The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

TITLE:  ETHIOPIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            ETHIOPIA


After a lengthy civil war, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary 
Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power in 1991 and, together with 
other groups active in the anti-Mengistu struggle, adopted the 
National Charter which established the Transitional Government 
of Ethiopia (TGE).  The TGE, headed by President Meles Zenawi, 
has been responsible for overseeing the transition to 
multiparty democracy.  The Council of Representatives, the 
interim quasi-legislature, is controlled by the four 
constituent parties of the EPRDF.  The EPRDF and by extension 
the TGE are dominated by the Tigray People's Liberation Front 
(TPLF).  The ascendance of Tigrayans and a policy of promoting 
ethnic identity and regionalism have engendered animosity from 
Amharas, who have traditionally held centralized power in 
Ethiopia.

The TGE continued to implement its planned devolution of 
authority to regional governments.  In June the TGE held 
elections for the 548-seat Constituent Assembly, the body 
responsible for approving the new Constitution which was 
ratified on December 8 and replaced the interim National 
Charter.  The Constitution is the basis for parliamentary 
elections that are scheduled to be held in on May 7, 1995.  All 
major opposition parties boycotted the June Constituent 
Assembly elections, charging TGE manipulation of the political 
process.  The new Constitution promotes a multiparty system and 
limits the role of the future central government to the 
preservation of the Constitution, defense, and foreign policy.  
Ratification of the Constitution represented an important step 
in the TGE's democratization program, which--despite 
imperfections--has provided Ethiopian citizens with greater 
political freedoms than at any time in the nation's history.

Until the reestablishment and deployment of police forces in 
mid-1994, the EPRDF military wing served as both the national 
armed forces and an internal security force.  During 1994 the 
TGE continued to demobilize TPLF soldiers, integrating some 
into new local and regional police forces, which were 
increasingly responsible for law and order.  The December 
decision of the Fourth TPLF Congress to ban TPLF military 
commanders from party membership was a step toward the 
establishment of a representative, nonpolitical national army.  
The military continued low-level operations to counter the 
actions of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Islamic 
fundamentalist movements, especially in the Oromo and Somali 
regions where periodic clashes with insurgent and bandit groups 
occurred.

The economy is based on smallholder agriculture, with more than 
85 percent of the population living in rural areas in very poor 
conditions.  Coffee accounts for about 60 percent of export 
revenue.  The TGE continued to implement an internationally 
supported economic reform program designed to liberalize the 
country's economy and bring government expenditures into 
balance.

The Government was consistent and forceful in its verbal 
commitment to respect human rights, but serious problems 
remain.  The judicial system remains weak, understaffed, and at 
times subject to political influence.  There were credible 
reports that members of the security forces committed a number 
of extrajudicial killings and beat or otherwise physically 
abused criminal suspects and detainees, although these 
practices do not appear to be widespread.  The Government 
seldom tried, convicted, and appropriately punished security 
force members and police who committed such abuses.  The 
Government harassed and detained without charge numerous 
journalists and a number of opposition party members, holding 
some for as long as several months.  In September the 
authorities arrested approximately 500 members of the 
All-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO) on charges of unlawful 
assembly.  Numerous reports alleged that EPRDF forces, 
opposition separatists, and Islamic militias all committed 
humanitarian violations, including the summary execution of 
civilians, in continued clashes in the eastern parts of the 
country.  The TGE's sometimes heavyhanded tactics and an 
opposition boycott ensured an EPRDF victory in the June 
Constituent Assembly elections.  Discrimination and violence 
against women and abuse of children continued to be serious 
problems.

However, the Government took a number of steps to improve its 
human rights practices.  It released several thousand persons 
previously detained without charge and closed the camps in 
which they were confined.  It undertook efforts to establish a 
nonpolitical and nationally representative military.  In June 
the Government conducted a procedurally fair election in which 
opposition groups were allowed access to government-owned 
broadcast media, and on several occasions opposition groups 
staged rallies without interference.

In December the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) began legal 
proceedings against the first group of detainees charged with 
crimes against humanity under the brutal Marxist regime of 
Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam (1974-1991).  Following the 
reading of charges against the initial group of defendants, 
attorneys for the accused requested and received a continuance 
until March 7, 1995, to permit more time to prepare their 
defense.  At year's end, approximately 1,700 detainees 
suspected of involvement in war crimes remained in detention, 
most without charge after more than 3 years.  The trials, which 
are expected to last for several years, may ultimately involve 
more than 3,000 defendants.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

According to informed sources, local and regional officials of 
the security services committed more than 20 extrajudicial 
killings in 1994.  In at least one case thought to be 
politically motivated, in August government security officers 
assassinated the deputy mayor of Gode.  According to credible 
reports, in July EPRDF soldiers fired at five unarmed young men 
in Debre Zeit, killing two and wounding two others.  At year's 
end, the Government had not begun a public investigation of 
either of these incidents or punished those responsible.

In July Alebatchew Goji died under suspicious circumstances 
while in police custody in the town of Orghessa, near Dessie.  
While the exact circumstances of his death were unknown, 
Alebatchew had been detained and interrogated for 6 days about 
his fugitive uncle's whereabouts.  After Alebatchew's death, 
the police displayed his body in public before instructing his 
father to retrieve the body for burial.  There is no evidence 
that government authorities investigated this incident.

There were numerous unconfirmed reports of summary executions 
of civilians by government and antigovernment forces during 
clashes in the eastern "Somali" region which includes the 
Ogaden.  Groups involved in these clashes include the EPRDF, 
the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), and the Islamic 
fundamentalist group "Al-Ittihad Al-Islami."  There was no 
evidence to support occasional rumors of "killing squads."

     b.  Disappearance

The independent press published numerous accounts of alleged 
disappearances throughout the year.  In most cases, security 
forces arrested and held these persons incommunicado for 
several weeks before evenutally releasing them without charge.  
For example, after the OLF abducted and held a British CARE 
international employee for a week, an Ethiopian CARE employee 
subsequently disappeared.  Despite repeated denials that he was 
in police custody, the local EPRDF office released him 6 days 
later.

However, there was at least one unconfirmed report in which the 
whereabouts of a person allegedly last seen in police custody 
was unknown at year's end.  According to international human 
rights groups, in May unidentified security forces reportedly 
picked up Mustafa Idris, a telecommunications worker and OLF 
supporter, in Addis Ababa.  Previously detained by the Mengistu 
regime for 10 years, Mustafa had not been traced to any police 
station, and his whereabouts were unknown.

Human rights groups continued to charge that the whereabouts of 
dozens of people the TGE arrested when it took power remained 
unknown.  In response, the TGE claimed that some of the alleged 
missing were among the estimated 1,700 persons in detention 
awaiting trial for crimes committed against the civilian 
population during the Mengistu regime.

     c.  Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
         Treatment or Punishment

The National Charter and new Constitution prohibit the use of 
torture and mistreatment.  Nevertheless, there were credible 
reports that security officials sometimes beat and otherwise 
mistreated detainees.  However, instances of torture were 
rare.  A reported form of mistreatment is tying a victim's 
upper arms behind his or her back with electrical wire, 
occasionally resulting in permanent damage to the limbs.  
According to some victims and one security official, mock 
executions are occasionally staged.  In August EPRDF security 
officials took an opposition supporter to an unmarked house in 
Addis Ababa and beat and verbally insulted him for several 
hours.  The victim was eventually taken to a police station.  
Police officers refused an instruction from the EPRDF officials 
to imprison the victim and then offered to take the victim to a 
hospital.  The Government did not publicly investigate or 
punish those responsible.

There were credible reports that EPRDF officials sometimes use 
unmarked homes as sites for the temporary detention and 
interrogation of political opponents.  However, there is no 
evidence to support allegations about the existence of a 
network of secret detention or interrogation facilities.  The 
Government has agreed to allow international access to any area 
or facility suspected of being used in this manner.

In September prison officials shaved the heads of more than 250 
supporters of the AAPO who had been detained on September 20 
for assembling without a permit.  None of the detainees had yet 
been charged with a crime, and it appeared that the act was 
designed to humiliate and intimidate the AAPO supporters (see 
Section 1.e.).

The Government took steps to improve prison conditions.  
Although prison conditions are acceptable by local standards 
and are not life-threatening, overcrowding is a serious 
problem.  Prisoners are often allocated less than 2 square 
meters of space in a room which may contain from 8 to 200 
people.  Prisoners typically receive adequate food, often 
supplied by relatives on the outside.  Female prisoners are 
kept separately from men and receive generally equal 
treatment.  Rape does not appear to be a problem in prisons.

The TGE permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, 
military camps, and police stations by the International 
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and often by diplomatic 
missions.  However, the ICRC does not have immediate access to 
government facilities and must either request permission or 
notify each time it wants to visit.  With the advent of 
regionalization, the ICRC was also obliged to obtain clearances 
from each of Ethiopia's 10 regions.  An Embassy visit with 
imprisoned AAPO leader Asrat Woldeyes in October revealed that 
he is treated respectfully, was in good health, and received 
food daily from his family (see Section 1.e.).

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The National Charter, the new Constitution, and both the 
Criminal and Civil Codes prohibit arbitrary arrest and 
detention.  Under the Criminal Procedure Code, any person 
detained must be charged and informed of the charges within 
48 hours and, in most cases, be offered release on bail.  Those 
persons believed to have committed capital offenses, such as 
murder and treason, may be detained for 4 weeks while police 
conduct an investigation and for an additional 15 days while 
the prosecutor prepares the case against the suspect.  In 
practice, people are often detained without a warrant, 
frequently not charged within 48 hours, and if released on 
bail, never recalled to court.

Throughout 1994 the Government continued to arrest and detain 
persons without charge.  Although most often it detained people 
for short periods only, thousands of criminal suspects remained 
in detention without charge or trial at year's end.  Many of 
these cases result from a severe shortage of judges, 
prosecutors, attorneys, clerks, and courthouses.  The Southern 
Regional Supreme Court has only 5 judges, out of an authorized 
complement of 15.  Late in the year, the Southern Region had a 
backlog of more than 5,000 cases dating back as far as 1991.  
The TGE began to address these problems by creating special 
judicial teams to reduce backlogs in key areas, which resulted 
in the release or arraignment of hundreds of detainees in 
Region 4.  In December a special team of judicial officials 
reviewed prisoner files and released 220 detainees in the 
Southern People's Region, typically for lack of evidence.

In August local police detained 46 supporters of the newly 
formed Ethiopian National Democratic Party (ENDP) in Awassa and 
Dilla in the southern region, allegedly for planning violent 
activities and possession of unregistered firearms.  The 
authorities eventually released all but two of the ENDP members 
(nine not until early December) for lack of evidence.  In a 
separate incident, the TGE detained the president of Region 5 
(Somali), Hassan Jiri, in Gode and Addis Ababa without charge 
for 55 days in connection with his refusal to step down.  On 
September 11, Lemma Sidamo, acting vice-chairman of the Sidamo 
Liberation Movement, which the TGE accuses of engaging in armed 
insurrection, was removed from his residence by Addis Ababa 
police, acting on an arrest order from Sidamo Zone.  No charges 
were ever brought against Lemma, who was held in seclusion in 
Awassa and the town of Yerga Alem until his release in 
mid-November.

In December 1993, the authorities arrested eight leaders of 
opposition parties when they arrived in Addis Ababa to attend a 
"peace and reconciliation conference" organized by political 
opposition groups.  They charged seven with supporting armed 
uprising against the State and other related offenses but 
dropped charges in February after the group members signed 
individual statements renouncing violence.  All of the 
detainees had been released by mid-February, except for Abera 
Yemane-Ab, who remains in detention on suspicion of involvement 
in crimes against humanity committed during the Mengistu regime 
(see Section 1.e.).

Throughout the year the Government closed several large 
detention facilities, including Hurso and Didessa, and released 
over 4,000 persons, mostly OLF members and supporters who had 
been held for periods as long as 2 years.  It arraigned about 
280 of the detainees in Ziway, formally charged them with 
crimes, and transferred them to civilian prisons.   At year's 
end no trials for the 280 had begun, despite government 
indications it would bring these prisoners to trial quickly.  
The Government closed the detention facility at Agarfa earlier 
in the year.

Exile is illegal and not used as a means of political control.  
However, in May, at the behest of the Eritrean Government, the 
TGE arrested 26 Ethiopians for alleged involvement in 
activities of the Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary 
Command (ELF-RC), a group opposing the Eritrean Government.  As 
an alternative to imprisonment or deportation to Eritrea, the 
Government permitted several of the ELF-RC members to seek 
asylum in Europe and allowed the others to remain in internal 
exile in southern Ethiopia.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The TGE continued to restructure the judiciary toward a 
decentralized federal system, featuring courts at the district 
(woreda), zone, and regional levels.  The Central (federal) 
Supreme Court adjudicates cases involving federal law, 
transregional issues, and national security and hears both 
original and appeal cases.  While the goal of a decentralized 
system may hold promise of bringing justice closer to the 
people, the reality is that the severe shortage of trained 
personnel in many regions, serious financial constraints, and 
the absence of a clear demarcation between central and regional 
jurisdictions combine to keep the judiciary weak.

Until regional legislatures are established and empowered to 
pass laws particular to their region, the Criminal Code will 
remain the same at both the regional and federal levels.  
Trials are public, and defendants have the right to a defense 
attorney.  The Government established a public defender's 
office to provide legal counsel to indigent defendants.  In 
December, the central High Court appointed attorneys to 
represent 46 of the initial group of defendants in the war 
crimes trials following claims by the defendants that they 
could not afford adequate defense.  The Court will pay each 
attorney the equivalent of $800 to cover necessary expenses.  
Ethiopian law does not grant the defense attorney access to 
accusatory material before trial.

Shari'a (Islamic) courts hear religious and family cases 
involving Muslims.  The new Constitution protects the existence 
of current Shari'a courts and gives the legislature of any 
jurisdiction the authority to empower future Shari'a courts.  
Under the Constitution, both parties have to agree to be 
subject to Shari'a law for it to be applied.  In addition, some 
traditional courts still function in remote areas, and, though 
not sanctioned by law, resolve legal disputes for the large 
number of Ethiopians who live more than a day's walk from a 
road, and generally beyond the influence of modern judicial 
facilities.

The central courts continued to show signs of judicial 
independence.  However, these efforts were sometimes undermined 
by political interference in other areas of the judiciary.  The 
Central Supreme Court found against the Ministry of Internal 
Affairs for misdeeds committed by the previous government's 
Internal Affairs Ministry.  The central High Court reprimanded 
the Minister of Justice and other senior officials for ordering 
the release of two prominent detainees held by the Court.  In 
December the central High Court found that the Ministry of 
Labor had overstepped its bounds in ordering the closing of the 
offices of the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU).

Senior judicial officers acknowledge government pressure, 
noting that judges are sometimes instructed to treat EPRDF 
defendants leniently.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the 
exact opposite is true for cases involving members of the 
opposition.  At least one judge claimed he was fired for 
exhibiting too much independence, and in another case a 
presiding high judge replaced one of two fellow judges to 
achieve a majority vote to deny bail to two AAPO detainees.  At 
year's end, two regional judges remained in prison in the 
southern city of Jinka after being illegally dismissed by local 
authorities for issuing an unpopular decision.  Officials in 
Jinka claimed, incorrectly, that regionalization gives them 
complete autonomy over local affairs, and they ignored release 
orders from the chairman of the Southern Region Supreme Court 
and from the vice chairman of the regional council.

In decentralizing the judiciary, the TGE also established in 
1993 federal and regional Judicial Administrative Commissions 
(JAC's) which are empowered to help select and discipline 
judges.  JAC's--which include the chairman of the relevant 
supreme court, representatives of the appropriate legislative 
council, local lawyers, prosecutors, and Justice Ministry 
officials--have begun to function, although their impact was 
mixed.

On October 25, the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) handed 
down long-awaited indictments against the first group of 
defendants to be tried for serious crimes, including for crimes 
against humanity during the "Red Terror" and forced 
resettlement and villagization, committed during the Mengistu 
dictatorship from 1974 to 1991.  The SPO was established in 
1992 to create an historical record of the abuses during the 
Mengistu government and to bring to justice those criminally 
responsible for human rights violations and corruption.  The 
trial of the first 66 defendants began on December 13.  In this 
first group, the Government is trying 21 of the 66 in absentia, 
including the former president, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, 
who is in exile in Zimbabwe.  It may eventually charge and try 
more than 3,000 defendants in connection with these crimes; 
some government officials expect the trials to go on for 3 to 5 
years.  In 1994 the Government arrested 25 former Air Force 
personnel for having bombed civilian targets during the civil 
war.  Over 1,600 suspects remained in detention without charge 
at year's end, some of whom have been detained for more than 3 
years.  The Government declared that the remaining detainees 
would be charged by July 1995.

Following a high profile trial, the Central High Court 
convicted and sentenced AAPO leader Asrat Woldeyes and four 
accomplices to imprisonment for 2 years for involvement in a 
1993 meeting in Addis Ababa during which plans for armed 
activities against the TGE were allegedly discussed.  In 
December the same court sentenced Asrat to prison for an 
additional 3 years for "incitement to war" in connection with a 
speech made at the provincial town of Debre Berhan in 1992.  At 
year's end, Asrat also faced charges of involvement in a May 
1994 prison break in Debre Berhan, during which several guards 
were killed.  His confinement and trials received significant 
press attention and exacerbated tensions between the TGE and 
AAPO.  In September, after protesting without a required permit 
outside the Central High Court, the authorities arrested 
approximately 500 AAPO supporters and eventually charged 250 
with "public provocation" and "illegal assembly."  They 
subsequently released all of these on bail; further court 
action remained pending at year's end.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
         Correspondence

The law requires judicial search warrants, but government 
critics allege they are seldom used in practice.  The TGE 
implemented a nationwide campaign to uncover and confiscate 
unregistered firearms.  Government security officials conducted 
searches of private and commercial vehicles, as well as private 
homes.  Leaders of political opposition groups claim their 
members have been singled out for illegal searches and often 
unfairly detained during this campaign.  These charges were 
given additional credibility when 44 of 46 ENDP members, 
detained following accusations of illegal weapons possession in 
the Southern Ethiopian People's Region, were subsequently 
released without charge (see Section 1.d.).  Many people allege 
they are under surveillance for expressing antigovernment views.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian
         Law in Internal Conflicts

The TGE continued to face low-level armed insurgency and 
banditry in various parts of the country, and both the military 
and the insurgents committed serious abuses, including 
extrajudicial killings.

In April the TGE armed forces launched a military operation in 
eastern Region 5 to control military activities of the Islamic 
fundamentalist Al-Ittihad Al-Islami and the military wing of 
the separatist ONLF.  Numerous unconfirmed reports allege that 
all parties summarily executed civilians and that Al-Ittihad 
and the ONLF employed land mines and hand grenades against both 
military and civilian targets.  Toward the end of the year a 
number of suspected ONLF landmine attacks were directed at 
civilian targets, primarily along the Harar-Jijiga road, and 
resulted in more than 10 civilian deaths and numerous injured.  
In Regions 3 and 4 (Amhara and Oromia), rebel groups 
occasionally clashed with government forces resulting in deaths 
on both sides.  Militants of the Oromo Liberation Front engaged 
TGE forces sporadically during the year.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

While the National Charter, the 1992 Press Law, and the new 
Constitution provide for the right to free speech and press, 
the TGE restricted both of these freedoms on numerous 
occasions.  People are generally free to discuss publicly any 
topic they choose, but those expressing anti-TGE views were 
vulnerable to government harassment.  For example, police 
detained a person overnight for speaking about Asrat's case 
(see Section 1.e.) and forced him to sign a statement 
forswearing any future discussion of the professor.  Press 
criticism of both the Government and the opposition is common.  
Opposition parties and the Ethiopian Human Rights Council 
(EHRCO) were generally able to hold rallies or press 
conferences expressing anti-TGE views without apparent 
retribution.

The vast majority of Ethiopians outside Addis Ababa have no 
ready access to the print media.  A small-circulation private 
press continued to operate in Addis Ababa despite the arrest of 
more than a dozen journalists for violations of the Press Law 
and Criminal Code.  The Press Law is vague, and many 
journalists complain that it can be interpreted broadly to 
target journalists whom the Government dislikes.  This often 
results in self-censorship.  The clause most commonly invoked 
is the prohibition on dissemination of false information, which 
is often translated into "telling only one side of a story."  
Many journalists fall victim to this clause because of the 
refusal of virtually all government officials to speak to the 
private press, even to confirm or deny an allegation.  Denial 
of entrance to private journalists at government press 
conferences further limits their access to information and 
undermines the TGE's affirmations of a free press as a 
cornerstone of democracy.  However, some elements of the 
private press were irresponsible in their reporting of 
developments in the country.

The authorities detained a number of independent journalists 
and editors for long periods (as long as 4 months) without 
informing them of the charges they face.  Many publishers 
decided against continuing involvement in the news business 
after being detained, sentenced to prison, or fined up to 
$3,200 (20,000 birr).  There were credible allegations of 
executive influence in judicial proceedings against 
journalists.  Judges set fines on an ad hoc basis.  When a 
convicted person is unable to pay a fine, it is a common 
long-standing practice to divide his monthly salary into the 
outstanding fine to determine the number of months in prison.  
On three occasions judges applied this practice to detained 
journalists.  As a result of poor management, market forces, 
and government harassment, the number of available newspapers 
declined from the high of 65 that were in operation at various 
times during 1993.  By the end of 1994 there were about 20 
weekly and 2 monthly magazines in circulation in Addis Ababa 
with a circulation of about 5,000 to 7,000 each.

Foreign journalists, including from the Voice of America, 
continued to operate freely in Ethiopia during this period, 
often writing articles critical of TGE policies and practices.  
The Government controls radio, the most influential medium in 
reaching the rural population, as well as the sole television 
station, and ensures that TGE policies are reflected in their 
programming.  The official media devoted slightly more coverage 
to the activities of opposition groups than in 1993, but much 
of this coverage was negative.

The new Constitution provides for academic freedom.  In January 
1993, security forces killed an Addis Ababa University (AAU) 
student while dispersing an unauthorized demonstration against 
Eritrean independence at the University, in which protesters 
threw rocks at police.  In February 1994, a commission of 
inquiry, which had been established to investigate the 
incident, found that the students, university security, and 
police were each partly to blame.

At year's end, none of the 41 AAU faculty members dismissed in 
April 1993, reportedly for expressing antigovernment views, had 
been reinstated.  Only 4 of the 41 received any type of 
compensation from the Government, and the teachers' suit 
against the Government for wrongful dismissal continued to move 
slowly through the courts.  The negative impact of the 
dismissals continued to resonate among AAU faculty.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The National Charter and the new Constitution endorse the right 
of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and the right to 
engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity.  Although 
the Government has used legal instruments and other measures to 
abridge these rights on numerous occasions, the Government did 
not interfere with several large antigovernment protests held 
in November and December.  The TGE proclamation of August 12, 
1991, required organizers to inform authorities of peaceful 
demonstrations or public political meetings 48 hours in 
advance.  In 1994 this process, not the law, was reversed and 
tightened.  Organizers must now obtain a permit from regional 
authorities prior to a public demonstration.

In a sign that the Government is responding more responsibly to 
legitimate public expressions of dissent during the period 
leading up to the 1995 elections, there were several large 
peaceful demonstrations in November and December.  On November 
28, there was a peaceful rally and march by between 40,000 and 
50,000 Muslims who demonstrated in Addis Ababa in support of 
unrestricted freedom to practice their religion.  On December 
4, several opposition groups staged a peaceful rally in central 
Addis Ababa to protest the Government's "unilateral" adoption 
of the new Constitution and to condemn human rights abuses.  
Approximately 50,000 people attended the rally, which proceeded 
without incident.

The TGE permits the existence of independent nongovernmental 
associations but has sometimes harassed and intimidated groups, 
which have criticized the Government on purely political 
grounds, such as the Ethiopian Human Rights Council.  These 
associations are required both to register with the Relief and 
Rehabilitation Commission and to hold a special permit issued 
by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  In particular, the permit 
is necessary for an association to open a bank account or 
acquire official seals.  Three years after EHRCO applied for 
registration and a permit, the Government continued to delay 
action on the applications, claiming that EHRCO is primarily a 
political organization (see Section 4).  Many other 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) have made similar 
complaints.

The TGE requires political parties to register with the 
National Electoral Board (NEB).  As of year's end, there were 
60 political parties (44 of whom had received registration 
certificates from the NEB); of these, 53 are regional parties 
and 7 national.

Credible reports from many sources demonstrate that the 
authorities at both the national and regional levels harassed 
opposition political parties.  The authorities often refused to 
rent meeting halls to opposition parties, surveilled party 
activities, and harassed individual members.  A member of the 
Ethiopian Democratic Union Party (EDUP) was detained and beaten 
severely by two EPRDF officials in Addis Ababa for several 
hours after they discovered his EDUP membership card while 
interrogating him and a friend on the street.  Two officials of 
the opposition Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Coalition 
(SEPDC) were allegedly summarily detained on December 28 after 
presenting local authorities in the town of Hosanna a written 
notification of SEPDC's intention to establish a party office.  
In August police detained 46 supporters of the newly formed 
ENDP in Awassa and Dilla in what many suspect was an attempt by 
southern region authorities to dismantle the party (see Section 
1.d.).

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The National Charter and the new Constitution provide for 
freedom of religion, including the right of conversion, and 
freedom of worship exists in practice.  Roughly 40 percent of 
Ethiopia's population are Muslims who, for the first time in 
the nation's history, are able to participate fully in 
political, economic, and social life.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Freedom of movement, including the right of domestic and 
foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, is provided under 
the National Charter and the new Constitution.  Citizens may 
freely change their residence or workplace.  Citizens and 
residents of Ethiopia are required to obtain an exit visa 
before departing, which the authorities issue in most cases, 
except for persons with pending court cases or debts.

An average of 100 Ethiopian Jews (Falashas) and Feles Mora 
(Ethiopians who claim Jewish heritage but have not been 
accepted as Jews by the Israeli Rabbinate) emigrated to Israel 
every month.  This outflow has remained at about the same level 
since the major exodus of Falashas in 1991 and 1992.  Several 
thousand Ethiopians who claim Jewish heritage remain in 
Ethiopia.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 
and to foreign diplomats, the TGE treats asylum seekers fairly 
and is cooperative on issues concerning the repatriation of 
Ethiopian refugees.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens
           to Change Their Government

This right has yet to be exercised in Ethiopia.  The TGE 
extended the transitional period originally scheduled to expire 
in January until a new national government is elected in 
mid-1995.  Throughout the year, the TGE continued preparations 
for a transition to multiparty democracy, and in December the 
Constituent Assembly announced plans to the hold parliamentary 
elections within 6 months.

Since taking power in 1991, the EPRDF has dominated the 
political process and maintains a preponderance of seats in the 
quasi-legislative Council of Representatives.  Of the four 
constituent parties of the EPRDF, the TPLF is the most 
powerful, and its members included the President and (until 
their exclusion from the party at the December 1994 Congress] 
most key national security officials.  The EPRDF also dominates 
the regional councils and executive committees as a result of 
the flawed 1992 elections in which principally the EPRDF, but 
also the OLF, were guilty of numerous breaches of the electoral 
process.

In March the commission charged with drafting a new 
constitution completed its task and submitted the draft for 
review and approval by the Council of Representatives.  In 
October, the 548-seat Constituent Assembly elected in June 
began deliberations on the draft constitution, which it 
approved on December 8.  Opposition to the new Constitution 
includes an objection to the alleged "unilateral" nature of its 
adoption by a ruling party and to specific controversial 
articles.  Prominent among the latter are provisions for 
self-determination "up to secession" (Article 39) and for state 
ownership of all land.

All major opposition groups boycotted the June Constituent 
Assembly elections, claiming that the Government would impede 
their ability to participate in the political process.  Leading 
up to the election, there were credible reports of EPRDF 
harassment of some opposition party members and independent 
candidates, especially in regions outside Addis Ababa.  The TGE 
and the National Electoral Board made credible attempts to 
investigate abuses when made aware of their occurrence.  A 
limited attempt was made to provide registered candidates with 
media access.  In at least one instance, the NEB reversed an 
announced victory in favor of a non-EPRDF candidate.  
International observers considered the elections 
administratively fair.  However, as a result of the lack of 
opposition candidates, the election was largely noncompetitive, 
and the better organized and funded EPRDF candidates won 89 
percent of the contested seats.

In general, the opposition parties are poorly organized and 
funded and lack leadership and alternative programs.  Most such 
parties also have little active support outside Addis Ababa, 
although 85 percent of the population lives in rural areas.  
Participation remains closed to a number of organizations which 
have not renounced violence or do not accept the TGE and its 
Council of Representatives as a legitimate authority.  These 
groups include Medhin, the Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic 
Forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party, the Oromo 
Liberation Front, and several smaller Somali groups.

Neither law nor practice restrict the participation of women 
and minorities in politics.  Although by historical standards 
women's status and political participation is greater than ever 
before, women are underrepresented in the TGE Council of 
Ministers and among the leadership of all political 
organizations.  Only 2 of the 20 Ministers in the TGE Council 
of Ministers are women; 3 other women hold ministerial rank, 
and a number of others hold positions among the senior ranks of 
government.  Only 1 of 30 judges on the central High Court is a 
woman.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
           of Human Rights

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council is the country's most 
prominent independent human rights monitoring group, but it has 
been criticized for its political agenda.  However, EHRCO 
continued to operate without legal status because the 
Government considers it a political organization.  The 
Government refused to register EHRCO, and security officials 
regularly monitored people visiting its office.  Although in 
1993 the Government arrested and released on bail the EHRCO 
Secretary General, it had not formally charged him with a crime 
by year's end.  EHRCO public statements and periodic reports 
are highly critical of the TGE's political program as well as 
its performance on human rights.  In its seventh report, it 
submitted a list of alleged extrajudicial killings to the 
Attorney General and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  The 
former replied that it was unaware of such cases; the latter 
had not responded as of year's end.

Other human rights organizations include the Ethiopian Human 
Rights and Peace Center (EHRPC), affiliated with the law 
faculty at Addis Ababa University, the Ethiopian Congress for 
Democracy, and the Inter-Africa Group.

The TGE allows visits by the ICRC and international human 
rights groups and permits them to operate and travel freely.  
International human rights groups and foreign diplomats have 
been encouraged to observe the war crimes trials which began in 
December.  Although allegations of human rights abuses have 
been raised with the TGE, the Government took remedial action 
in only the most public and egregious cases.  Rarely, if ever, 
did it punish responsible officials for abusing or neglecting 
their authority.  Officials in the Ministry of Interior have 
generally been responsive to requests for information about 
specific human rights cases and have facilitated visits to 
prisons and meetings with prominent detainees.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The new Constitution states that all persons are equal before 
the law.  The law provides that all persons should have equal 
and effective protection without discrimination on grounds of 
race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other 
opinion, national or social origin, wealth, birth, or other 
status.

     Women

Although women played a prominent role (including service in 
combat) during the civil war and hold some senior government 
positions, in practice women do not enjoy equal status with 
men.  Ethiopian law holds men and women to be equal, but 
tradition and cultural factors place the man as head of the 
household, and, in practice, men typically hold land tenure and 
property rights for the whole family.

Discrimination is most acute in the rural areas, where 
85 percent of the population lives, and where women work over 
13 hours a day fulfilling household and farming 
responsibilities.  In urban areas, women have fewer employment 
opportunities than men, and the jobs available do not provide 
equal pay for equal work.  In September 1993, the TGE launched 
an initiative to promote the equality of women by changing 
statutes and including women's concerns in the Government's 
development planning, although the Government took limited 
concrete action other than to establish women's affairs desks 
in each of the ministries.

Domestic violence, including wife beating and rape, is a 
pervasive problem.  While women theoretically have recourse 
through police and the legal system, societal norms inhibit 
many women from seeking legal redress.  There was sporadic 
media coverage of domestic abuse cases, although the press 
rarely covers instances of rape because of the stigma attached 
to the crime.  There are disturbing reports that some husbands 
force their wives into prostitution to supplement family income.

     Children

The Government has not given children's issues a high priority, 
but has encouraged the efforts of domestic and international 
NGO's, such as Save the Children, which focus on children's 
social and health issues.

Societal abuse against young girls, however, continues to be a 
serious problem.  Almost all girls undergo some form of female 
genital mutilation (FGM), which international and TGE health 
experts have condemned as damaging to both physical and 
psychological health.  Clitorectomies are typically performed 
7 days after birth, and the excision of the labia and 
infibulation, the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM, can 
occur any time between the age of 8 and the onset of puberty.  
Early childhood marriage is prevalent in rural areas with girls 
as young as 9 years being party to arranged marriages.  The 
National Committee on Traditional Practices in Ethiopia, an 
indigenous NGO, along with the Ministries of Health and Labor 
and Social Affairs, international organizations, and other 
NGO's, has begun a nationwide program to educate women, 
community leaders, and traditional leaders on the harmful 
effects of FGM.  Ethiopia has an extremely high maternal 
mortality rate, partially due to food taboos for pregnant women 
and birth complications related to FGM, including infibulation.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethiopia has more than 80 different ethnic groups.  Although 
all of these groups have had some influence on the political 
and cultural life of the country, Amharas and Tigrayans from 
the northern highlands have traditionally dominated this 
process.  Some ethnic groups, such as Oromos, the largest 
single group, claim to have been dominated for at least a 
century by the Amharas and Tigrayans.  In an attempt to rectify 
this problem, the Government has supported a loose federal 
system and in 1994 changed regional boundaries to encompass 
more completely entire (major) ethnic populations.

     People with Disabilities

The Government does not mandate access to buildings or 
government services for persons with disabilities.  The new 
Constitution stipulates that the State shall allocate resources 
to provide rehabilitation and assistance to the physically and 
mentally disabled.  There is no officially condoned or legally 
sanctioned discrimination against people with disabilities, but 
cultural attitudes toward the disabled are often negative, and 
even people with minor disabilities complain of rampant job 
discrimination.  The Council of Representatives passed a law 
mandating equal rights for the disabled, but it is unclear if 
the law can be rigorously enforced.  An official at the 
Rehabilitation Agency, a semiautonomous institution under the 
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, estimated that there are 
more than 5 million disabled people in Ethiopia out of a 
population of roughly 53 million.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Only a small percentage of the population is involved in wage 
labor employment, which is largely concentrated in the 
capital.  Approximately 85 percent of the work force lives in 
the countryside, engaged in subsistence farming.

Under the National Charter, Article 42 of the 1994 
Constitution, and the 1993 Labor Law, most workers are free to 
form and join unions and engage in collective bargaining, but 
only about 200,000 workers are unionized.  Employees of the 
civil and security services (where most wage workers are 
found), judges, and prosecutors are not allowed to form 
unions.  Workers who provide an "essential service" are not 
allowed to strike.  Essential services include a large number 
of categories such as air transport, railways, bus services, 
police and fire services, post and telecommunications, banks, 
and pharmacies.

Unions are not affiliated with the Government or political 
parties.  There is no legal requirement for unions to belong to 
the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU), which was 
established in November 1993.  CETU comprises nine federations 
organized by industrial and service sector rather than by 
region.  In December the Government decertified CETU following 
a 30-day probationary period given to permit CETU to resolve 
internal disputes.  Under Ethiopian law a trade organization 
may not act in an overtly political manner.  The CETU split 
over allegations that CETU chairman Dawey Ibrahim's harsh 
criticism of the Government's structural adjustment program was 
politically motivated.  Factions of three federations, 
including Dawey, took possession of CETU offices, prompting the 
Government to issue the order that CETU must resolve its 
internal problems.  The central High Court later affirmed the 
Government's right to decertify CETU but found the decision to 
close CETU's offices to be improper.  Nonetheless, at year's 
end the CETU offices remained closed.

The 1993 Labor Law explicitly gives workers the right to strike 
to protect their interests, but it also sets forth many 
restrictions which apply before a legal strike may take place.  
These restrictions apply equally to an employer's right to 
lockout.  Strikes must be supported by a majority of the 
workers affected by the decision.  The 1993 Labor Law prohibits 
retribution against strikers.  Both sides must make efforts at 
conciliation, provide at least 10-days' notice to the 
Government and include the reasons for the action, and, in 
cases already before a court or labor board, the party must 
provide at least a 30-day warning.

If an agreement between unions and management cannot be 
reached, the Minister of Labor may refer the case to 
arbitration by a labor relations board (LRB).  The TGE has 
established LRB's at the national level and in some regions.  
The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs appoints each LRB 
chairman, and the four board members are composed of two each 
from trade unions and employer associations.  It is unlawful to 
strike against an order from an LRB.

There were no strikes organized by unions during the year.

In mid-1994, the TGE reinstated 46 of 52 employees of the 
Commercial Bank of Ethiopia who had been fired in 1992 for 
attempting to strike.  In the absence of a labor law in 1992, 
the attempt to strike had been judged illegal.

Independent unions and those belonging to CETU are free to 
affiliate with and participate in international labor bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is protected under the Labor Law and 
under the new Constitution, and it is practiced freely 
throughout the country.  Collective bargaining agreements 
concluded between 1975 and the promulgation of the January 1993 
Labor Law are covered under the 1975 Labor Code and remain in 
force.  Labor experts estimate that more than 90 percent of 
unionized workers in Ethiopia are covered by collective 
bargaining agreements.  Wages are negotiated at the plant level.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against 
union members and organizers.  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

The National Charter and the new Constitution proscribe 
slavery--which was officially abolished in 1942--and 
involuntary servitude.  The Criminal Code specifically 
prohibits forced labor unless instituted by court order as a 
punitive measure.  Forced or compulsory labor is virtually 
nonexistent.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Under the 1993 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.  Children may 
not work more than 7 hours per day, work between the hours of 
10 p.m. and 6 a.m. or on public holidays, or perform overtime.  
While some efforts to enforce these regulations are made within 
the formal industrial sector, large numbers of children of all 
ages work outside of most government regulatory control on 
farms in the countryside and as street peddlers in the cities.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no statutory minimum wage.  However, since 1985 a 
minimum wage has been set and paid to public sector employees 
who are by far the largest group of wage earners.  This public 
sector minimum wage is $16.67 (105 birr) per month, which is 
insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a 
worker and family.  According to the Office for the Study of 
Wages and other Remunerations, a family of five requires a 
monthly income of $62.40 (390 birr), and even with two minimum 
wage earners a family receives only about half the income 
needed for healthful subsistence.

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.  However, the 
Inspection Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Affairs enforces these standards ineffectively, due to a lack 
of human and financial resources.  Workers have the right to 
remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy to 
continued employment.


(###)


[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1994 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.