Ethiopia is a federal republic led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In national parliamentary elections in May 2010, the EPRDF and affiliated parties won 545 of 547 seats to remain in power for a fourth consecutive five-year term. The EPRDF is made up of four ethnically based political organizations: the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, Amhara National Democratic Movement, Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, and Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement. Although the relatively few international officials allowed to observe the elections concluded that technical aspects of the vote were handled competently, some also noted that an environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place prior to election day. Several laws, regulations, and procedures implemented since the 2005 national elections created a clear advantage for the EPRDF throughout the electoral process. Security forces generally reported to civilian authorities; however, there were instances in which special police and local militias acted independently of civilian control.
The most significant human rights problems included the government’s arrest of more than 100 opposition political figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers. The government charged 14 of those arrested under the antiterrorism proclamation. In addition it charged another 17 persons outside the country in absentia under this proclamation. The government restricted freedom of the press, and fear of harassment and arrest led journalists to practice self-censorship. The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) continued to impose severe restrictions on civil society and nongovernmental organization (NGO) activities.
Other human rights problems included torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; allegations of abuses in connection with the continued low-level conflict in parts of the Somali region; restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; violence and societal discrimination against women and abuse of children; female genital mutilation (FGM); exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities; clashes between ethnic minorities; discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation and against persons with HIV/AIDS; limits on worker rights; forced labor; and child labor, including forced child labor.
Impunity was a problem. The government did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed abuses other than corruption.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), an ethnically based, violent, and increasingly fragmented separatist group operating in the Somali region, was responsible for abuses. Read full report…