Magazine article New Internationalist

Civil Society Crackdown

Magazine article New Internationalist

Civil Society Crackdown

Article excerpt

ETHIOPIA

On 1 January 2013, Ethiopia took up its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The uncontested election . Africa put forward five countries for five seats . has raised some eyebrows, given the country's own poor rights record. Elected member countries are obliged to 'uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights'. Yet, in Ethiopia, hundreds of political prisoners languish in jails where torture is common and a crackdown on the media and civil society is in full swing.

The blogger Eskinder Nega exemplifies the fate of those who dare to speak out. Eskinder was arbitrarily arrested and jailed following the controversial 2005 elections. After his release from prison two years later, he was placed under ongoing surveillance and banned from publishing. Then, in 2011, he was rearrested, convicted in an unfair trial under Ethiopia's broad terrorism law, and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Since the 2005 elections, the human rights situation in Ethiopia has progressively deteriorated: the government has shut down legitimate political avenues for peaceful protest; and opposition leaders, civil society activists and independent journalists have been jailed or forced to flee. Furthermore, state-driven development policies, including large-scale agricultural development and 'villagization' programmes, have seen communities forcibly relocated from their traditional lands, without adequate consultation or compensation, to villages that lack basic services. …

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