Ethiopia: Promise to release political prisoners meaningless without political freedoms, says think tank

ESAT News (January 4, 2018)

Ethiopian regime’s promise to release political prisoners & close a notorious jail is meaningless without political freedoms, the Oakland Institute said today.

“For years, while donor countries like the US have turned a blind eye, thousands of Ethiopians have languished behind bars simply for speaking up against so-called development policies and related human rights abuses, all perpetrated by the Ethiopian regime,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Institute.

“The acknowledgement of these political prisoners, their release, and the closure of the horrific Maekelawi police station, if actually carried through, are all long overdue, but not enough,” she said.

Another Director with the Institute called on the regime to repeal its repressive laws.

“For years, the Ethiopian government has used its anti-terrorism law to criminalize basic human rights, stifle dissent, and lock up anyone who critiques its policies and actions,” said Lewis Gordon, Executive Director of the Environmental Defender Law Center and editor of a joint report with the Oakland Institute about the law.

“While today’s announcement has the potential to be a positive step forward for many in Ethiopia, it is also imperative that the government repeal the use of this repressive piece of legislation,” Gordon added.

“Who is considered a political prisoner? How and when will these releases take place and under what conditions? Going forward, what kinds of political freedoms will be allowed? The right to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the media? How will the perpetrators of crimes that have been committed against Ethiopian citizens be held accountable? These are all details that have not yet been released,” Mittal stated.

The Oakland Institute has exposed human rights abuses linked to land grabs and failed development policies across Ethiopia for over a decade. The Institute has also has campaigned against Ethiopia’s draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

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