August 3, 2011

UN Human Rights Committee Expresses Concern About Violations in Ethiopia And Kazakhstan

Human Rights Committee sends strong message to Ethiopia and Kazakhstan on violations of civil and political rights in the two countries.

Below is an article published by UNPO:

Following its 102nd Session, the Human Rights Committee has issued a number of strong recommendations to both Ethiopia and Kazakhstan regarding their violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

 

Ethiopia

UNPO has monitored the human rights situation in Ethiopia with increasing alarm over the past year. The number of NGOs working in the fields of human rights of human rights and democracy has dwindled drastically following the implementation of a restrictive national law governing civil society in Ethiopia. The human rights situation has grown particularly dire in the Ogaden region, where the army maintains control over all aspects of life and governance. Trade within the region is severely restricted, as is access for outsiders; independent journalists, human rights monitors and even some humanitarian agencies, including the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), are completely banned from the region. In July 2011 two Swedish journalists who had entered the Ogaden region via Somalia were violently apprehended by the army. They are currently detained in Addis Ababa under suspicion of terrorist crimes and are awaiting the results of an investigation. Civilians have been the targets of harassment, imprisonment, torture and even execution at the hands of state security forces in the Ogaden and Oromo regions. With no independent monitoring and a judiciary that is also reported to be under the control of the army, such violations are rarely prosecuted.

UNPO and African Rights Monitor (ARM) have reported on these abuses to both the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture in the past year. Through written reports and oral dialogue with the Committees, both have expressed concern about the widespread practice of torture, deplorable prison conditions, human rights violations in the Somali region and the strangling effect of the CSO Proclamation on independent human rights and democracy work in Ethiopia.

In its concluding observations on Ethiopia’s July 2011 review, the Human Rights Committee noted its concern over number of these issues:

-         Numerous reports of widespread torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments used against detainees by police, prison officials and the Ethiopian military.

-         Numerous reports of serious human rights violations in the Ogaden region by the police and Ethiopian army. Ethiopia’s refusal to have an independent inquiry into the situation in the Ogaden region was also noted in the document.

-         The ICRC’s inability to access places of detention throughout Ethiopia, and its outright ban from the Ogaden region.

-         The lack of concrete details about Ethiopia’s plan to address alarming prison conditions

-         Severe restrictions placed on the operation of NGOs in the fields of human rights and democracy by recent national legislation, which “impedes the realisation of the freedom of association and assembly.”

-         Severe restrictions placed on the media by national legislation requiring registration for newspapers, severe penalties for defamation and the inappropriate application of the law to combat terrorism. The Committee noted that many newspapers had been closed and legal charges brought against journalists under this guise.

 

Kazakhstan

The 102nd Session of the Human Rights Committee also considered Kazakhstan’s compliance with the ICCPR. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) participated in an NGO briefing with Committee members immediately prior to the review to highlight Kazakhstan’s deplorable actions in a recent Uyghur refugee case.

For the past several months UNPO and the WUC have been closely following events leading up to Ershidin Israel’s recent extradition to China at the hands of Kazakh authorities. Mr. Israel, a Uyghur who fled from China to Kazakhstan in 2009, had for some time been under the protection of the UNHCR, to China. Chinese authorities began pursuing Mr. Israel in late 2009 because of information he provided to Radio Free Asia about the suspicious death in Chinese custody of a young Uyghur man. While Mr. Israel was initially granted UNHCR refugee status and was scheduled to depart for third-country resettlement in early 2010, Kazakh authorities refused to allow him to leave the country and kept him under detention until his eventual extradition on 30 May 2011.

These concerns were echoed by the Human Rights Committee, whose Concluding Observations on Kazakhstan noted reports that individuals, particularly Uzbek and Chinese nationals, have no protection under the principle of non-refoulement, even in cases where they have valid claims for asylum or refugee status.

While Kazakhstan officials reported that China had provided written assurances that Mr. Israel would not be mistreated, the Committee stated that Kazakhstan should “exercise utmost care in relying on diplomatic assurances when considering the return of foreign nationals to countries where they are likely to be subjected to torture or serious human rights violations.”

Both states are now responsible for implementing the recommendations of the Committee. UNPO fully supports the recommendations emerging from the 102nd Session, and strongly urges both Ethiopia and Kazakhstan to implement the recommendations made to them by this and other human rights treaty bodies of the United Nations.

Visit the website of the CCPR Centre to view all documentation from the 102nd Session, including archived webcast footage of the session

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