- Amnesty International has warned that the newly passed Anti-Terror Proclamation in Ethiopia will restrict freedom of expression and of assembly as the Horn of Africa state in the run up to the 2010 parliamentary elections.
The organisation said although the Ethiopian government faces legitimate security concerns, any anti-terror legislation must be in accordance with international human rights standards.
The 286 of the 378 legislators in Ethiopia's parliament voted in favour of the bill despite wide criticism by rights groups that the legislation violates civil liberties. 91 voted against and only one abstained, according to reports.
“The government of Ethiopia has a history of stifling dissent and it is worrying that this law now risks further violating Ethiopia’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Amnesty International’s Africa programme director, Erwin van der Borght.
He said the new legislation will provide Ethiopian authorities with unnecessary powers which could lead to further arbitrary arrests of ordinary citizens, further saying the earlier drafts of the law previously made available to Amnesty International vaguely defined acts of terrorism.
According to the organisation, the law defines acts of terrorism as including damage to property and disruption to any public service, for which an individual could be sentenced to 15 years in prison or even the death penalty.
Local reports said the law is also meant to counter the activities of some separatist groups, who have been blamed by Addis Ababa for carrying out terror attacks throughout the Horn of Africa nation.
In 2005, thousands of protesters, political party leaders, journalists and human rights defenders were arrested and detained following the disputed November elections in which the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) retained political power.
The law which comprises 38 sections was proposed last year after a string of bomb attacks in the capital Addis Ababa. The law lays a foundation for arrests and searches without court warrants in the country.
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