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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.  
 
(###)


[end of document]

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