US Congress Passes Historic Resolution on Human Rights in Ethiopia

US Congress Passes Historic Resolution on Human Rights in Ethiopia

Ethiopian army soldiers monitoring Suri people during a festival in Kibish. Credit: Oakland Institute.

(oaklandinstitute)—–The Oakland Institute applauds the passage of House Resolution 128Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia. Introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill was co-sponsored by at least 108 members of Congress.

For far too long, the US government – one of Ethiopia’s greatest allies – has abetted and turned a blind eye to the massive human rights abuses and state-sponsored violence taking place in the country in the name of development. By passing H. Res. 128, Congress has finally taken a small step forward to correct past US wrongdoings and stand for justice for the people of Ethiopia.

Over the past years, scores of students, journalists, land rights defenders, indigenous and religious leaders, opposition politicians and more have courageously faced repression and relentlessly spoken up against land grabs, human rights abuses, and lack of democracy in the country.

The passage of this resolution would not have been possible without their determination, as well as the dogged and inspirational advocacy by the Ethiopian diaspora, who put this issue on the map, and made it impossible for US elected officials to ignore the crisis taking place in Ethiopia. We likewise express gratitude to those elected officials who took leadership on this issue, including Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN).

Summary: H.Res.128
(1) the killing of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces;
(2) the detention of journalists, students, activists and political leaders who exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and expression through peaceful protests; and
(3) the abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms.

(1) protesters in Ethiopia to refrain from violence and from encouragement or acceptance of violence in demonstrations, and
(2) all armed factions to cease their conflict with the Ethiopian government and engage in peaceful negotiations.

Calls on the government of Ethiopia to:

– lift the state of emergency;
– end the use of excessive force by security forces;
– investigate the killings and excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions;
– release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights;
– respect the right to peaceful assembly and guarantee freedom of the press;
– engage in open consultations with citizens regarding its development strategy;
– allow a United Nations rapporteur to conduct an independent examination of the state of human rights in Ethiopia;
– address the grievances brought forward by representatives of registered opposition parties;
– hold accountable those responsible for killing, torturing, and detaining innocent civilians who exercised their constitutional rights; and
– investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding the September 3, 2016, shootings and fire at Qilinto Prison, the deaths of persons in attendance at the annual Irreecha festivities at Lake Hora near Bishoftu on October 2, 2016, and the ongoing killings of civilians over several years in the Somali Regional State by police.

Calls on such government to repeal proclamations that:

can be used to harass or prohibit funding for organizations that investigate human rights violations, engage in peaceful political dissent, or advocate for greater political freedoms;
prohibit those displaced from their land from seeking judicial redress;
permit the detention of peaceful protesters and political opponents who legally exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association; and
limit peaceful nonprofit operations in Ethiopia.
Calls on:
(1) the Department of State to review security assistance and improve oversight of U.S. assistance to Ethiopia;
(2) the U.S. Agency for International Development to lead efforts to develop a strategy to support improved democracy and governance in Ethiopia; and
(3) the State Department, in cooperation with the Department of the Treasury, to apply appropriate sanctions on foreign persons or entities responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against any nationals in Ethiopia;.

Supports the peaceful efforts of the Ethiopian people to exercise their constitutional rights.

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