Human Rights Defenders Under Siege in Ethiopia




Soon to be Implemented, Ethiopia’s Civil Society Law is the Most Restrictive of its Kind in Sub-Saharan Africa; Law Draws Inspiration from Similarly Repressive Laws in Zimbabwe, Russia and Singapore

 Chicago, Ill. – The Northwestern University School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights, in a report released today has found that Ethiopia’s new Civil Society Law violates Ethiopia’s human rights obligations by effectively silencing independent civil society organizations, particularly human rights defenders and advocates of democratic governance that provide critical services to Ethiopia’s most vulnerable citizens.

The report, entitled Sounding the Horn: Ethiopia’s Civil Society Law Threatens Human Rights Defenders, concludes that the new CSO law violates Ethiopia’s human rights obligations as well as the Ethiopian Constitution and thus should be rescinded immediately. Upon implementation of the new law in January 2010, all foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be prohibited from engaging in activities pertaining to human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, disability rights, citizenship rights, conflict resolution or democratic governance. Even local NGOs that receive more than ten percent of their funding from foreign sources are considered “foreign” under this law. The report finds that: “Since the vast majority of domestic human rights NGOs in Ethiopia receive the bulk of their funds from foreign sources, the new CSO law will force them to either close their doors or drastically alter the scope of their work.”

The Ethiopian government has long been hostile to human rights defenders. For decades the government has harassed civil society organizations and their leaders. In fact, the director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association (EWLA) recently fled the country after the government retaliated against the EWLA for its description of the government’s human rights record.

Unless the Ethiopian government repeals the CSO law, it will be implemented one year after its enactment, on January 6, 2010. The report calls upon the Ethiopian government to rescind the law as soon as possible.

De Birhan has managed to get the full report of the research. Click on the first link on the right hand side of the page to read the full report:


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