Ethiopia: Stop Using Anti-Terror Law to Stifle Peaceful Dissent

(Nairobi) – The Ethiopian government should cease using its overly broad anti-terrorism law against journalists and peaceful political activists, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today.

On November 23, 2011, the trial of 24 people charged with terrorism offenses on November 10 will continue. Those charged include six journalists and two members of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party. Sixteen of the 24 are being tried in absentia. Several other terrorism trials of journalists and opposition activists are ongoing.

“The Ethiopian government is exploiting its vaguely worded anti-terror law to crush peaceful dissent,” said Rona Peligal, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 includes an overbroad and vague definition of terrorist acts and a definition of “encouragement of terrorism” that makes the publication of statements “likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts” punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison. These provisions mean that critics of government such as journalists and political opponents could be charged for encouraging terrorism, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said.

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