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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. (###)
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