mengistu regime, employees were guaranteed total job security regardless of performance or productivity; no worker could be fired, and no manager was ever discharged because of low productivity. Collective bargaining had no place in this scheme because the government dictated the terms. The result of these and other measures was a labor force with little or no motivation to perform on the job. The TGE undertook to create a new labor culture. Collective bargaining is now protected under the Labor Law and is practiced freely throughout the country. Collective bargaining agreements concluded between 1975 and January 1993 are covered under the 1975 Labor Code and remain in force. During 1993 many unions throughout Ethiopia reorganized themselves in accordance with the new guidelines and registered with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Both the Vice Minister of Labor and the Representative of the African-American Labor Congress stated unequivocally that a considerable amount of collective bargaining occurred in Ethiopia during 1993. Such activities did not occur exclusively in Addis Ababa. For instance, workers at the Wonji Sugar Plantation near Nazret negotiated an 11-percent wage increase in September. Labor experts estimate that as many as 90 percent of unionized workers in Ethiopia are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Wages are now being bargained at the plant level. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. Grievance procedures are in place to hear allegations of discrimination brought by individuals or unions. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are required to reinstate workers fired for union activities. There are no export processing zones. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor Slavery was officially abolished in Ethiopia in 1942. The TGE's National Charter proscribes slavery and involuntary servitude. Activity which inhibits a person's freedom of contract or is deemed a restraint of liberty is illegal. Forced or compulsory labor is virtually nonexistent in the modern wage sector and in those areas affected by the modern sector. The Criminal Code specifically prohibits forced labor unless instituted by court order as a punitive measure. Local TGE officials outside of Addis Ababa continue to call on residents to "volunteer" for uncompensated community work projects, such as road building and emergency road repair. In 1993 industries were operating at less than half capacity; in those state-owned factories still functioning, workers were still sometimes compelled by factory managers to "volunteer" labor in order to meet quotas, which may result in cash bonuses. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children Under the new Labor Law, the minimum age for wage or salary employment is 14. Children between the ages of 14 and 18 are covered by special provisions in the Labor Law. Workers in this category may not work more than 7 hours per day, work between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. or on public holidays, or perform overtime. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which is charged with enforcement, may proscribe children from working in dangerous vocations such as transport, electric power generation, mines, sewers, and digging tunnels. Large numbers of children perform agricultural work in the countryside and work as street peddlers in the cities. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Ethiopia has no statutory minimum wage. However, since 1985 a minimum wage has been set and paid to public sector employees, who are by far the single largest group of wage earners. This public sector minimum wage is $19.40 per month (105 birr) effective as of November 1993. Although studies have not been done, the private sector usually pays at least as much as the Government. According to the Office for the Study of Wages and Other Remunerations, which calculates the annual minimum consumption basket, a family of five requires a monthly income of $79.48 (430 birr) to maintain a bare minimum standard of living. Thus, even with two family members earning the public sector minimum wage, the family receives only about 50 percent of that needed for healthful subsistence. Many workers earn less than the minimum wage. The legal workweek is 48 hours, 6 days of 8 hours each, with a 24-hour rest period. The 48-hour workweek is widely respected. The TGE, private industry, and unions negotiate to set occupational health and safety standards. These are enforced by the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. However, a lack of human and financial resources prevents this office from effectively monitoring or enforcing health and safety standards. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy to continued employment.
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