The Advocates Post

The Advocates for Human Rights works locally and globally to fight injustice, restore peace, save lives and build the human rights movement.

Ethiopian Government Faces Grilling at UN

UN flags_HighRes

Update: This blog post was updated on May 30, 2014, after the Armenian Mission to the UN in Geneva contacted The Advocates with the final, official version of the statement that was delivered on May 6. The changes do not have any particular relevance to the substance of this post. To see the statement that was uploaded to the UN website and included in the original post, please click here.

We often say at The Advocates for Human Rights that making progress on human rights is running a marathon, not a sprint. For example, the United Nations’ newest human rights mechanism, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), takes place just once every four and a half years for each country.

The Ethiopian Government's delegation to the Universal Periodic Review on May 6, 2014, chaired by State Minister of Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos

The Ethiopian Government’s delegation to the Universal Periodic Review on May 6, 2014, chaired by State Minister of Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos

So it was particularly fortuitous that the UPR of Ethiopia took place this morning, as Oromo students continue a second week of demonstrations across the federal state of Oromia to protest the Ethiopian Government’s plans to annex that state’s lands in order to expand the territory of Addis Ababa, and as the Oromo diaspora gears up for protests around the world on Friday to show their support for the students on the ground.

Despite the UPR’s early hour–2:00 this morning here in Minnesota, or “Little Oromia” as the diaspora calls it–social media have been buzzing about the review. And as the 3 1/2 hour review progressed, the Oromo diaspora reported on breaking news of more student protests in Oromia.

A quick primer on the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review
Every country that is a member of the United Nations participates in the UPR once every 4 1/2 years. Unlike the opt-in treaty-body review processes, where independent human rights experts conduct the examination, the UPR is a peer-to-peer diplomatic process. Governments comment on the human rights records of other governments. As you might expect, some governments shower their allies with praise, while other governments use the UPR to offer sharp criticism. Each statement typically includes some words of praise, some statements of concern, and some recommendations for the government under review. Later, the government under review must respond to each recommendation, stating whether it accepts or rejects it.

Like other UN human rights mechanisms, the UPR process has a role for civil society. Last September civil society organizations around the world submitted “stakeholder reports” about human rights conditions on the ground in Ethiopia. These reports are supposed to cover: (1) what progress the government has made on any recommendations it accepted during the last round of review; and (2) any developments since the last review.

Members of the Ogaden ethnic group from Ethiopia, living in diaspora in Europe, protest in front of the United Nations in March 2014

Members of the Ogaden ethnic group from Ethiopia, living in diaspora in Europe, protest in front of the United Nations in March 2014

Diaspora civil society groups play critical role in UN reviews
Diaspora advocacy is critical when the UN reviews the human rights records of closed societies like Ethiopia, where local groups may not feel free to criticize the government openly. The Advocates worked with the Oromo diaspora in Minnesota to prepare a stakeholder report for Ethiopia’s UPR, just as we have done for some of the UN’s treaty body review mechanisms. Other diaspora groups are also engaged in the process. For example, groups like the International Oromo Women’s Organization, the UK and Australia and branches of the Oromia Support Group, and the Toronto-based Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa also submitted stakeholder reports for today’s UPR.

Earlier this year, we did in-person and email advocacy with the Geneva missions of governments that we thought might be receptive to the issues we raised in our report. And over the weekend, we followed up with an update on the student protests and government crack-down in Oromia. Watching the live webcast this morning, we were relieved to see that many governments took up some of the Oromo diaspora’s concerns.

The Advocates’ new diaspora toolkit, Paving Pathways, includes a chapter on how to conduct advocacy at the United Nations, and another on advocacy with regional human rights mechanisms like the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Armenia draws attention to diaspora ties, recent casualties in Oromia

Lilia Petrosyan delivers Armenia's statement at the UPR on May 6, 2014

Lilia Petrosyan delivers Armenia’s statement at the UPR on May 6, 2014

A whopping 119 governments signed up to make statements during the review. Because of the limited time and intense interest, each government had just 65 seconds to make its points.You can watch the full review here.

The Armenian government offered the most direct commentary on the student protests in Oromia, and also referenced the Armenian diaspora in Ethiopia:

We would like to stress the friendly relations existing between our 2 nations. The presence of the Armenian community in Ethiopia has a centuries old history. Armenia particularly appreciates the generosity of the Ethiopian people and government, who hosted and integrated the survivors of the Armenian Genocide at the beginning of the 20th century.

Armenia commends the commitment of Ethiopia to the promotion of human rights, including respect for minority rights, cultural diversity and tolerance. In this regard, we are concerned about the reports of recent casualties in the state of Oromia. Armenia hopes that Ethiopia will continue to make efforts to further promote human rights, as a basis for encouraging tolerance and diversity in the country. . . .We have 2 recommendations for Ethiopia:

1) To further promote tolerance and dialogue between different ethnic and religious groups.

2) To further develop and expand human rights awareness-raising programs in the country.

Perhaps reflecting last-minute changes to incorporate a reference to the government’s use of lethal force against student protesters in Oromia last week, the version of Armenia’s statement originally uploaded to the UN website includes the words “New Version” in handwriting at the top.

Governments press Ethiopia to address inter-ethnic conflict, allow free expression, open up civil society
Governments raised a variety of important human rights issues, many of which directly concern the Oromo people, as reflected in our stakeholder report. (Click the country name to read the full text of the country’s statement.)

  • Violence and mistreatment by security forces
    • Costa Rica urged Ethiopia to take urgent measures to investigate torture and extrajudicial killings committed by the national defense forces of Ethiopia.
    • Finland and Montenegro recommended that Ethiopia ensure that is has clear, independent, and effective complaints mechanisms in place for individuals to raise allegations of mistreatment by security, military, and law enforcement authorities and prison officials.
    • Rwanda called on Ethiopia to set up police and military training on human rights.
  • Forcible resettlement of farmers and pastoralists
    • Austria recommended that Ethiopia’s national human rights institutions be equipped with the resources and capacities needed to independently investigate, and provide appeals and redress for, alleged human rights violations in relation to the resettlement of communities through Ethiopia’s Commune Development Program. The United Kingdom also expressed support for credible mechanisms to investigate allegations of abuses by special police in relation to relocation programs.
    • Bolivia encouraged Ethiopia to protect the rights of farmers and other rural workers.
    • Rwanda called on Ethiopia to strengthen measures to ensure food security.
    • Malaysia and Thailand urged Ethiopia to step up efforts to improve health services, especially in rural areas.
    • Morocco recommended that Ethiopia ensure that all segments of society benefit from economic growth.
  • Ethnic and religious discrimination and persecution
    • Namibia urged Ethiopia to enhance the institutional and financial capacities of the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission to effectively carry out its mandate, especially with regard to its working relations with the Oromo, Ogaden, Gambella, and Somali communities.
    • The Holy See urged Ethiopia to improve its outreach to all ethnic communities to actively participate in the political process.
    • Argentina, Bolivia, and Nicaragua urged the Ethiopian Government to combat racism, intolerance, and other forms of discrimination directed at vulnerable groups.
    • Burundi and the Holy See, like Armenia, recommended that Ethiopia expand activities to promote inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. Canada made a similar recommendation to address inter-religious tensions.
    • Tunisia called on Ethiopia to address education discrimination, and Sudan recommended that Ethiopia expand primary education in students’ mother tongue.
    • Malaysia, the Maldives, and Namibia encouraged Ethiopia to improve the quality of education for children, especially in rural areas.
  • Freedom of expression and association for opposition political parties, human rights defenders
    • Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States recommended that Ethiopia fully implement its constitutional guarantees of freedom of association, expression, and assembly for independent political parties, ethnic and religious groups, and non-governmental organizations.
    • Canada urged Ethiopia to fully protect members of opposition groups, political activists, and journalists from arbitrary detention. Estonia called on Ethiopia to end harassment of political opposition party members, journalists, and human rights defenders. Finland recommended that Ethiopia take further measures to ensure the safety and freedom of action of human rights defenders.
  • Restrictions on civil society, media; anti-terrorism measures
    • Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United States recommended that Ethiopia abolish or amend its Charities and Societies Proclamation to allow non-governmental organizations to operate more effectively and to receive funding from outside the country.
    • Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland urged Ethiopia to narrow its definition of terrorism under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and exclude the practice of journalism from the definition, to ensure protections for freedom of expression and assembly, and to better allow non-governmental organizations to function. The United States called for Ethiopia to ensure that the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation is applied apolitically.
    • The Czech Republic also called on Ethiopia to immediately release all journalists detained for their professional activities, including the bloggers and journalists arrested in April 2014 and those jailed earlier, such as Mr. Nega and Ms Alemu.
    • Estonia, Ireland and South Korea urged Ethiopia to stop online censorship and respect freedom of the press. Ghana recommended that Ethiopia decriminalize defamation.
    • Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and France encouraged Ethiopia to amend its Mass Media Proclamation to bring it in line with international human rights standards.
  • Due process and judicial independence
    • Botswana expressed concern about intimidation, harassment, threats, and firing of judges who resist political pressure, and called on Ethiopia to ensure the full independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
    • Switzerland called on Ethiopia to ensure the right to a fair trial.
  • Disappearances, torture in detention facilities
    • Argentina, France, Japan, Paraguay, and Tunisia recommended that the Ethiopian Government take further actions to address enforced disappearances, such as ratifying the Convention on Enforced Disappearances.
    • Austria and recommended that Ethiopia train all personnel in detention facilities to investigate and prosecute all alleged cases of torture. Paraguay and Spain also called for efforts to prevent torture in detention. The United Kingdom expressed support for credible mechanisms to investigate allegations of mistreatment of prisoners. Bhutan and Russia recommended that Ethiopia improve prison conditions. Kyrgyzstan called on Ethiopia to add a definition of torture to its criminal code that includes all elements contained in the Convention Against Torture.
    • Hungary, Paraguay, and Tunisia urged Ethiopia to grant the Red Cross and other independent international mechanisms immediate, full, and genuine access to all detention facilities in Ethiopia, and Hungary expressed concern about allegations of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of detainees, including torture, rape, and prolonged incommunicado detention.

Recommendations to engage with UN Special Procedures

Some of the recommendations had to do with other United Nations procedures:

  • Ghana and Hungary, Japan, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Uruguay recommended that Ethiopia permit visits from all UN special procedures mandate-holders.
  • The United States called on Ethiopia to allow the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association to conduct a country visit, and the United Kingdom recommended that Ethiopia invite the Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit the country.
  • Spain also urged Ethiopia to respond to individual communications from special procedures mandate-holders.

The Oromo diaspora may want to use some of these special procedures, described in more detail in our chapters of Paving Pathways on UN advocacy and capacity-building, to submit urgent action letters and request country visits to investigate the situation on the ground in Oromia.

What’s next?
The Ethiopian Government will have several months to examine the recommendations, but then it will have to say definitively whether it accepts or rejects each one. Civil society in Ethiopia, with support from the diaspora, can then lobby for implementation of any accepted recommendations. And the diaspora can engage in remote monitoring of rejected recommendations to continue to shed light on ongoing human rights violations.

There’s also an upcoming opportunity for advocacy at the United Nations specifically relating to the rights of children in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and July 1 is the deadline for civil society groups to share information with the human rights experts on the Committee on the Rights of the Child as they prepare for their 2015 review of Ethiopia. Oromos in the diaspora who are concerned about students in Oromia who are under age 18 and who have faced violence, threats, and arrests because of their participation in protests may want to engage in more systematic remote monitoring and then write a report to bring the issue to the attention of the Committee. They may also want to raise other human rights concerns relevant to children in Ethiopia.

Advocacy at the UN is a long process, but when governments stifle dissent and ignore civil society, sometimes international pressure can prompt incremental reforms. Persistent advocacy from diaspora groups is essential to the process.  The Oromo diaspora is up to the task. We know, after all, that the Oromo people are particularly talented distance runners and can run the marathon needed to improve human rights in Ethiopia.

This post is the second in a four-part series about human rights in Ethiopia. Part 1 describes the important role the Oromo diaspora is playing in remotely monitoring recent human rights developments in Ethiopia. Part 3 explores the Oromo diaspora’s strategies for showing solidarity with the Oromo students while pushing for human rights and holding perpetrators accountable for the violence against peaceful demonstrators. Part 4 tells the stories of Oromos in the diaspora who have spoken with friends and family members on the ground in Oromia about events over the past three weeks, and recaps the Ethiopian Government’s response to the UN review.

By Amy Bergquist, staff attorney for the International Justice Program of The Advocates for Human Rights.

More posts in this series:

Oromo Diaspora Mobilizes to Shine Spotlight on Student Protests in Ethiopia

“Little Oromia” Unites to Advocate for Justice and Human Rights in Ethiopia

Diaspora Speaks for Deliberately Silenced Oromos; Ethiopian Government Responds to UN Review

About theadvocatespost

The Advocates for Human Rights works locally and globally to fight injustice, restore peace, save lives and build the human rights movement.

39 comments on “Ethiopian Government Faces Grilling at UN

  1. Pingback: Oromo Diaspora Mobilizes to Shine Spotlight on Student Protests in Ethiopia | The Advocates Post

  2. Oromia
    May 7, 2014

    Reblogged this on Oromia.

  3. Jubba
    May 7, 2014

    Most of the countries who gave recommendations have bad track records of human rights. It is very nonsense.

    • theadvocatespost
      May 7, 2014

      Thank you for reading the post and for your comment. No country has a perfect human rights record, and the nature of the UPR is that any UN member state—good human rights record or bad—can make recommendations to any other member state. But I think you’ll find that many of the recommendations listed above echo the recommendations of the independent human rights experts who serve on the UN treaty bodies. You can read the concluding observations from those treaty-body reviews here, and judge for yourself: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/TreatyBodyExternal/Countries.aspx?CountryCode=ETH&Lang=EN

  4. oromospring
    May 7, 2014

    Reblogged this on Oromo Spring.

  5. Ebisa totoba
    May 7, 2014

    really its a good news for me.

  6. Redwan
    May 7, 2014

    Hi Amy,
    As always thank you so much for this wonderful work, we are grateful to you and to the Advocate!

    Redwan

  7. rawi
    May 7, 2014

    Thank you Thank you Thank you! Such reports encourage us to live despite all the atrocities.

  8. Bona
    May 7, 2014

    God will pay you keep it up. Poor farmers and Oromo ppl have no power and mechanism to express himself/herself.

  9. beker
    May 8, 2014

    thank u for hearing the voices of our people and the UN should have to take an action on ethiopian gov’t for an awful killing by their security police that took on oromo students and socities for thier non violent protests last weeks ago.

  10. Pingback: Oromo Protests Information Center | Ethiopian Government Faces Grilling at UN

  11. Pingback: “Little Oromia” Unites to Advocate for Justice and Human Rights in Ethiopia | The Advocates Post

  12. duree
    May 8, 2014

    Economic hardship and lack of freedom are the two major perennial challenges of Oromia and the worries of its people. The causes are, to be occupied by the minority Tigre tribe from north Ethiopia, the sell of their natural resources such as land, gold and coffee, multiplicity of imprisonments and killings, and the cultural degradation which are magnified by the colonial power of the Tigre tribe, starvation and ever deteriorating living conditions are the major problems.

  13. Pingback: “Little Oromia” Unites to Advocate for Justice and Human Rights in Ethiopia - Bilisummaa

  14. Falmata
    May 11, 2014

    Oh ! it is great work . Ethiopia government has been killing and torturing a number of oromo in Kaliti jail . because of this , sometime it is called oromo university . Sofar
    these cruel acts were done and muzzled by government . Now , we have an opportunity to expose such two decades extra judicial killing and torture made on oromo peoples .

  15. Pingback: Diaspora Speaks for Deliberately Silenced Oromos; Ethiopian Government Responds to UN Review | The Advocates Post

  16. Pingback: Diaspora Speaks for Deliberately Silenced Oromos; Ethiopian Government Responds to UN Review | OromianEconomist

  17. Pingback: Diaspora speaks for deliberately silenced Oromos - Ayyaantuu News Online

  18. Pingback: Diaspora Speaks for Deliberately Silenced Oromos; Government Responds to UN Review | Advocacy for Oromia

  19. Pingback: Diaspora Speaks for Deliberately Silenced Oromos; Government Responds to UN Review | Oromos.com

  20. Baatii Biraa
    May 22, 2014

    Dear Amy and the Advocates,
    What a great work and dedication for the truth and service for the voice of ‘voiceless” !!!
    The Oromo Nation, its people and the marvelous land are indebted to you for this great task of bringing up high their voice around the world at this critical time. There will come a day when you will see that great land freed from repressions. God Bless you ! .

  21. Pingback: Ambo Protests: A Personal Account | The Advocates Post

  22. Pingback: Ambo Protests: A Personal Account - Ayyaantuu News Online

  23. Pingback: Ambo Protests: Spying the Spy? | The Advocates Post

  24. Pingback: Ambo Protests: Spying the Spy? | Advocacy for Oromia

  25. Pingback: Ambo Protests: Going back | The Advocates Post

  26. Pingback: Ambo Protests: Going back | Fighting for Freedom and Equality

  27. Pingback: UN Special Procedures Urged to Visit Ethiopia to Investigate Crackdown on Oromo Protests | The Advocates Post

  28. Pingback: UN Special Procedures Urged to Visit Ethiopia to Investigate Crackdown on Oromo Protests - Ayyaantuu News Online

  29. Pingback: UN Special Procedures Urged to Visit Ethiopia to Investigate Crackdown on Oromo Protests | Advocacy for Oromia

  30. Pingback: UN Special Procedures Urged to Visit Ethiopia to Investigate Crackdown on Oromo Protests | Oromia

  31. Pingback: What “the government of Ethiopia doesn’t want the world to know”: - Ayyaantuu News Online

  32. Pingback: What “…..the world to know” | Advocacy for Oromia

  33. Pingback: Gadaa.com | FinfinneTribune Documentary: IOYA | International Oromo Youth Association | Presents #OromoProtests |

  34. Pingback: Gadaa.com | FinfinneTribune #FreeOromoStudents Social Media Campaign to Begin This Weekend by IOYA |

  35. Pingback: UN Special Procedures Urged to Visit Ethiopia to Investigate Crackdown on Oromo Protests - Wiyiyit

  36. Pingback: Oromo Diaspora Mobilizes to Shine Spotlight on Student Protests in Oromia – Ethiopia | OromianEconomist

  37. Pingback: Dissent and Donor-funded displacement. #Oromia #Ethiopia | OromianEconomist

  38. Pingback: Gadaa.com | FinfinneTribune Documentary: IOYA | International Oromo Youth Association | Presents #OromoProtests |

Please comment to join our community of human rights advocates. The Advocates for Human Rights produces this blog in a spirit of thoughtful communication. Comments are open, but are moderated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,252 other followers

%d bloggers like this: