ETHIOPIA: Rights-Related Demands Risking Terrorism

Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA)

PRESS RELEASE, July 28, 2012.

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) would like to express its deep concern regarding how the TPLF/EPRDF Government of Ethiopia is handling the country-wide peaceful protests by Ethiopian Muslims that have been going on for months, both prior to and following the allegedly hijacked elections of the Supreme Counsel of the Islamic Affairs of Ethiopia. Religious freedoms were among the fundamental rights enshrined in the current Ethiopian Constitution, Chapter three (fundamental rights and freedoms, Article 27(1) Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion), which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include the freedom to hold or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and the freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifests his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching”

As well in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is stated in Article 18 that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”

Also, in Article 18(1) of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (to which the Ethiopia Government is Signatory since 1993) it is stated that; “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, Conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a   religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in Community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching”

Despite all these facts, as has been witnessed in the past couples of weeks and months, the Ethiopian Government has been going beyond limits and meddling in the internal affairs of religious institutions, specifically the Muslim communities. Among the very explicit actions of interference by the government in the religious affairs of the Ethiopian Muslims were establishing and introducing Islamic schools run by religious a sect of its own which was deemed an outsider by the local Muslim communities, and installing unelected religious leaders who were not approved by the worshipers, but sympathetic to its politics and policies. What is more, the government became very heavy-handed in handling protests by the Muslim communities when they came out at different places and times to express their oppositions to the actions being taken by the government. As a result, a handful of worshippers have been killed, thousands have been arrested and imprisoned. In one of its most recent attempts of crackdown that took place on the 21st of July, 2012, the government police force used teargas against protesters at and around different mosques in the Capital, Addis Ababa. Although there have not been human casualties, thousands of arrests have been made also during this time.

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