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Title: Ethiopia Human Rights Practices, 1995 Author: U.S. Department of State Date: March 1996 ETHIOPIA Ethiopia's political landscape changed significantly in 1995. In May and June, following the December 1994 adoption of a new democratic Constitution, Ethiopia held national and regional elections. The Transitional Government (TGE), which was established following a long and brutal civil war, handed over power to the elected government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) in August. Most opposition groups chose to boycott the elections, refusing to test the TGE's stated willingness to allow opposition participation. Without such participation, candidates affiliated with the dominant party within the transitional government, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won a landslide victory in national and regional contests. The EPRDF is in turn dominated by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The ascendance of the EPRDF and a policy of promoting ethnic federalism, has engendered animosity among some elites who previously held centralized power in Ethiopia. The Government continued its efforts to devolve authority to regional governments but is constrained by underdeveloped local administrative, police, and judicial systems. The Government has not yet devised procedures to ensure effective implementation of constitutionally guaranteed rights, especially at the regional level. This process is complicated by Ethiopia's history, great poverty, and unfamiliarity with democratic culture. Maintenance of internal security continued to shift from the EPRDF military wing to the police. The Ministry of Internal Affairs was abolished in August and the Security, Immigration, and Refugees Authority was created. The national police organization was subordinated to the Ministry of Justice. Members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. Throughout the year the military continued low-level operations to counter armed attacks by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromiya (IFLO) in Region Four. Incidents of banditry, some of which may have been politically driven, increased in parts of the Southern People's Region and the Oromo and Amhara regions. Bandits were believed to be responsible for deaths of civilians and in some cases police in rural areas. The private press and international human rights organizations reported that the army, opposition separatists, and Islamic militias all committed human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, in the eastern part of the country. These reports diminished sharply following a government-sponsored peace conference at Kebre Dehar in January. The economy is based on smallholder agriculture, with more than 85 percent of the population living in rural areas in very poor conditions. Per capita gross national product is estimated at only $110 per year. Coffee accounts for about 60 percent of export revenue. The Government continued to implement an internationally supported economic reform program designed to liberalize the country's economy and bring state expenditures into balance. The Government continued its stated commitment to human rights but serious problems remain. There were credible reports that members of the security forces physically abused some criminal suspects and detainees, although these practices do not appear widespread. The Government at times harrassed, arrested, and arbitrarily detained journalists and political activists. The judicial system remains weak, understaffed, and at times subject to political influence. Culturally based discrimination and violence against women and abuse of children continued to be serious problems. Discrimination against the disabled persists. The trial of the first group of defendents accused of war crimes under the brutal Marxist regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam (1974-1991), which began in December 1994, was in recess, at the request of both the defense and the prosecution, for much of 1995. At year's end, approximately 1,700 of those accused of war crimes remained in detention without charge after more than 3 years. The trials, which are expected to last several years, may ultimately involve as many as 3,000 defendants. During the year the Government arrested and detained additional individuals for crimes allegedly committed during the "Red Terror" in the late 1970's. However, the Government took a number of steps to improve its human rights practices. The Government made progress toward its goal of enhancing the quality and performance of independent national and regional police forces. The Government also continued to demobilize TPLF soldiers and to move toward the creation of a national, apolitical army; as part of this process, members of the military have been barred from affiliation with political parties. For the first time government media published reports of police and other officials who were jailed or dismissed for abuse of authority and violations of human rights. Several hundred prisoners were released from overcrowded jails in the Southern region following a review of their cases by regional prosecutors. Prior to the May elections, the Government improved access to the official media for opposition political groups. Nevertheless, serious limitations on the media remain, particularly criminal penalties based on the 1992 Press Law. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing The Government continues 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. There were numerous unconfirmed reports that both government and antigovernment forces committed summary executions during clashes in parts of Oromiya and the eastern Somali region, which includes the Ogaden. Groups allegedly involved in these incidents include the army, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Islamic fundamentalist group Al-Ittihad Al-Islami, the OLF, and the IFLO. The level of violence in the Somali region diminished sharply following a government sponsored peace conference there in January. Banditry remained a serious problem, especially in parts of the Southern People's Region, Oromiya, and Amhara. Bandits killed numerous civilians, police, and EPRDF soldiers during robbery attempts. While government critics frequently ascribe political motives to bandit activity, most evidence suggests that these activities were economically motivated. In combating banditry, credible reports indicate that government troops sometimes used excessive force. Local security campaigns against suspected criminals sometimes resulted in suspicious deaths. However, bandits are often armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades. In January bandits or opponents of the Government killed a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) relief worker in Moyale. In one attack that may have been politically motivated, in April an opposition candidate from Bale was killed. The Government took no action to investigate the 1994 assassination of the Deputy Mayor of Gode or the July 1994 death of Alebatchew Goji who died while in police custody. Land mines laid by suspected Islamic separatists were responsible for the deaths and injuries of several relief workers in the Somali Region early in the year. b. Disappearance There continued to be numerous unconfirmed reports of alleged disappearances. Human rights groups continued to charge that the whereabouts of dozens of people arrested when the Government took power in 1991 remained unknown. In response, the Government 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 new Constitution prohibits the use of torture and mistreatment of prisoners. Nevertheless, there were credible reports that security officials sometimes beat or mistreat detainees. Government media published numerous reports of police and other officials who were jailed or dismissed for abuse of authority and violations of human rights. In March several South Omo Zone officials were dismissed for taking bribes and beating people. In August 40 policemen were dismissed in Arsi Zone for, among other things, "infringing upon human rights." In September 10 policemen were dismissed in the central zone of Tigray for "bribery and beating innocent civilians." During the fall, hundreds of other administrative and police officials were sanctioned or dismissed for unspecified abuses of authority, some of which may have involved human rights abuses. There were no substantiated reports of instances of torture against prisoners. There were credible reports that EPRDF officials sometimes use unmarked houses and military camps for the temporary detention and interrogation of OLF supporters and other suspected political opponents. Prison conditions are acceptable and are not generally life threatening. However, despite actions by prosecutors in some regions to release some detainees, overcrowding remains a serious problem. Health officials note that overcrowding has resulted in increased incidence of tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid fever and other serious diseases within the prison population. Prisoners are often allocated less than 2 square meters of sleeping space in a room which may contain from 8 to 200 people. Prison food is adequate. Prisoners are typically permitted daily access to prison yards. Visitors are allowed and many prisoners receive regular deliveries of food and other supplies from family members. Female prisoners are kept separately from men, and rape does not appear to be a problem. The Government 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. Permission to visit detention facilities is routinely granted, although the ICRC must obtain additional clearances from officials in each of Ethiopia's 10 regions. Diplomats who visited with imprisoned All Amhara People's Organization (AAPO) Chairman Asrat Woldeyes in September found him to be in good health, with no complaints of physical mistreatment. He is allowed visitors and receives food daily from family members (see Section l.e.). In September all regional police chiefs and senior prisons officials attended a seminar at which the subject of prisoners' rights were a main topic. National police officials stressed the responsibility of local authorities to guarantee the basic human rights of prisoners. Federal prosecutors are being assigned to the regions to oversee compliance. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The Constitution, and both the Criminal and Civil Codes prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the Government did not always respect these rights in practice. 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 additional 15-day periods while the investigation is being conducted. Some serious offenses are not bailable. In practice, people are often detained without a warrant, frequently not charged within 48 hours, and if released on bail, never recalled to court. Lack of judicial capacity contributes to many of these irregularities. Throughout 1995 the Government continued to arrest and detain persons without charge. In typical cases, security forces arrested and held these persons incommunicado for several days or weeks before eventually releasing them. Several hundred Oromo youth, suspected of participation in the OLF armed campaign against the Government, were detained in this manner. In the town of Nekempt, Olana Beti, an OLF member, claims to have been detained 6 times without charge over the past 3 years. Although most often government security officers 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, for example, has only 4 judges out of an authorized complement of 15. Similar problems exist, to varying degrees, in other regions. At year's end, courts in the Southern Region had a backlog of several thousand cases, some dating back several years. The Government began to address these problems by creating special judicial teams to reduce backlogs in key areas. These efforts resulted in the release of hundreds of detainees in the Oromo Region. Prosecutors also released hundreds of detainees in the Southern People's Region often for lack of evidence. Among these were leaders of the Sidamo Liberation Movement (SLM). The SLM has been known to advocate and engage in violence against the Government in the past. Two judges who had been illegally detained in 1994 in Jiuka for issuing an unpopular decision were released in March following a visit by Western ambassadors (see Section 1.e.). In late June and early July, over 300 people, including journalists and businessmen, were arrested in connection with the investigation of the assassination attempt against President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Four of the journalists were held for over a month in connection with stories which criticized the Government's role in the incident and its aftermath. The journalists were all eventually released on bail. For more than 3 months, Bekele Eshete and more than 60 of his associates in the tourist industry were jailed without charge before finally being released in mid-September. Several individuals accused of helping the terrorists obtain forged Ethiopian documents remain detained. Following the closure of several large detention facilities in 1994, 280 detainees were formally charged; their trials began in early 1995. In December 168 defendants were released, and trials of the remaining 93 were continuing. Two Ethiopian National Democratic Party (ENDP) members who remained in detention at the end of 1994 were released in 1995. The Government continued to hold 30 Muslim activists believed to be members of an extremist movement (see Section 2.c.). Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (COEDF) member Abera Yemane-Ab, arrested in 1993 when he returned to Ethiopia for an opposition sponsored "peace and reconciliation conference," remains jailed by order of the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) without charge. He is suspected of crimes against humanity committed during the "Red Terror." A diplomatic visit in September revealed him to be in good health with access to medical care and visitors. Southern Coalition Executive Committee member Mekonnen Dori was arrested by order of the SPO in August. Although not yet charged, SPO officials indicate that new evidence implicates Mekonnen in crimes allegedly committed while he was a provincial official in the Guraghe Region in the 1970's. Exile is illegal and not used as a means of political control. In 1994, at the behest of the Eritrean Government, Ethiopia arrested 26 members of the Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary Command (ELF-RC) for alleged acts of opposition to the Eritrean Government. The Government has allowed them to seek asylum in other countries or remain in exile in Ethiopia rather than be deported to Eritrea where they would likely face harsh measures. Two countries agreed to accept the 26 as refugees or immigrants, and they departed Ethiopia at the end of the year. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the central courts continued to show signs of judicial independence. However, local judges have complained about harassment and intimidation by local officials. Some judges complain that they are subject to political pressure and believe they must treat EPRDF defendants leniently. Anecdotal evidence suggest that the reverse is true for cases involving members of the opposition. The FDRE continues to restructure the judiciary toward a decentralized federal system, comprised of courts at the district (woreda) and regional levels. The Central (federal) High Court and Central Supreme Court adjudicate cases involving federal law, transregional issues, and national security and hear both original and appeal cases. The Government's goal is a decentralized system that brings justice closer to the people, but the reality is that the severe shortage of adequately trained personnel in many regions and serious financial constraints, combine to keep the judiciary weak and overburdened, and to deny most citizens the full protections provided for in the Constitution. The Government has established regional offices of the Ministry of Justice to monitor local judicial developments in an effort to help ensure effective implementation of constitutional rights at the local level. Until regional legislatures are fully established and begin 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 although its scope remains severely limited. Court appointed attorneys represent many of the initial group of defendants in the war crimes trials, following claims that they could not afford adequate defense. The law does not allow the defense access to prosecutorial evidence before the trial. Shari'a (Islamic) courts hear religious and family cases involving Muslims. The new Constitution authorizes the existing Shari'a courts and gives the legislature of any jurisdiction the authority to empower future Shari'a courts. Under the Constitution, both parties must agree to be bound to Shari'a law for it to be applied. In addition, some traditional courts still function and, though not sanctioned by law, resolve legal disputes for the majority of Ethiopians who live in rural areas and generally have little access to modern judicial facilities. The impact of the regional Judicial Administrative Commissions, (JAC's) established by the Government in 1993 to help select and discipline judges remained limited. In some instances, zonal officials have dismissed or transferred local judges for failing to follow their instructions. Two judges who had been detained illegally in 1994 in Jinka for issuing an unpopular decision were released and reinstated in March following 7 months in detention. Prior release orders issued by the Southern Region JAC had been ignored by local Jinka officials. The trials of the first group of 73 defendants charged with committing crimes against humanity during the "Red Terror" and the campaign of forced resettlement and villagization during the Mengistu regime from 1974 to 1991 began in December 1994. After a 3-months continuance, the trials resumed briefly in March. They were then adjourned a second time until after national elections in May and the annual judicial recess, which lasts during the rainy season from June until September. The trials resumed for 1 day on November 28, 1995, and were adjourned until February 13, 1996. The continuance was requested by both the prosecution and the defense in order to have time to prepare their cases. Of this first group of 73, the Government is trying 21 in absentia, including Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, the former president, who is now in self-exile in Zimbabwe. In September Chief Special Prosecutor and Head of the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) Girma Wakjira, stated that investigations involving the remaining 1,500 detainees, as well as some persons previously released on bail, would be completed by the end of December, at which time they would all be charged or have their cases dismissed. This deadline, like previous "deadlines" in 1994 and July 1995, was not met. 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. The Government may eventually charge and try more than 3,000 defendants. Local court observers believe that the trials themselves may last 3 to 5 years. Professor Asrat Woldeyes, chairman of the AAPO and four other AAPO leaders were convicted in 1994 for involvement in a 1993 meeting in which plans for armed activities against the Transitional Government were allegedly made. Asrat was also convicted of "incitement to war" in connection with a speech he made in 1992. He was sentenced to a total of 5 years in prison. He currently faces charges stemming from a May 1994 jailbreak in Debre Berhan in which several guards were killed. His trial on those charges was set to begin in late 1995. Several hundred AAPO supporters who were detained and subjected to mistreatment in September 1994 in connection with an unlicensed demonstration at the High Court in Addis Ababa, were never charged; they were released and never recalled to court. Opposition groups allege that some of the 1,700 persons detained by the SPO, as well as some other detainees, are political prisoners (see Section 1.d.). The Government denies that it holds political prisoners; most of the detainees have never been brought to trial. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The law requires judicial search warrants, but in practice they are seldom obtained outside of Addis Ababa. The Government continued a nationwide campaign to uncover and confiscate unregistered firearms. Government security officials conducted warrantless searches of private and commercial vehicles as well as private homes. Some leaders and supporters of opposition groups allege that they are under surveillance for expressing antigovernment views. For example, AAPO supporters in the Debre Berhan area complain of being watched and occasionally brought into neighborhood government offices for questioning about their activities. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press While the Constitution and the 1992 Press Law provide for the right to free speech and press, the Government often restricted both of these freedoms in practice. The Press Law is vague and many journalists complain that it can be interpreted broadly to target journalists that the Government dislikes. Many journalists fall victim to provisions of the Press Law concerning publishing false information or incitement of ethnic hatred. For example, government security forces arrested 10 journalists in June and a dozen editors and publishers in November. Many of the detained journalists were arrested for publishing stories about the Government's investigation of the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Mubarak or about the assassination attempt on former DERG leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam. Bail for journalists is sometimes set at unreasonably high levels, often much more than their annual salary. At the end of 1995, 4 journalists were serving sentences of from 1 to 2 1/2 years, and 11 journalists remained in detention without charge. At the end of the year, four journalists were out on bail. Despite the threat of legal action, however, the press continued to publish antigovernment articles without any immediate sanction. The Government continued to deny private journalists access to government press conferences, calling into question the Government's affirmations of support for a free press. Moreover, virtually all government officials refuse to speak to the private press even to confirm or deny an allegation. However, much of the private press continues to lack professionalism in its reporting. To address this issue the Government is developing a training center for journalists. Toward the end of the year, the Government also took several important steps to open a constructive dialog with elements of the private press. Ethiopians are generally free to discuss publicly any topic they choose, but those expressing controversial views were vulnerable, if not always subjected to, government harassment. For example, in March police arrested and detained briefly a Muslim youth for a speech on Islam as a legal system. These problems appear more common in rural areas where most Ethiopians live. Opposition parties and human rights organizations were able to hold press conferences and public meetings without apparent retribution. It is estimated that only about 1 percent of citizens have regular access to any newspaper and magazine, and citizens outside Addis Ababa have extremely limited access to the print media. As a result of poor management, market forces, and government harassment, less than 20 biweekly and weekly papers have published more than a year. Foreign journalists continued to operate freely often writing articles critical of government policies. They or their local stringers often were granted greater access to government officials than were local journalists. The Government controls radio, the most influential medium in reaching rural populations, and the sole television station. Government policies and views dominate their programming. The Government made efforts to open the official media to opposition political views prior to the May elections, and some opposition candidates and parties took advantage of these opportunities. The Government does not currently allow private satellite receiving dishes. In August, following the Ministry of Information's merger with the Ministry of Culture, the Government announced that the official press would be "autonomous" from the new Ministry. The Government established a task force to work on a national information policy. Government media reporters practice self-censorship; but covered both government and opposition candidates during the election. The official media attempted to make space and broadcast time available and even proposed working with the candidates through the National Election Board (NEB), to improve their broadcast presentations. The Government restricts academic freedom. Students at Addis Ababa University are not allowed to engage in political activity or associations on campus, and faculty members remain cautious about political involvement in the wake of the 1993 dismissal of 41 faculty members. In 1995 the teachers won a lawsuit against the university for procedural irregularities associated with their summary dismissal. The court granted 9-months' back pay but found that it did not have jurisdiction to consider their request for reinstatement. As a result of a nonviolent student demonstration in December, the Government encouraged students to set up a representative committee to articulate their grievances on living conditions and academic quality. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and the right to engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity. However, the Government has used legal instruments to restrict these rights. Organizers of political meetings or demonstrations must notify the Government in advance and obtain a permit. In mid-August the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) announced the revocation of registration certificates for some 47 indigenous and international nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) for failure to adhere to terms of their registration agreements. However, with the installation of the new Government the procedures for registration were changed, and primary responsibility for registration of NGO's was shifted to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). As of late 1995, the MOJ had yet to finalize procedures for NGO registration. The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), which the Government and many observers believe to be primarily a political organization, has been denied registration as an NGO for the past 3 years. The Government requires political parties to register with the NEB. Parties that do not participate in two consecutive national elections are subject to deregistration. As of mid-1995, there were 60 organized political parties, 44 of which had received registration certificates from the NEB. Of these, 53 are regional parties, and 7 are national. Several opposition groups complained of NEB procedural irregularities which served to limit party registration with the NEB prior to the May elections. In at least one case, however, the Government ignored vocal objections by one of its affiliated parties and permitted a key opposition group to contest the elections even though that group was not formally registered with the NEB. Credible reports from some regions indicated that local officials sometimes harassed and restricted the activities of opposition political activists. For example, 12 members of the Omo People's Democratic Union were detained for 10 months in Jinka on questionable evidence in a move widely believed to preclude their participation in regional elections. Similarly, credible reports indicate that ethnic Nuer candidates of the Gambela People's Democratic Unity Party (GPDUP) were denied registration in Gambela. c. Freedom of Religion The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the right of conversion, and freedom of worship exists in practice. On February 21, a violent riot broke out at the Grand Anwar Mosque in Addis Ababa leaving 9 people dead and dozens injured. The incident was apparently caused by a rift in the Supreme Islamic Council over the leadership of the Council and the planning for the upcoming Id Al Fetir holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Police response to the riot was remarkably measured, largely relying on the use of crowd control techniques instead of gunfire. The Government responded by briefly closing all the mosques in the city and arresting more than 2,000 people, among them 30 Muslim religious leaders. The mosques were reopened after 2 days in time for Id Al Fetir, and over 90 percent of those initially arrested were released by that time. At the end of the year, the Government continued to hold, but has not charged, about 30 Muslim activists believed to be members of an extremist "jihad" movement. 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 Constitution. Citizens may freely change their residence or workplace. Citizens and residents of Ethiopia are required to obtain an exit visa before departing the country; exit visas are issued routinely, except for persons with pending court cases or debts. All Ethiopian Jews (Falashas, Beta Israel) who wanted to leave Ethiopia for Israel are believed to have departed. The status of the estimated several thousand Feles Mora (Ethiopians who claim forced conversation to Christianity from Judaism in the past hundred years but have not been accepted as Jews by the Israeli Rabbinate) remains unresolved. Israel is handling Feles Mora applications on a case by case basis, and the two Governments have agreed to grant aout 100 visas a month for family reunification. According to the UNHCR and to foreign diplomats, the Government 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 was exercised for the first time in Ethiopian history in May. However, most opposition groups chose to boycott the elections, despite a widespread finding that opposition participation was possible. Boycotting parties claimed that the Government impeded their ability to participate in the political process. Concerted efforts by Western governments to promote dialog and political reconciliation between the Government and several key opposition groups through the spring were not successful. Nevertheless, observers organized by Western donor governments, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and a coalition of indigenous NGO's judged the elections to be generally free and fair, though numerous irregularities were cited. As a result of the boycott by some opposition parties, the election was largely noncompetitive, ensuring an overwhelming victory by candidates of the better funded and better organized EPRDF over candidates of the relatively weak and poorly organized opposition parties and independent candidates. The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia officially took power in late August. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi leads the new Government, as he did as President of the TGE. The opposition Ethiopian National Democratic Party (ENDP) fielded 85 candidates nationwide, one of whom, Yusef Ahmed Siraj, was elected from Dessie. Leading up to the election, there were credible reports of EPRDF harassment of some opposition party members and independent candidates, especially outside Addis Ababa. ENDP candidates who were campaigning in the Awassa and Dilla areas were reportedly stoned and assaulted by people believed to represent local authorities. The Government and the NEB made credible attempts to investigate abuses when informed of their occurrence. Serious attempts were also made to provide registered candidates access to official media. Political participation remains closed to a number of organizations which have not renounced violence and do not accept the FDRE 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 or minorities in politics. Although by historical standards women's status and political participation is greater than ever before, women are underrepresented in the FDRE Council of Ministers and among the leadership of all political organizations. Only 1 of the 15 members of the FDRE Council of Ministers is a woman; 1 other woman holds 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, Ethiopia's only self-proclaimed human rights monitoring organization, continues to operate without legal status as an NGO because the Government and other observers consider it a political organization. Other human rights organizations include the Ethiopian Human Rights and Peace Center, affiliated with the law faculty at Addis Ababa University, the Ethiopian Congress for Democracy, Action Professionals Association for the People, the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, and the Inter- Africa Group. These groups are primarily engaged in civic and human rights education, legal assistance, and trial monitoring. The FDRE allows visits by the ICRC and international human rights groups and permits them to operate and travel freely, although prior approval is required for prison visits. International human rights groups and foreign diplomats have been encouraged to observe the war crimes trials which began in December 1994. A representative from Human Rights Watch/Africa Watch spent 20 days in Ethiopia in May and June to examine the issues surrounding the SPO trials. The Government has been slow to investigate and address specific human rights concerns, although security authority officials have generally been responsive to requests for information. However, the Government and some prominent international human rights monitoring organizations, such as Amnesty International, have failed completely to achieve a constructive dialog, which has undermined the ability of such groups to verify allegations and compile an accurate picture of Ethiopia's current human rights environment. In June two representatives of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) were turned back upon arrival at Bole International Airport. Immigration officers noted that neither had an entry visa, both were carrying multiple passports, and at least one had a name which appeared on the Government's watch list as a suspected narcotics trafficker. The ICJ officials claimed that they were invited guests of the OAU and that airport visas had been arranged by the OAU. The OAU's Office of Protocol stated that in fact no airport visas had been arranged and that participants to the OAU summit had been advised to obtain Ethiopian visas prior to travel. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The 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. The new Government, however, has not yet put fully into place mechanisms for effective enforcement of these protections. Women The Constitution provides for the equality of women under the law, but practical application of these provisions has not taken place. Domestic violence, including wife beating and rape, is a pervasive social problem. While women theoretically have recourse to the police and the courts, societal norms inhibit many women from seeking legal redress, especially women living in remote areas. There is sporadic media coverage of domestic abuse cases, although the press rarely covers instances of rape because of the stigma attached to the crime. There were disturbing reports that some husbands force their wives into prostitution to supplement family income. 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. The 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 1993 the TGE launched an initiative to promote the equality of women by changing statutes, by including women's concerns in the Government's development planning, and by establishing women's affairs desks in each of the ministries. 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 continues to be a serious problem. Almost all girls undergo some form of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts 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. FGM is not illegal in Ethiopia, although it is officially discouraged, and the Government has been very supportive of the National Committee on Traditional Practices in Ethiopia which is dedicated to eradicating FGM. Early childhood marriage is prevalent in rural areas with girls as young as age 9 being party to arranged marriages. Ethiopia has an extremely high maternal mortality rate, partially due to food taboos for pregnant women, early marriage, and birth complications related to FGM, especially from infibulation. There is an ever increasing number of street children in Addis Ababa. Either orphaned or homeless, these children beg, sometimes as part of a "gang," in order to survive. Government run orphanages are unable to handle the number of street children and younger children are often abused by older children. There are credible reports of children being maimed or blinded by their "handlers" in order to raise their earnings from begging. Abandoned infants are often overlooked or neglected at hospitals and orphanages, and those children found to be HIV positive are taken to an Addis Ababa orphanage where very limited medical care is available. People with Disabilities There is no legally sanctioned discrimination against people with disabilities in Ethiopia. The Constitution stipulates that the State shall allocate resources to provide rehabilitation and assistance to the physically and mentally disabled. Cultural attitudes toward the disabled are often negative, and even people with minor disabilities complain of rampant job discrimination. The Government does not mandate access to buildings or government services for persons with disabilities. In 1994 the Council of Representatives passed a law mandating equal rights for the disabled, but the Government has not yet put into place mechanisms to enforce this law. An official at the Rehabilitation Agency estimated that, partly as a result of the long civil war, there are more than 5 million disabled people in Ethiopia out of a population of roughly 55 million. 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. Some ethnic groups, such as Oromos, the largest single group, claim to have been dominated for a least a century by the Amharas and Tigrayans. In an attempt to rectify this problem, the Government has supported the establishment of a federal system and in 1992 changed regional boundaries to encompass entire (major) ethnic populations more completely. In some areas, ethnic languages, such as Oromiffa, are now being taught in local primary schools instead of Amharic. There is some evidence of discrimination in employment based on linguistic ability. 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 and other cities and towns. Approximately 85 percent of the work force lives in the countryside, engaged in subsistence farming. The Constitution and the 1993 Labor Law provide most workers with the right to form and join unions and engage in collective bargaining, but only about 250,000 workers are unionized. Employees of the Civil and Security Services (where most wage earners 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 1993. CETU includes nine federations organized by industrial and service sector rather than by region. In December 1994, the Government decertified CETU following a 30-day probationary period given to permit CETU to resolve internal disputes. In 1995 CETU offices remained closed despite a court ruling that the CETU closing was improper. The law stipulates that a trade organization may not act in an overtly political manner. The 1993 Labor Law explicitly gives workers the right to strike to protect their interests, but it also sets forth many restrive procedures which apply before a legal strike may take place. These apply equally to an employer's right to lock out workers. Strikes must be supported by a majority of the workers affected by the decision. The 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 FDRE 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. 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 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 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 Constitution proscribes slavery, which was officially abolished in 1942, and involuntary servitude. The Criminal Code specifically prohibits forced labor unless 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 years. Children between the ages of 14 to 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., work on public holidays or rest days, 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 minimum wage in the private sector. 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 $16.80 (105 et birr) per month, which is insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. According to the Office of the Study of Wages and Other Remunerations, a family of five requires a monthly income of $62.40 (390 et birr), thus even with two minimum wage earners a family receives only about half the income needed for healthful subsistence. The legal workweek, as stipulated in the 1993 Labor Law, is 48 hours, 6 days of 8 hours each, with a 24-hour rest period. However, in practice, most employees work a 40-hour workweek, 5 days of 8 hours each. The FDRE, 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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