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The Newly Appointed Chief Commissioner Takes up Office

The newly appointed chief commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Teruneh Zenna formally assumed his new office for a-five-year term on January 15, 2010.

It was on January 14, 2010 that the House of Peoples’ Representatives unanimously endorsed the appointment of Ambassador Teruneh Zenna as the Chief Commissioner of the second Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Read More...

 

  
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 Profile of Second New Commissioner For Women’s and Children’s Affair of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission(EHRC)

Asmaru Berihun Kebede is the newly appointed Commissioner for Women’s and Children’s Affairs of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for a second five-year term succeeding the former Commissioner- Yeshihareg Damte. 

The new Commissioner; an educationalist by profession and  other than a parliamentarian, has served in various capacities with the Ministry of Education and conducted privately and with other teams a number of researches and presented several papers to a multitude of workshops particularly those concerned with the educational rights of women.

 See attached full text of the profile of the Commissioner for women’s and children’s affairs.

National Human Rights Institutions

A National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) is an organization, with a constitutional or legal basis, and with authority to promote and protect human rights at the national level, as an independent agency. It is one mechanism through which a state responds to its international responsibility ‘to take all appropriate action’ to ensure that international human rights are implemented at the national level.

According to the Paris Principles, NHRIs are to be vested with the competence to promote and protect human rights through as broad a mandate as possible, clearly articulated in a constitutional or legislative text.

The principles also specify the responsibilities of an NIs to submit recommendations, proposals and reports to the Government, parliament and any other competent body.

Thirdly, NIs may promote conformity of national laws and practices with international human rights instruments, as well as encourage ratification of international human rights instruments and ensure their implementation. An NI may also contribute to the reporting process under international human rights instruments (with due respect for the independence of the NI).

More broadly, an NI may cooperate with the United Nations, regional institutions, and NHRIs of other countries, which are competent in the areas of the protection and promotion of human rights.

It was with this background that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was established.

The Core objectives of the EHRC include educating the public to be aware of human rights; seeing to it that the human rights are protected, respected and fully enforced as well as taking the necessary measure where they are found to have been violated.

More specifically, the EHRC aspires to develop its institutional capacity to fully promote and protect human rights throughout the country in accordance with recognised international and regional best practice and the normative standards devolving from the Paris Principles and in full compliance with the Federal Constitution. 

  
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EHRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding  

With four state-run Universities

1.6 million Birr is said to have been earmarked

In a bid to enhance its presence in the regions and to ensure the protection of citizens and peoples rights particularly the disadvantage section; the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with four state-run universities. According to the agreement, the Commission will provide the Diredawa; Jimma; Makell; and Hawassa Universities with a financial and other support for the free legal counseling they provide through their law-students to those who can not afford it as well as for similar other services related to human rights issues.   And to such an effect; it has earmarked 1.6. Million Birr.

During the signing ceremony; October 5, 2010; Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Ambassador Teruneh Zena; told the Presidents and representatives of the said universities at his office; the universities were selected on grounds of their rich experiences in providing such services and believes that such cooperation helps in the protection of the human rights of citizens and in improving the country’s human rights conditions.   

According to the Chief Commissioner; the Commission is also making preparations to do same with the remaining universities (there are 17 state run universities in the country); particularly those having law departments. Expected of them as a first step; according to him; will also be for them to establish legal aid centers and draw up action plans for the implementation of the contents of the agreement including acting as a satellite of the commission regarding human rights situations of the area which goes all the way down to Wereda (district) level. 

The Commission is soon to dispatch three teams to the remaining universities to prepare the grounds for the signing of similar agreements and to work out detail programs with the four universities with which it already signed memorandum of understanding.   

This project with the universities was necessitated by the conviction of the Commission to play a catalytic role so that; on top of the other responsibilities entrusted to it by its constituting proclamation; for other endogenous institutions and organization to contribute their share in the protection and implementation of human rights in the country. 

It is to be recalled that in his opening remark during the one-day national consultative workshop that deliberated on devising the way to coming up with a national human rights action plan held on march 15/2010 at Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa; the Chief Commissioner had hinted that the Commission was then intending to work with all stakeholders including the government in the promotion of human rights in the country and one which was high on its agenda was appointing universities   as satellites or antenna organizations for the Commission.

 

  
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The Commission is out monitoring detention places

(November 2010)

Several teams of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are; for the second time; monitoring regional and federal detention places in order to see to it that convicted prisoners have been treated in accordance with the supreme law of the land- the constitution. 

According to Ato Molla Abera, representative of EHRC’s Human Rights Monitoring, Research, and Reporting Directorate; the teams are expected to monitor about 119 federal and regional detention places across the country and come up with a report on their findings.

During their monitoring activities; the teams are said to approach prison officials;    observe the situation of detention places in person; interview detainees about their situation and debrief; in the end; prison officials on their findings as well as exchange views on ways of addressing problems related to the treatment of detainees.

Prior to this; it is to be recalled that the Commission had also monitored about 53 detention places in the country two years ago and reported its findings to the appropriate bodies. What is more, it had also organized a consultation forum immediately after the conclusion of its monitoring activities; in Addis Ababa in which representatives of several detention places took part to exchange experiences and deliberate on further amelioration of the conditions of detainees and detention places.

  
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Commission to Open Branch Offices soon

November 2010

In a bid to be accessible to the wider public; the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is soon to embark on opening six branch offices across the country.

According to the Chief Commissioner of the Commission; Ambassador Teruneh Zena; the branch offices will be opened in Hawassa, Bahr Dar, Mekele, Jimma, Gambella and Jijiga towns shortly after the House of Peoples Representatives approves the Commission’s request to open nine branch offices in the coming one or two budget years.

The opening of such branch offices are believed to put the Commission in a better proximity to the grass-root level so as to closely monitor human rights situations across the country.  

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is mandated by its constituting proclamation to conduct human rights education; protect human rights from violations and conduct investigations into alleged human rights violations and propose remedy to the appropriate body if human rights have been found to be violated.

  
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Commission Keen to Support CSOs 

Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission; Ambassador Tiruneh Zena said his commission is keen to support CSOs (civil society organizations) working on furtherance of human rights in the country.

Addressing participants of civil society forum organized by the Ethiopian Human rights Commission (EHRC) at the Intercontinental Hotel on October 6, 2010, the Chief Commissioner said that his Commission was well aware of the expertise and experiences of many of the governmental and non-governmental organizations and desirous of making use of these expertise and experiences in the promotion and protections of human rights in the country.

The forum was organized to chart avenues of cooperation between the commission and governmental and non- governmental organizations in the furtherance of human rights in the country. This cooperation is said to include financial and other material support to be provided to governmental and non governmental organizations and associations in their endeavor to promote human rights.

The forum was wound up by setting up a joint stirring committee chaired by the Commission’s Information Communication Directorate to work out the details for cooperation and to draft a memorandum of cooperation.

It is to be recalled that the Commission has earlier signed a memorandum of understanding with a number of state-run universities which awards the latter financial and other material support in exchange for acting as satellites of the commission and serving as legal aid centers that provide legal counseling to the disadvantaged.  

The Chief Commissioner added, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is signing important agreements with professional associations, Universities, Justice and Legal System Research Institute, the Ethiopian Supreme Court and other non-governmental organizations.

Regarding the aim of the meeting, the EHRC Chief Commissioner said, it is to confer with the civil societies about how to collaborate in protecting and promoting human rights in the country.

  
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Chief Commissioner Stresses Human Rights Role for Development

 (November, 2010)

EHRC’s Chief Commissioner, Ambassador Teruneh Zena told detention officials that detainees need to be treated in accordance with all their rights as enshrined in the FDRE Constitution. 

Opening a-three day training program (Sept. 29 -1 Oct. /2010) organized for prison officials by the Commission in cooperation with UNHCHR, East Africa’s Regional Office; at Bishoftu town, the Chief Commissioner said that at a time when the country is exerting all out efforts to get rid of poverty and to bring about an economic breakthrough in what is called its five-year growth and transformation plan, the enforcement of human rights including the rights of detainees plays a vital role.

He noted that the aim of the program was; therefore, to further acquaint prison officials with the duty of detention administrations and rights of detainees.  

The three-day training program which was attended by 44 higher officials and experts drawn from federal and regional detention administrations; included such topics as concepts and principles of human rights, the duty of the law enforcement organs, the objective of detention places and the rights and duties of detainees.   

  
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 Commission Celebrated Children’s Day in Various Events

 Wednesday, 25 November, 2010

The Universal Children’s Day was celebrated for the fourth time at what is called the Addis Ababa Assembly Centre on Nov. 18/2010 and else where in Addis Abebe on Nov. 19, 2010, in various events including a panel discussion on Ethiopia’s latest reports on the subject to and recommendations from the UN bodies; under the theme: “Prevent Children Against All Forms of Violence and Exploitation.”

Opening the gathering at the Addis Ababa Assembly Centre in which over one thousand children drawn form 12 junior schools in Addis Ababa took part; Women’s and Children’s Affairs Commissioner of EHRC, W/ro Asmaru Berihun said; the events were organized by the Commission in connection with the Universal Children’ Day and with the view to promoting and safeguarding children’s wellbeing and healthy growth.  

The Commissioner has also availed herself of the opportunity to call upon all government bodies, the family, the public at large and other stakeholders to proactively promote all the rights of children   spelt out in the Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) which was ratified by Ethiopia. She specifically noted that parents need to recognize their children’s rights and involve them in expressing their opinions and making decisions on that which affect their lives which she believes were the key to the creation of self-confident and responsible citizens in the future.  

On the occasion, various competitions were organized and conducted for attending children such as dances, laughter and children’s rights- related question- answer   in cooperation with the Ethiopian Television and winners had been awarded. Most importantly, drawing competition relating children’s rights and their violation was conducted among children  aging below 15 years and winners that stood from 1- 10 had been awarded prizes ranging from five thousand to five- hundreds Birr.

A panel discussion titled: “Ethiopia’s Implementation of CRC: Successes and Challenges Encountered during Implementation” was also organized on Nov. 19, 2010 and the aim of which; according to the welcoming speech of Chief Commissioner of EHRC, Ambassador Teruneh Zena was to deliberate on how to further improve the status of the children in Ethiopia inline with the recommendations forwarded on the country’s third report of implementation of CRC. Ethiopia’s Third Report on the implementation of CRC and the recommendations suggested was presented for discussion by  W/ro Roman Tesfaye ; the Commission’s Human Rights Monitoring, Research and Reporting Directorate Director. The panel was attended by representatives from Save the Children-UK, the House of Peoples Representative and Oromia Women’s and Children’s Bureau, the judiciary and other stakeholders had attended the panel. 

The Universal Children’s Day which Ethiopia ratified in 1991 without any reservation has been commemorated in the last 21 years by many state members. 

See the attached text of the Amharic version of the news.  

  
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EHRC Commemorates White Ribbon Day at 7 Universities

   Monday, 13 Dec., 2010

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women otherwise known as the white Ribbon Day was commemorated at the premises of seven state-run Universities on Dec., 3 and 9, 2010 with panel discussions entitled: “Violence against Women is Violation of Human Rights”.

The half-day panel discussions, organized by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in cooperation with the Addis Ababa, Gonder, Haramaya, Hawassa, Jijjiga, Jimma and Mekele universities, were attended by some 300 participants drawn from the student body, instructors, and other members of the university community. 

W/ro Asmaru Berihun, Commissioner for Women’s and Children’s Affairs, while opening one of the panel discussions at the Addis Ababa university said the idea of celebrating the day with the universities was to encourage the community to play a leading role in the fight against discrimination and violence against women.  

On the occasion, written messages and white ribbons from the Commission have been distributed to the participants.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women has been celebrated every year since 1981 worldwide starting from November 25-December 10. The day was dedicated by the UN decision December 17/1999 to commemorate the brutal murder of three dissenting political activists-Mirabal Sisters, in 1960, by the government of Dominican Republic on upon orders of the then leader Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961),  and the so called ‘Montreal Massacre’ – when Mark Peline killed 14 women and injured 10 other women students  at Montreal University, Canada, on 6 December, 1989.

Please find the Amharic version here.

  
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Commission Commemorated Human Rights Day in various events

                                                                               Thursday, Dec.16/2010

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in various events here in Addis Ababa on 10 December, 2010 under the theme:  “Let’s join hands to promote and protect Human Rights in Ethiopia”. 

In the morning there was a march from Arat Killo to Stadium in which over 800 people representing the youth and women associations, governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as resident UN agents, wearing a white T-shirt and a cape bearing the inscription: “let’s join hands to promote and protect human rights!” took part and ushered into by a police brace band playing various national popular tunes.

At the stadium where a pavilion was set up for the occasion, messages had been conveyed by Ambassador Teruneh Zena Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission,   Mr. David, representative of OHCHR and religious representatives from Agaro, Jimma Oromiya (who were some of the 12 people which the commission bestowed ambassador of peace up on them recently) stressing the role of individuals in promoting human rights, the need for protecting advocates of human rights and peace as a fundamental key to development and freedom of religion respectively.    

The event in the afternoon was a conference at Sheraton Addis Hotel, on challenges and opportunities in promoting and protecting human rights in Ethiopia which drew participants from federal and regional senior governments, religious leaders, civil associations, and universities’ representatives from resident UN agents, African Union Commission and the diplomatic community.

In his presentation of a paper entitled:  “Challenges and Prospects in the Implementation of Human Rights in Ethiopia”, Dr Menberetsehay Tadesse, Chief Director of Justice and Legal Research Institute, has cited pervasive poverty and limited experience of democratic and human rights culture as the two major challenges in the implementation of human rights in the country. He also cited the existence of legal framework, improving socio- economic conditions and growing awareness of citizens as opportunities in the implementation of human rights in the country.  

In his welcoming remark, Ambassador Teruneh Zena indicating the object of the conference which was to identify challenges and opportunities in the implementation of human rights in the country had called upon participants to play their part to the effect.   

Honorable Aba Dula Gemeda, Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, stressed in his opening speech the need to exert efforts to bring about sound development and good governance in order to pave ways for furthering human rights in general and the right of the vulnerable groups in particular.

On the occasion, Mr. Musa Gassama, Regional Representative of UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had also addressed the conference.  

On that very day, the Chief Commissioner had conveyed via MSM text the message “Let’s join hands to promote and protect Human Rights in Ethiopia” to more than 7 million mobile phone users of the country and through the Commission’s website (www.ehrc.org.et,). Publications on human rights were also distributed during the morning and afternoon events. Prior to the Day, on top of the release of the human rights anthem prepared upon order the EHRC, billboards on human rights had also been set up.     

 

See also the attached Amharic version of the news and speeches made by EHRC’s Chief Commissioner; UN OHCHR, East African Regional Representative; and AU Representative.

 

  
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A National Consultative Workshop wound up forwarding a Road map in Implementing UPR Recommendations to Ethiopia

                                                                                         Friday, 24 Dec. /2010

The workshop which was conducted from 22-23 Dec/2010 at Addis Hilton Hotel and attended by more than 200 representatives from Federal and Regional Government Offices, democratic institutions, civil society organizations, development partners, experts, academia as well as, resident UN agents and invited guests, concluded with a road map to implementing the UPR recommendations made to Ethiopia.

According to the roadmap a “Human Rights Follow up and Implementation Committee” which consists of representatives from federal ministries and UN regional bureau will be set up with a mechanism that runs from national all the way down to woreda (district) administrative tiers. According to the roadmap, all stakeholders are to take part, cooperate in and follow up the implementation of the said UPR recommendations and the results of which will be evaluated before the second review of UPR in 2011.

In his welcoming speech, Ambassador Teruneh Zena, Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission noted that fully convinced of the importance of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms for national development and the prevalence of world peace, Ethiopia, as signatory to several UN human rights instruments, has been undertaking various activities to meet its international obligations and the Commission has been working with the Ethiopian government  in paving the way to implementing UPR recommendations which the country accepted and drafting national human rights action plan.

Prior to coming up with the roadmap, the consultative workshop had extensively dealt with, inter alia, such as background on the UPR recommendations to Ethiopia, its preparations and review process, accepted recommendations and progress made so far; the role of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in the UPR follow up process, on-going initiatives in relation to development of a national human rights action plan, and institutional arrangements for implementing UPR recommendations and best practices in implementing UPR recommendations by other countries.

The objectives of the workshop were fostering partnership, sharing information, establishing common objectives and strategies for implementing the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations accepted by Ethiopia and triggering stakeholders’ commitment to the implementation of the recommendations and ensuring timely preparations for the second time review.  The workshop also aimed at further recommending and initiating a national road map towards developing national human rights action plan which is part of the UPR recommendations but yet to be drafted.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was established when the UN Human Rights Council was formed on March 2006 by the UN General Assembly by resolution 60/251. As a process it involves a review of all 192 UN member states regarding their human rights condition through peer reviews every four years.  The process is based on equal and non discriminatory treatment for all countries.  It provides an opportunity for all states to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their country which also includes a sharing of best human rights practices in the world.

The UPR review of Ethiopia was held on 9 December, 2009 in conformity with all the relevant provisions contained in the UN Human Rights Council resolution 5/1.

The Government of Ethiopia has accepted 98 and rejected 32 other out of the 142 recommendations made to Ethiopia,  by the Working Group, while making progress on the remaining 12.  

See also attached Amharic version, and speeches made on the occasion by the EHRC Chief Commissioner and UN country representatives

  
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EHRC and MoE Signed MoU to Mainstream

Human Rights in Schools

                                                                                          Friday, 27 Jan. 2011

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) here with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to work together on human rights related issues, particularly, to mainstreaming human rights in school curricula.

The MoU was signed by the EHRC Chief Commissioner Ambassador Teruneh Zena and Education State Minister Fuad Ibrahim on 19 December, 2010, at the Office of the Ministry.

The objectives of the agreement include inter alia; incorporating human rights into schools curricula; undertaking for targeted intervention, joint human rights research on issues of human rights in the education sector and putting in place the working modality and corresponding obligations of the parties.

The two parties, according to the agreement, are to jointly make financial contributions necessary to cover part of the costs related to the implementation of the specific agreement, to facilitate networking and building alliance with governmental and non–governmental organizations.

This agreement is said to be soon followed by a specific and detail projects as well as   work plan and detail budget for the implementation of the latter.

It is to be recalled that the EHRC Women’s and Children’s Affairs Commissioner W/ro Asmaru Berihun, while addressing the Ethiopian Teachers Association’s annual meeting in October, 2010, pointed out that the Commission was keen to work with the education sector in order to reach out millions of students, teachers, and schools’ communities in promoting and protecting human rights in the country.

The Commission has earlier signed similar agreement with several state-run-universities with the objective of opening legal aid centers that provide legal counseling to those who can not afford and to serve the former as satellites in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.  So far, the Commission, in cooperation with the said universities and civil society organizations, has managed to open some 90 legal aid centers across the country.

  
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         Sixty free legal aid centers went operational  

                                                                                                         Wednesday, 9 February, 2011

Following the signing of memorandum of understanding and projects agreements, sixty out of the ninety legal aid centers which have been established by 15 State-run universities with the financial support of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (which amounts to 3.2 million Birr), have since last December opened their doors to provide free legal services to what are called vulnerable groups in their respective regions.

According to the EHRC Human Rights Violation Redressing Directorate, the legal aid centers that went operational have been those located within the Jimma, Jijiga, Gonder, Dire Dawa, Haramaya, Bahir Dar, Debremarkos, Wolayta Soddo, Hawasa, Wollega, Ambo, Mizen Tepi, Dilla, Mekelle, and Wallo universities.    

According to the same source, to be benefited from such services through law students of the said universities will be those who can not afford to pay for legal procedures of their cases in general and women, children, veterans, and people living with HIV/AIDS as well as the poor, people with disability and those serving time at various correctional centers in particular.  

As per the memorandum of understanding and the subsequent project implementation agreement, the said legal centers which their number varies from two to eight under each university, are also supposed to serve for the commission as a satellite in the promotion and protection of human rights in their respective regions.

According to the guidelines in the signed agreements, the Universities and the Commission are said to jointly follow-up the activities of the Centers through regular reports, field supervision, performance evaluation and other means of communication.                                                        

  
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                  GULAC begins providing Free Legal Assistance to the disadvantage

                                                                                                                                                                          Friday, 25 February, 2011

The Gonder University free Legal Aid Centers (GULACs) which have been in operation since last December 2010 have so far provided 104 needy clients with free legal services.

According to the hitherto performance report of the Centers submitted to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the 8 (eight) Legal Aid Centers which have been set up by Gonder University with the financial support of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission have served those indigent through their pro bono project on such issues as family cases, social security issues, housing disputes, succession cases, tenancy, and employer – employee disputes.

According to the report, the free legal aid centers are set to provide such services mainly by law department students under the coordination of law professors of the University, and the services they provide include, inter alia; preparation of various documents to be used in legal proceedings, provision of legal counseling, filing a suit, and representing the legal aid seekers at court to serve as a lawyer.

Estimated at the current minimum commission being paid to lawyers for similar services in Gondar City and its vicinity, the centers have , according to the report, so far provided services worth 391,602.20 (three hundred ninety one thousand, six hundred- two Birr and twenty cents) which otherwise clients would have had to incur.

Each of the eight Centers which are located at Gonder High Court, Gonder Prison; Azazo, Koladiba, Tikildingay, Chilga, Maksegnit, and Addis Zemen districts are reportedly being coordinated by one law instructors assigned by the University.

The GULAC free legal aid centers are among the ninety legal aid centers which have been established by 15 State – run universities with the financial support of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

  
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EHRC, Religious Leaders, EWLA signed Project Agreements

Monday, 22 February 2011

With a view to contributing towards forging partnership and cooperation in the promotion and protection of Human Rights and related issues, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has signed project agreements with Jimma-Agaro religious leaders’ Cooperation, and Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) on February 22, 2011, at the Commission’s office.   

On the occasion of the signing of the agreement with the Jimma-Agaro religious leaders Cooperation, Ambassador Teruneh Zena noted that the agreement was signed upon recognition of the underpinning significance of peace for the country’s development and democracy without which the protection and promotion of human rights are hardly possible and with the objective of enhancing co-operations between and among the various religious denominations and non-denominations and spreading out the best practices of the Jimma-Agaro religious leaders cooperation  to other parts of the country.   

Representatives of Orthodox, Kale Hiwot (World of life) and Muslim religions; Cleric Tagay Tadele, Shei Abdulhamid Ahmed and Pastor Tamirat Abegaz respectively; have on the occasion reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen their inter-religious cooperation in the building up of religious tolerance and thereby in handing down to posterity. 

Ambassador Teruneh Zena and Cleric Tagay Tadele signing the agreement

According to the signed agreement, the commission will provide a sum of 322,850 (Three hundred twenty two thousand, and eight hundred fifty) birr to support the establishment of “Peace Office” at Jimma-Agaro region (South-west Ethiopia), in its endeavor to further forge cooperation and prevent potential religious conflicts in the future. 

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had previously bestowed the title of “Peace Ambassador” upon 15 (fifteen) religious leaders including the above mentioned ones and individuals who have been acknowledged by the community for playing a pivotal role in peace-building and taking the lead in calming down the previous religious tensions surfaced in the region.    

The second agreement which was signed on the same day with Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association was also made so to provide the latter with financial support in exchange for   providing free legal counseling to vulnerable groups of the society. The Executive Director of the Association, W/ro Zenaye Tadesse has signed the agreement on behalf of the Association.

Amb. Teruneh Zena and W/ro Zenaye Tadesse signing the second agreement

  
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           Commissioner calls on stakeholders to prevent

Male Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

Thursday, 24 February, 2011

Women’s and Children’s Affairs Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, W/ro Asmaru Berihun called on Stakeholders to address the emergent sexual abuse and assaults against male children which are serious human rights violation and grounds for various subsequent social chaos.

opening a-one day workshop  on “The Role of Journalists in Preventing Sexual Abuse against Male Children”, Asmaru noting that all forms of violation against children including sexual harassment   result in psychological distress, moral destruction, deprivation of human dignity, apathy in learning and health related problems which consequently adversely affect the country’s development endeavor, has stressed that  all stakeholders in general and the media people in particular can make a difference in playing a leading role in preventing the assaults.

“Sexually abused male children; due to social stereotyping; are likely to discriminate themselves, increase school drop outs and if not, achieve less academically,” said Asmaru.  Asmaru added that journalists can play a central role in raising awareness of the public on the prevalence and assaults of male sexual abuse, in disclosing perpetrators, and persuading duty bearers to establish necessary rehabilitation mechanisms for victims.


Participants of the workshop in part

The objective of the workshop which was organized for media people by Bright for Children Voluntary Association (BCVA) in cooperation with EHRC on 22 February, 2011; at Addis Ababa - Ras Hotel, was to raise the awareness of journalists on the prevalence of male children sexual abuse and the magnitude of the issue and its consequences as well as to enthuse them and carry out their professional responsibility in addressing the problem.

On the occasion, papers on sexual abuse and exploitation against male children, consequences of sexual abuse in childhood, Mechanisms of prevention and ways of reporting cases of the abuse were presented.  According to a modest study by the Commission on the issue in Addis Ababa City, indications are that there is a widespread incidence of boy sexual abuse and exploitation in the City. Yet for reasons of taboo, little was done to make them public which in turn let perpetrators go unpunished.  

The workshop wound up recommending stakeholders including EHRC, and Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs to conduct further researches on the issue to reveal the exact facts in order to curb its consequences on the dot.  Participants who were drawn from governmental and nongovernmental as well as the media people have re-affirmed commitment to seriously consider the issue. 

  
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If we really stand for human rights, for human dignity, we can not       call for a halt on the fight against poverty                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Friday, 15 April 2011

In an interview held with the VOA Amharic program on March 5, 2011, Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Teruneh Zena, has once again defended the Commission’s position on Human Rights Watch request to the Ethiopian Development Assistance Group (DAG) to suspend democratic institutions program and other similar issues raised in the Commission’s recent letter to Human Rights Watch. 

In the Commission’s view, any attempt to thwart development endeavor in any manner aims not at the Ethiopian government but only at the people, at the efforts against poverty.  Similarly, to request the suspension of assistance to Ethiopian democratic institutions which, as their institutional capacity permits, have been promoting democracy, striving to bring about justice and fighting corruption, can only defeat the purpose of advocating for human rights.

See attached full text of the Amharic version of the interview.

  
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10 members of SVPC received awards from the Commission

Thursday, 24 March, 2011

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), in recognition of their efforts and as part of encouraging others, has awarded 10 members of Sexual Violence Prevention Committee (SVPC) who were selected from all of Addis Ababa Administration sub- cities; Birr 600 (six hundred Birr) and a certificate.

The award was handed over by EHRC Commissioner for  Women’s and Children’s Affairs, W/ro Asmaru Berihun at a half day panel discussion jointly organized by the Addis Ababa Women’s Association and the  EHRC at Addis Ababa Assembly Center on 7 March, 2011, in connection with International Women’s Day (March 8).   

According to the documented profiles from the Addis Ababa Women’s Association, the awardees have been selected for their demonstrated commitment in defending the rights of women and children in their vicinity in general, and in uncovering offenders of sexual violence against women and assisting victims in bringing their cases to court of law, in particular.

According to the said documents, Sergeant Birtukan Tegafew (Arada sub-city), won the award for her invaluable contribution in running a rapist down and brining him before a court of law which sentenced him to 15 years of rigorous imprisonment. Ato Adamu Agid (Gullele sub-city), too, won the prize for his fruitful efforts in sensitizing the public at large on women’s rights violations and other related concerns as well as in ways of  forestalling similar attempts and  bringing offenders before the court of  law.  

Similarly, Debebe Tefere (Lideta sub-city), received the award for his forefront struggle for the rights of women and children in general, and particularly for his successful effort to stop a flagrant attempt of a sexual offence against a female child; and for bringing the offender before the law.

 Fireweyin Woldegebriel (Nifas Silk Lafto) is also one among the awardees.  The award was given to her for her efforts to bring under arrest a man who   inflicted heavy casualties upon a teenager under the guise of bringing her up; in cooperation with the Mojo town Police and Oromiya Women’s Association. 

W/ro  Tsehay Admasu (Kirkos sub-city), is also another awardee. Tsehay Admasu who was once herself engaged in female genital mutilation won the award for her unstinted advocacy on the impacts of harmful practices such as genital mutilation on social well being in general and on women in particular.   

Likewise, Ato  Tilahun Workineh (Yeka sub-city); won the prize for his  day in and day out efforts to help address and redress  women’s rights violation in the community and one among the cases in point was   bringing the cases of two female students raped by a school guard before law and getting him 15 years rigorous imprisonment.

Hajji Kedir Mohammed (Kolfe Keranyo Sub- city), was also able to receive the award for his innumerable accomplishments in promoting women’s rights and the well being of families.  To mention but a few, he, as a juror of the sub- city’s social court at Woreda 2 and a member on Sexual Violence Prevention Committee, has provided several free legal aid services to women whose issue needs to be handled at law court.  He was also awarded for being a successful mediator in helping re-unite family member who have been on the verge of parting company.  

W/ro Haregoa Abebe (Bole sub- city), was also able to receive the award for her effort in helping a woman recover her 9-month baby  in Amhara regional State taken away by her husband following a disagreement with the mother. Assistant Inspector; Teshome Bekele (A/ Kality sub- city) took the award for himself for devoting much of his time to bringing justice to women’s rights violations.  

Bezash Berihe (Addis ketema sub- city) has also managed to win the award for her advocacy for women’s rights in her neighborhood, especially for notifying of relevant bodies cases of human rights crimes committed against women.

The Committee on Sexual Violence Prevention has been working in close cooperation with the Addis Ababa Women’s Association toward averting all forms of violations of women’s rights including sexual harassments in the metropolis. 

See also attached Amharic version of the news

  
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The essence of moot court, beyond mere competition

                                               April, 2011

Addressing the awarding ceremony of the third moot court competition held at the Bahir Dar University Campus, EHRC Chief Commissioner Ambassador Teruneh Zena noted, one of the objectives of the moot court competitions which the Commission organizes every year was to sensitize and enhance awareness of the public on human rights.

 Amb. Teruneh, addressing the Ceremony 

He added that issues of concern on every competition were aimed to identify matters that deserve special attention from the viewpoint of the Commission, themes of human rights believed to be overlooked for various reasons, and novel and burning human rights matters that need further action.

On top of “sensitizing and fostering issues of human rights, the commission also uses such forums to pool fresh ideas for further research which can serve as background to recommend for new legislation or other necessary action”, said Ambassador Teruneh.

Opening the competition; Ato Alemaw Mengist, state Minister for Women, Children and Youth Affairs said on his part that cases raised in the competition are helpful for the concerned bodies in recognizing legal and operational gaps regarding children’s wellbeing.

This year’s EHRC moot court competition entitled: “Inter-country adoption”, was held from April 8 - 11/2011 among law students of the Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Debre Markos, Hawassa, Hara Maya, Jimma, JiJiga and Dilla Universities. It was attended by hundreds of audiences drawn from the Bahir Dar University community, various justice bodies, staff of EHRC, the federal and regional government authorities, and students and teachers of the participant universities.

     

Audiences of the competition in part

In the three-team competitions, the Hawassa University team won a trophy for best written memorial while the Bahir Dar, Addis Ababa, and Hawassa teams who stood from 1st to 3rd respectively, were awarded Toshiba Lap tops; Gold necklaces and Black Law Dictionaries; respectively for best oral pleadings.

Also in singles, Bantayehu Demissie from the Addis Ababa University law student won a trophy for overall best oralist.

 

The previous two consecutive moot court competitions were held at Mek’ele and Jimma Universities under the titles: “the right to food,” and “the right to health”, respectively.

  
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Commission and three other Women’s associations signed MOU

Friday, 29 April, 2011

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Tigray; Amhara; and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional States’ Women’s associations signed Memorandum of Understanding on 29th April, 2011, at the Commission’s head office here in Addis Ababa.

The agreement was signed by the EHRC Chief Commissioner, Ambassador Teruneh Zena, and chair persons of the Tigray, Amhara and SNNPRS Women Associations, W/ro Roman Gebresilassie, w/ro Maritu Fantahun and W/ro Kidist Temesgen, respectively.   

Amb. Teruneh, W/ro Roman, W/ro Maritu and w/ro Kidist (left to right) signing the agreement

The objective of the agreement is to pool resources on issues related to protecting the rights of women and children in general and to supporting the associations in their endeavor to fight against harmful traditional practices which militate against the respect for human rights of women and children.  

According to the agreement, which will be followed by detail project agreements, the commission will provide the associations with financial and technical support in their effort to rein in harmful traditional practices.  

The Chief Commissioner, on his part said that his commission was enthusiastic to collaborate with associations working toward curtailing human rights violations related to harmful traditional practices which adversely affects the social groups constituting the highest number.

On the occasion of the signing of the agreement

Prior to this, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had previously signed similar agreements with Universities, Justice Bodies, CSOs, religious leaders and the Ministry of Education with the view to promoting and protecting human rights in the country.

The EHRC Commissioner for women’s and children’s Affairs, W/ro Asmaru Berihun, stressing the responsibilities of the Commission in working jointly and closely with governmental and non-governmental organizations, CSO and other associations, hinted that her commission will sign similar agreements with remaining regional women’s associations matching agendas and projects with the Commission in addressing human rights violations in general and of the rights of women and children in particular. 

  
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The 4th National Conference on VAW and Children set forth tasks to act upon until the next meeting

The 4th Round conference on Violence Against Women and Children,(VAW) which was conducted from 9 - 11 May, 2011, at Adama town - Safari Lodge, wound up setting forth various tasks to be acted upon until the next meeting which will be held in 2012. 

According to the agreement reached at the end of the conference, in spite of considerable measures so far taken in preventing violence against women and children, particularly; in bringing perpetrators before court of law, and encouraging attitudinal change of the society towards the issue; there were matters that still need communal actions by all concerned bodies. 

 


On group discussion and experience sharing

As indicated in the agreement, a strong and formal joint body with transparency and accountability as a mode of execution by all stakeholders would be established to develop coordinated mechanism for curtailing sexual attacks against women and children. To that effect, the EHRC is expected to provide necessary information to the law making body in order for the latter to fill the gaps in legal frameworks that impede effective prevention of violence against women and children.

The agreement reached also stressed the subsequent holding of such a conference in the future and of other enabling forums which assist in creating mechanism to deter sexual violence against women and children. The agreement further stated that the justice bodies and other governmental organs need to make upon themselves the responsibility of facilitating the establishment of child friendly courts while all concerned bodies at regional states, in accordance with their own peculiar situation, adopt the "tutuzela care center" set up at federal level.

The main objective of this annual conference organized by EHRC is to discuss and identify  gaps in the legal framework that hinder effective prevention or redressing of violence against women and children and to take uniform corrective measures on perpetrators in the future. It also identifies not only the activities to be undertaken but also the competent organs for such activities.

The conference was also meant to facilitate a platform to discuss ways of formulating strong co-operational channel and joint action plans among all the concerned bodies as well as highlighting models to be benchmarked in order to ensure that the rights of women and children are fully protected. 

Participants of the 4th conference were drawn from all the relevant Judicial, administrative and legislative organs of all regions, as well as from the federal government, gender offices at Universities and other concerned governmental and non-governmental organizations.

 


Participants of the Conference in Part

On the occasion, participants have exchanged among each other their best practices in the fight against violence against women and children including the mechanism developed in Adama town to address and redress such violence. Accordingly, the Adama town has recently set up a free telephone service on 919 which connects to the town’s police station and suggestion boxes have been put in place in schools to serve as medium of reporting potential or fragrant violence against women.

 


Sample of group presentation

Cited as best experience during the conference was also that of the Federal Ministry of Health which is currently preparing to establish the South Africa’s "tutuzela care center" model.  The Ministry is said to have been in the process of establishing such a center at Ghandi Hospital as pilot center. This is on top of the efforts it has been making to establish a "National Coordinating Group" whose members were drawn from heads of various government offices and ministries. 


W/ro Asmaru, welcoming the participants

In her welcome speech, W/ro Asmaru Berihun, EHRC Commissioner for Women’s and Children’s Affairs,  has called on participants of the conference to emulate and put in practice   the best practices that were presented by their fellow representatives.  According to her, reports from regional relevant bodies have showed that there were positive changes regarding preventing violence against women and children ever since the commission has started organizing such conferences.

The participants of the conference have called on relevant non-governmental organizations to provide financial and technical assistance in such endeavors. 

The EHRC has been organizing such conferences on violence against women and children since 2008. The third conference was held at Addis Ababa Giyon Hotel in 2010.

  
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The Commission is readied to support Oromia Women’s Association

During the signing of a project agreement with the Oromia Women’s Association on 13 May, 2011, at the Commission’s Head Office in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission agreed to provide the Association with financial and technical support for the execution of the project submitted to the Commission.

The objective of the agreement was to fund the Association’s activity to combat harmful traditional practices that infringe on human rights in general, and the rights of women in particular.   

The agreement was signed by the EHRC Commissioner, Ambassador Teruneh Zena and Chairperson of the Oromia Women’s Association, W/ro Aynalem Regassa.


Amb. Teruneh and w/ro Aynalem while signing the agreement

On the occasion, W/ro Asmaru Berihun, EHRC Commissioner for Women’s and Children’s Affairs, reminding the Commission’s hitherto activities with various CSOs, noted that her Commission was enthusiastic to support the association as the latter has one million members all over Oromia which would help reach out to grass roots in the region in educating them on their rights and mobilizing them in the fight against harmful traditional practices. 


W/ro Asmaru, speaking on the occation

 Ambassador Teruneh on his part said, harmful traditional practices, especially in the context of rural areas of the country, was the number one violator of human rights that need to be tackled though concerted action, especially through bringing about attitudinal change in the public at large.

Chairperson of the Oromia Women’s Association, W/ro Aynalem Regassa said on her part, that her Association with its current structural ability to cover the entire region of Oromia (from regional all the way down to all about the six thousand Kebeles) and with backing of the financial support, is ready to further work hard in combating harmful traditional practices that negatively affect the well-being of women and children in the region.   

Prior to this, the EHRC had also signed similar agreements with the Tigiray, Amhara, and SNNPRS Women’s Associations.   

  
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Free Legal Aid Centers handle a large number of cases

                                                           Aug., 2011
 
According to the progress reports submitted to the Commission by 15 state-run Universities; these Free Legal Aid Centers (FLACs) have so far been able to handle up to 30,000 legal cases as of May, 2011.
 
Presenting their progress reports during the three day-consultative workshop from 12- 14 May, 2011, at Addis Ababa Desalegn Hotel, coordinators of the 15 Universities’ FLACs which were established with financial and technical support of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission pointed out that, the centers under each University have so far managed to provide free legal aid services on matters related to bankruptcy, family cases, tenancy and child victims of abuse.
 
The free legal services; according to the reports; include rendering legal counseling; representing before courts of law on behalf of those vulnerable groups who cannot afford to pay the expense for attorney services; attending defense court hearing, preparing statements of claim, and opinion of the final Judgment.
 
According to the reports, each University having set up 2-8 FLACs have since their inception handled legal cases ranging from 5-30,000. Among the 15 Universities, Hawassa University assumed the lead in handling 30,000 cases at its 7 centers where as centers under Jijiga University is lagging behind all due to what is referred to as   misunderstandings between the centers and the region’s justice bodies, according to report from the centers.
 
The Hawassa FLACs' Coordinator Presenting his report
 
FLACs of Jimma, Mek’lle, and Gonder Universities’ have in the report succeeded in educating the public on human rights, and promoting the centers services on public radio in their respective regions in addition to providing free legal services.
 
Some of the Participants
 

The Objective of the workshop; which was attended by some 180 participants drawn from the said Universities, FLACs, partner organizations, Justice bodies _ Courts, federal HPR and EWLA; on top of facilitating a platform for experience sharing among the centers was to assess the centers performance since their inception, to identify challenges they have been facing and to suggest the way out.
 
During the presentation of papers entitled “Free Legal Services in Ethiopia: Practice and Challenges,” and “Free Legal Service in Ethiopia: Opportunities and Challenges›› the major challenges in the undertakings of the centers have been cited by coordinators of the FLACs as those resulted from a conflict of interest on the part of local private lawyers and budget constraints in the effort to provide free legal aid services to the needy.
 
Opening the workshop, Ambassador Teruneh Zena, EHRC Chief Commissioner, has appreciated if national and international partners could possibly further assist the Centers with financial and technical support.
 
Ambassador Tiruneh, remarking on the occassion
 
 
Mr. David, UNDP-Democratic Institutions Programme Coordinator on his part remarked that the efforts made so far by the said centers have been encouraging.He further said DIP will remain enthusiast to be on the side of the Commission in its effort to address the above cited problems encountered by the centers.
 
 
It is to be recalled that about 6 months ago, the EHRC; upon learning that 30 percent of those legal cases submitted by vulnerable groups in the country have been done injustice for lack of financial resource; has signed agreements with the said universities to financially support (which amounts to 3.6 million Birr) in setting up 60 legal aid centers and providing such services to the needy. 
 
 
Currently, the Commission is also providing financial support to 39 free legal aid centers established by Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), Ethiopian Christian Lawyers Fellowship (3 centers) and other civil society organizations which, according to the agreement reached, are to provide similar free legal services to vulnerable groups. Recently too, there are ongoing dealings between the Commission and other governmental institutions and CSOs to set up more free legal aid centers.    

 

  
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Participants call for concerted effort to avert violence against female in higher learning institutions

At the end of a-two day workshop which was organized by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission from 21 - 22 May, 2011, at Jupiter Hotel in Addis Ababa, participants in their position statement have called on all stakeholders to come up with comprehensive guidelines to prevent all forms of violence against female in higher learning institutions.

According to the position statement, sexual violence against female students in higher learning institutions was so pervasive that it was adversely affecting the victims’ emotional, moral, psychological wellbeing and their academic performance as a result. According to the statement, sexual violence in higher learning institutions ranges from verbal harassment including in the form of jokes- to defamation, from uncalled for and provocative physical touches to -pinching sensitive areas of the female body and the likes.  

 

Students representative ( on the left) presenting on the issue

In the face of such pervasive sexual violence against women, there is no reason for all to keep silent said the participants of workshop and added that the public at large in general and administrators of the higher learning institutions; teachers; students; parents and concerned government bodies in particular need to intervene in concert. They specifically underscored     the need for the preparation of guidelines for all higher learning institutions in order to come up with a code of conduct that fosters the human rights of women and does away with perpetrators in all school compounds and university campuses.  

Some of the participants of the workshop

The objective of the workshop was to facilitate a platform that indentifies the manifestations of and the root causes for sexual violence against women in higher learning institutions, enables the exchange of best practices in the prevention of violence against women between and among institutions, develops general prevention mechanism or guidelines and enthuse concerned bodies for further actions.

On the occasion, research papers on challenges encountered by female students in higher learning institutions emphasizing on gender based violence, and sexual harassment as human rights violation, were presented and discussed by participants who were drawn from the House of Peoples Representatives; private and state run higher learning institutions, administrative bodies, teachers, members of student councils, gender clubs; and concerned federal ministries.

Representatives of some selected Universities have also presented their consolidated experiences regarding the prevalence, cases and methods of prevention of sexual violence.  According to their presentations, though the extent and degree of the violence and the attention paid to it by institutions vary; sexual violence was widely prevalent in all higher learning institutions. Some institutions including the Haramaya University were cited to have set up institutionalized and formal prevention mechanism which could be emulated by others, according to the latter’s presentation.

 

 

Representatives of Aksum University and St. Mary University College (L to R) presenting their best experiences

According to a presentation by representatives of students, there were complaints from students that some universities have been all the time failing to adequately respond to issues of sexual violence and therefore, could not but call on institutions to cooperate with local justice bodies in the effort to stop violence against women in higher learning institutions and legally do away with   violators of females’ rights.

W/ro Asmaru, addressing the workshop

Welcoming participants of the workshop on the occasion, w/ro Asmaru, EHRC Commissioner for Women’s and Children’s Affairs, pointing out the reason for enthusiasm of her Commission to deal with the issue, had noted that there were adequate evidences against and cases of sexual violence in higher learning institutions which gave urgency to the Commission to organize such a forum.  

According to Asmaru, sexual violence on top of being a violation of human rights, has resulted in decreased educational performance and competency of female students, psychological damage and social isolationism

Prior to this, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had organized panel discussions in 7 Universities during the last sixteen days of activism to learn the extent and degree of   violence against females in higher learning institutions in last December.

  
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Commission launches institutional capacity building project

to meet the requirements of Paris Principles

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has launched an institutional capacity building project at the meeting hall of its Head Office with the financial assistance of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI).

According to the background document; the project is to assist the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in developing strategies that would help it function independently and in compliance with the Paris Principles by conducting a self-assessment on its strengths and needs of institutional capacity.  

In the launching session held on 2 August, 2011, the content and procedure of the project, its objectives, the benefits of the project for the Commission, and implementation strategies of the likely recommendations that will be given by the team were presented and discussed.

Accordingly; the assessment process is said to eventually come up with a comprehensive report on its findings and capacity development strategy recommendations which constitute; among others; analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data to illustrate key capacity challenges facing the Commission in implementing its strategic plan and realizing its mandate.   

Upon endorsement by the Commission, the Capacity development strategy recommendations of the report are to be developed into implementation plans aimed at bringing about effective operational capacities. 

The background document was presented by the team of consultants of the project; Mr. Gulbic, Mr. Omar former Commissioner of the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, and Miss Liza Sekaggya from the UN National Human Rights Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section; the project, developed by United Nations Development Programme Regional Center in South Africa, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) - Geneva and the NANHRI,

  
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Commission to further help open free legal aid services

·         Ethiopian Legal Aid Network Draft Document produced

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission; with the view, among others; to further expanding free legal aid centers; has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with four governmental and non-governmental organizations on the 5th of August, 2011, at the Addis Ababa MN International Hotel.

The agreement was signed by Chief Commissioner, Ambassador Teruneh Zenna,  on behalf of the Commission and Prof. Brook Lemma, Ato Sileshi Ketsela (President), W/ro Elfinesh Demissie (Chair-person), and W/ro Haregewoin Ashenafi (Executive Director), representing the Addis Ababa University Human Rights Institute, the ELA, the HRCO and the Ethiopian Arbitration and Conciliation Center, respectively.

The objectives of the agreement which provides financial and technical assistance to the organizations are; inter alia, the establishment of free legal aid centers in various regions of the country, the provision of mediation services at mediation centers to be setup, the formation of Arbitration and Mediation clubs and educating the public through publishing human rights journals, as well as organizing trainings and workshops on human rights.

On the occasion; Chief commissioner ambassador Teruneh Zena; noting that some 30% of the vulnerable groups in the country who appear before courts of law have been victims of injustice as a result of inability to afford attorney; said that “the Ethiopian people who give a special place for the supremacy of law in their tradition must not suffer from lack of access to justice which constitutes fundamental human rights”.


On the Occassion of signing MoUs

 

On the same day, a draft document for establishing “Ethiopian Legal Aid Network” was also prepared which will be submitted to the General Assembly of the Network for adoption; by experts drawn from EHRC, various Universities, EWLA and different Justice Bodies. This draft “Legal Aid Network” document in which all institutions and organizations providing free legal Aid services would be members aims to strengthen the expanding of free legal services as administrative organ and bridge gaps among the service providers in the exchange of information and best experiences.   

It is to be recalled that the EHRC, in cooperation with Universities, EWLA and Ethiopian Christian Lawyers Association has set up some 102 free legal aid centers to provide free legal services to vulnerable groups of the society such as women, children, peoples living with HIV/AIDs, people with disability and poor peoples who cannot hire attorney by their own. 

Signatories of the Memorandums of Understanding

 

  
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Project on Developing Ethiopian NHRAP Launched

The project on developing Ethiopian National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) for the promotion and protection of Human rights was officially launched at an event organized on 1 August, 2011, here in Addis Ababa.

The Project was launched following the Office of the prime Minister’s setting up of a National Human Rights Action Plan Steering Committee which will be in charge of the project.

Members of the Steering Committee disclosed at the launching of the project were   drawn from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ministry of Federal Affairs and Office of Government Communication Affairs.

The Steering Committee is said to be chaired by Ministry of Justice while Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to act as Vice Chairperson. It was also decided during the launching meeting that the Secretariat Office, which will be accountable to the Ministry of Justice be set up at the EHRC.  On top of hosting the Secretariat Office of the Committee, the EHRC was appointed to serve as a Technical Adviser in the process of developing the NHRAP.

To that effect, the Commission has immediately engaged in recruiting necessary staff to the Office which will have a task force with full-time staff and part time consultants and   a coordinating committee responsible for the preparation of the said plan.

Prior to the establishment of the Steering Committee, the EHRC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) had discussed about the necessary procedures to be followed for developing the action plan, and the Committees to be formed along with their proposed members.

Following a series of consultations with the Commission, the MoFA had submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister necessary proposal regarding the essence and approaches to the preparation of the action plan which led to the formation of the present Steering Committee composed of five ministerial-level cabinets.

It is to be recalled that on 15 March, 2010, the EHRC; in cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - East Africa Regional Office; had organized a-one-day national consultative workshop that drew participants from the federal and regional governments, diplomatic community, national and international organizations recommended a roadmap towards developing the NHRAP.

It is also to be recalled that on the occasion; the EHRC Chief Commissioner, Ambassador Teruneh Zenna had proposed the combination of the Steering Committee to be set up by the government.

The concept of NHRAC which is interchangeably known as “national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights”, “national action plans”, or “national plans/programmes” was developed as part of the world conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993 and adopted through a comprehensive document called “Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA)”.

  
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Commission further Signs Agreement with Adama University

October 2011

 


In attempt to further open legal aid centers at woreda levels; the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Adama Science and Technology University have signed MoU on 7th of October, 2011, at the premises of the University.

During the signing ceremony; Ambassador Teruneh Zenna; Chief Commissioner of EHRC; has noted that in collaboration with higher learning institutions and various CSOs, his commission will put all necessary efforts to open free legal aid centers in all the 800 woredas/districts across the country.

He further noted that free legal aid centers which will be established in cooperation with the University are expected to cover the adjacent woredas in the region.  

 

 

Dr. Tola Barisso (left) and Amb. Teruneh Zenna signing the MoU

Dr. Tola Barisso; Vice President of the Adama Science and Technology University; who signed the MoU on behalf of the University; said on his part that his University was enthusiast to promote the cause of human rights particularly of those who were the disadvantaged in his surroundings. 

It was one year ago that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission embarked on initiating the opening of free legal aid centers by providing financial and technical supports to state-run Universities and local CSOs with the view to providing free legal services to indigent people and vulnerable groups of the society. So far, 16 Universities and 2 CSOs have commenced providing free legal services at some 104 centers across the country.  

 

  
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EHRC Chief Commissioner Briefs the Delegation of the Canada - Africa Parliamentary Association

                                 October, 2011

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Chief Commissioner; Ambassador Teruneh Zenna; with his other senior officials of the Commission has met the Delegation of Canada - African Parliamentary Association which was on a working Visit to Ethiopia on 11 October, 2011, at the head quarter of the Commission.

Head of the Delegation, Honourable Belanger, said on the occasion that the purpose of the visit of the Canada - Africa Parliamentary Association was to obtain background information and activities of the Commission and other similar institutions, as well as to learn from the Commission about the activities of the Ethiopian government regarding human rights in the country.

Welcoming the Delegation, Ambassador Teruneh briefed on the background, major activities and focus areas of the Commission with a particular emphasis on the provision of human rights awareness program and efforts being made in incorporating human rights issues at various levels of school curriculum. 

He also briefed the delegation on the Commission’s activities with regard to efforts made to open free legal aid centers; counseling the government on various human rights issues; forging partnership with international and national civil society organizations; as well as efforts being made to come up with thematic and state of human rights reports of the country including on the monitoring of detention places as well as to address harmful traditional practices that affect human rights.


               Hon. Belanger, Amb. Teruneh (left to right) and other members of the delegation

Members of the delegation on their part raised questions for further explanation, particularly concerning the new Ethiopian Anti-terrorist Law, the apprehension of Swedish Journalists suspected of terrorist acts and the progress made in codifying and implementing international human rights instruments which the country ratified.

In response to the questions, the Chief Commissioner said, his commission was undertaking researches on the Ethiopian Anti-terrorist Law to find out if there was any adverse impact on human rights. With regard to the apprehended journalists, he said that his Commission was closely following up the matter and would work toward speedy trial of the defendants. 


                          Members of the Delegation and Officials of the Commission 

The Delegation which was led by the Honourable Mauril Belanger (Co-chair of the Association) was composed of the Canadian Parliamentarians and Senators representing all political parties including Honourable Raynell Andreychuk, Mr. David Christopherson, Ms. Lois Brown, Ms. Cheryl Gallant, Senators Terry Stratton and Jim Munson.

The Canada - Africa Association was established in 2003 with the objective of promoting African and Canadians’ understanding of common issues and fostering cooperation.

  
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Community Conversation in South Omo Zone agreed to Combat Traditional mal practices

December, 2011

Ethiopia is the homeland of about 80 different ethnic communities with their distinct languages, values, beliefs and other cultural practices. Ever since the advent of democracy to the country particularly the promulgation of the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia which upholds the rights of these groups to self determination; these communities have been exercising their collective rights including the administrative use of their languages, and the preservation and developing of their cultures.

In such an exercise what have however been witnessed was that some of the traditional practices were in contravention of other rights enshrined in the said constitution which include the various aspects of the rights which belong to children, women and other vulnerable groups.

According to the publication of Ye Ethiopia Goji Limadawi Dirgitoch Aswogaj Mahiber- EGLDAM (Association for the Prevention of Ethiopian traditional malpractices) Follow up National Survey of 2008, there have been more than 160 Harmful Traditional Practices (HTP)   currently known in Ethiopia and classified by the nature of their adverse impacts on the rights of women, children and other groups. These practices include, among other things, female genital mutilation (FGM), mingi (a practice that abandons a child who first grows upper teeth rather than lower teeth), early marriage and marriage by abduction, lashing the back of brides until bleeding as well as socially and economically related HTPs, nutrition’s considered as taboos and harmful child delivery practices, burning body parts to heal certain ailments, etc which contravene the fundamental human rights and freedoms.  

Most of these practices are of course prevalent in all regions of the country in varying degree, and widely practiced among various ethnic groups for a long period of time. As sometimes deeply rooted in the social fabric of groups; these practices have continued to exist despite the adoption of a legal framework to prohibit them. This could not but call for bringing the issue to the attention of all concerned particularly the communities who practiced them.

It was with this in mind that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), as part of its constitutional obligation; has recently launched a community conversation program in Omo Zone of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) of Ethiopia where most of the above mentioned traditional mal practices have been pervasively practiced as they are deeply embedded in the day to day activities of the society. The said Zone has been selected for being a home for more than 15 different ethnic groups which make the fight against HTP more challenging than in other areas, and for the fact that there have been some agonizing practices such as mingi which are peculiar to the area that needs urgent intervention.

During the first round of the community conversation that took place in Jinka town from 28th- 29th of October, 2011, present were some 160 participants drawn from all the 16 community leaders of the ethnic groups in the Zone. Elders, religious leaders, renowned individuals, representatives of zonal and district administrative organs, and other concerned bodies had taken part in the conversation In order to sensitize them to the widespread HTP in the Zone and its impact from human rights viewpoint. To such an effect a paper on the impact of HTP on fundamental human rights and freedoms was presented. In addition, two documentary films portraying the grave consequences of HTP were also shown.

Recognizing the severity of the practices, participants had finally agreed to make concerted effort to do away with any of the HTP that they identified in their localities as practices harmful to human rights.

One of the participants; Moloka wubneh, vice head of the South Omo Zone Administration stressed on the occasion that educating the public in general and the victims such as women in particular was crucial and launching such a program was imperative. He further stressed the need for establishing a mechanism that coordinates the fight against HTP and reaffirmed the commitment of his Zone’s administration to facilitate such an initiative. 

 

              Participants of the two round community conversation

During this second round of the community conversation (14th of November, 2011) it was agreed to establish a formal and responsible body commissioned to coordinate efforts in the elimination of any traditional practices that violate human rights. As a result,  a committee that runs all the way from regional administration to kebele (lowest administrative tier), and composed of religious leaders, representatives of victims of any form of HTPs, justice bodies, community leaders, head of administrative organs at all levels and some prominent individuals was formed. On top of this, the Committee will also be responsible for identifying and bringing up any case related to HTP before court of law.

The Committee, which was said to be chaired by the EHRC of Hawassa branch with the follow- up of the Head Office, will be in charge of acting on the prevention of HTP identified as and accepted by participants as human rights violators during the two round community conversation. The Commission will also facilitate a series of   such community discussions at village level in the region.

Finally, participants of the conversation adopted a-six-point position statement which reaffirms their commitment to thwart all HTPs identified in the Zone. The Speaker of the SNNPRS Nationalities Council, Hon. Lemma Guzume, has said his office was enthused to collaborate with the Committee particularly in the efforts to educate the public on the adverse impacts of HTPs and bring perpetrators to court of law by resorting to established legal framework.


 

         Hon. Lemma Guzume, addressing on the occasion

Ambassador Teruneh Zenna; Chief Commissioner of the EHRC; having appreciated the enthusiasm of the regional authorities and the participants to combat any practice that violates the human rights, noted on the occasion that his Commission will continue working in the promotion of human rights in the area which it had started with civic organization of the region about a year ago.  


Ambassador Teruneh Zenna, Speaking at the second round discussion   

  
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EHRC Celebrates 63rd Human Rights Day

In the past it was in Awassa and Addis Ababa. This time it is in Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray Regional National State. The idea of celebrating for the 6th time the International Human Rights Day in Mekelle is to provide continuity to the celebration of the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Day observed in the same city the previous day. The Conviction is that these two Days have been inseparables, in fact interdependent; much as civil and political rights and economic, cultural, and social rights are.

The day was marked under the theme “Dignity for All” to convey the message that every human being irrespective of its differences in whatever manner is entitled to dignity, to equal opportunity and treatment before the law and respect by virtue of being a human being.  

In the morning session, it was a marching ceremony and the conveyance of messages of national and international organizations. The former was attended by some one thousand participants drawn from the federal and regional government organs and including various justice bodies, members of diplomatic community, representatives of various international organizations and CSOs, religious leaders, residents of the town, and community members of Mekelle University accompanied with tunes of a brace band.

 

On the marching ceremony

By way of concluding the morning session, Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Teruneh Zenna, have noted that the celebration was made to take place in Mekelle in order to emphasize that group and individual rights particularly in the Ethiopian context are the ones without which the other is hardly possible to realize. The message of the UN Secretary- General, Ban Ki-moon’s for the year 2011 has also been conveyed by Mr. David Amozuafo, UNDP-DIP Manager. In his massage in connection with the day, Ban Ki- moon said, “Human rights belong to every one of us without exception. But unless we know them, unless we demand they be respected, and unless we defend our right… and the rights of others…to exercise them, they will be just words in a decades old document.” He further noted, “That is why on Human Rights Day, we do more than celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948- we acknowledge its enduring relevance for our own times.” 

 

 

                        

Religious leaders conveying their message

Leaders of three different religions from Jimma zone have also stressed the need for religious tolerance and pluralism in order to live together in peace and love which they believed were the building blocks for the respect of human rights and freedoms.  Meanwhile, W/ro Elsa Markos, Chairperson of the Association of Tigray Women with Disabilities, representing CSOs in the region,     conveyed a message particularly focusing on the role of civil society organizations in promoting and protecting human rights. 

 

 

W/ro Elsa Markos, representing CSOs

The afternoon program was slated for a national conference on the “Right of Access to Justice and the Provision of Legal Aid in Ethiopia” at Axum Hotel.  A paper on the said subject was presented by Dr. Memberetsehay Tadesse, Director of Ethiopian Legal and Justice Research Institute, which was followed by a discussion among the 200 conference attendants including federal and regional governments’ senior officials, religious leaders, academicians and heads of various CSOs. In his research paper, Dr. Memberetsehay indicated, the right of the people to be access to justice and legal aid is limited by, among other things, distance from justice bodies, financial problems, lack of legal aid by educated experts, inadequate information, and cultural barriers. He also mentioned solutions for those problems which include providing free legal aids to the indigents, enforcing the pro bono service proclamation, expanding free legal aid centers, and law schools and training institutions.

 

 

Ambassador Terune Zenna, addressing the conference

For lack of resources, there has been a noticeable number of citizens who cannot get access to justice which is central to human rights, said Chief Commissioner of EHRC, Ambassador Teruneh Zenna on the occasion, indicating the national conference was meant to look for ways of reaching out to the needy. He also noted that despite the fact that the Commission has been able to open more than one hundred free legal aid centers across the country jointly with universities and other civil society organizations, there was the need for more such actions in the future. 

 

Hon. Shitaye Minale speaking on the occassion

Deputy Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, Shitaye Minale having reminded that Ethiopia has ratified various international human rights documents; made them part of the country’s constitution and put in place various institutions for their enforcement said that there was still a need for more actions.

 

Participants of the conference

On the same day, all branch offices of the Commission have also celebrated the Day in marching ceremony and panel discussions with the purpose of promoting the mandates and responsibilities of the Commission and raising human rights awareness in their respective regions through various promotional methods. The Chief Commissioner also conveyed via SMS text message: “Dignity for All” to more than 11 million mobile phone users. Ten billboards, four in various places in the capital city, and six of them at each branch offices across the country bearing the national theme for the Day had also been installed.

 

 

 

Report on an investigation into the alleged killing of a candidate from arena, an opposition political party, by an agent of the ruling party

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has established through its thorough investigation that Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, a member of the Arena party and a candidate who was running for the 4th Ethiopian national elections, was killed by a customer in a small hotel owned by the victim over a purely private dispute.

The investigation revealed that Aregawi was stabbed to death in his hotel on February 4th, 2010, around 3 a.m. by Tsege Birhane, a daily worker and a customer of the hotel, following a brawl over the settlement of the bill for the bottles of beer the latter had imbibed.

1.     Introduction

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is mandated by its constituting proclamation to promote human rights, to prevent the infringement of human rights, and to help redress any violation of human rights by conducting, on its own initiatives or on the basis of complaints submitted to it, investigations into these matters across the length and breadth of the country.

2.     Objective

The decision to send a team to carry out an investigation into the alleged political motive of the killing came after the Commission took cognizance of the fact that, without interfering in the judicial trial of the case, the human rights aspects of the killing of the candidate, Ato Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, fell within its legitimate jurisdiction – no less so than by assisting a peaceful and democratic process of the impending elections.

The investigating team was set up shortly after the Commission had learnt that a leader of the Arena party, an opposition party whose members are running for the for the 4th national elections, disclosed on Deutsche Welle that one of its candidates, Ato Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, had been killed by a member of the ruling party.

The objective of the investigating team was not to establish the fact that Ato Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes was stabbed to death by Ato Tsege Birhane. Nor was it to see for itself that the trial of the culprit was fair or not. It was, however, to investigate whether there was any grain of truth in the hypothesis that the murder was instigated by the ruling party and whether this heinous act had any political motive behind it.

3.     Methodology

The methodology used to carry out investigations into the alleged political motive of the murder was interviewing eye-witnesses, close relatives and neighbours of the victim, officials of the regional electoral board, members and leaders of Arena, police officers of the region and analysing documents relevant to the matter in hand, including statements made to the team.

4.     The Findings

Having interviewed the head of the region’s electoral board, the head of the public relations office of the Arena political party, the head of the region’s police and justice departments, the Shire zone head of police and administrative  affairs, the police officers of Asegede Tsimbela and the head of its sub-district, the prosecutor of the sub-district of Asegede Tsimbela, a neighbour of the victim, a nephew of the victim, the elder brother of the victim, the accomplice of the culprit and the culprit himself, as well as examining the relevant documents, the investigating team had arrived at the following facts of the matter.

1.     Ato Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, the victim, was, indeed, a candidate representing the Arena party, registered in the constituency of the central zone of Tigray, and was to run for the House of Peoples’ Representatives.

2.     Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, was stabbed to death in a small town known as Asegede Tsimbela, in Shire, in the western zone of Tigray, in his own hotel by Tsege Birhane.

3.     Tsege Birhane, the culprit, was a deportee from Saudi Arabia who, as a daily worker, came to pan there for gold in the crude old manner.

4.     The circumstance that led to the demise of Aregawi was that his nephew, who runs the hotel, had come in and woken him up on 14th February, 2010, around 3 a.m., informing him that Tsege Birhane and other customers were to leave  without settling the bill for the bottled of beer they had imbibed.

5.     Aregawi then entered the drinking joint and requested Tsege Birhane to settle his bill. But the latter refused to do so by saying that he was to pay for the drinks not to him but to the waiter who had served him.

6.     In an apparent fit of anger, Aregawi then clobbered Tsege on the head with a stick, and, in retaliation, the latter stabbed the former in the belly and thigh.

7.     The culprit was neither a member of the ruling party nor a resident of the locality.

8.     Both the culprit and his victim had never known each other before. This is to say that the killing of the parliamentary candidate of Arena was not a premeditated act of violence ending in an unfortunate instance of bloodshed giving rise to idle but poisonous political speculations.

March 2010

 Less Recent News

DIGNITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL OF US, MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE

Background to the UDHR

The UDHR: The Foundation of International Human Rights Law and for Our Common FutureOver the years, the commitment to human rights has been translated into law, whether in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles, regional agreements and domestic law, through which human rights are expressed and guaranteed. Indeed, the UDHR has inspired more than 80 international human rights treaties and declarations, a great number of regional human rights conventions, domestic human rights bills, and constitutional provisions, which together constitute a comprehensive legally binding system for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The People behind the vision: UDHR Drafting Committee

The Commission on Human Rights was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. It met for the first time in 1947 Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR drafting committee. With her were René Cassin of France, who composed the first draft of the Declaration, the Committee Rapporteur Charles Malik of Lebanon, Vice-Chairman Peng Chung Chang of China, and John Humphrey of Canada, Director of the United Nations Human Rights Division, who prepared the Declaration’s blueprint. The final draft by Cassin was handed to the Commission on Human Rights, which was being held in Geneva. The draft declaration sent out to all UN member States for comments became known as the Geneva draft. The first draft of the Declaration was proposed in September 1948 with over 50 Member States participating in the final drafting. By its resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with eight nations abstaining from the vote but none dissenting.

The entire text of the UDHR was composed in less than two years. At a time when the world was divided into Eastern and Western blocks, finding a common ground on what should make the essence of the document proved to be a colossal task.

Universality

It was the UDHR that first recognized what have become nowadays universal values: human rights are inherent to all and the concern of the whole of the international community. The Declaration and its core values, including non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality, apply to everyone, everywhere and always. The UDHR belongs to all of us including African women, men, children, youths, elderly; those with living HIV and AIDS and persons with disabilities as well the rural and city-dwellers.

More than ever, in a world threatened by racial, economic and religious divides, we must defend and proclaim the universal principles - first enshrined in the UDHR - of justice, fairness and equality that people across all boundaries hold so deeply.

The core principles of human rights first set out in the UDHR, such as universality, interdependence and indivisibility, equality and non-discrimination are crucial in achieving justice. Non-discrimination, for example, has become one of the cross-cutting principles in human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human rights treaties and provides the central theme of some of them such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Enduring Relevance

Human rights are not only a common inheritance of universal values that transcend cultures and traditions. We should, through practice, laws and costumes make them the local and cultural values of our modern societies, in order for them to become nationally-owned commitments grounded in international treaties and national constitutions and laws.

Ongoing struggle

The UDHR aims to protect all of us, and it also enshrines the gamut of human rights. The drafters of the UDHR saw a future of freedom from fear, but also of freedom from want and ignorance. They put all human rights on an equal footing and confirmed human rights are all essential to a life of dignity.

The UDHR drafters’ vision has inspired many human rights defenders like you and me who have struggled over the last six decades to make that vision a reality. The contemporary international human rights edifice that originates in the UDHR is to be celebrated. But it has yet to benefit all of humanity equally, especially women; and in particular the women of Africa.

The struggle is far from over. As the Declaration’s custodians and beneficiaries, all of us must reclaim the UDHR, make it our own, and it has to do with both our rights and our responsibilities. While we are entitled to our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others and help make universal human rights a reality for all of us. In our efforts lies the power of the UHDR: it is a living document that will continue to inspire generations to come.

Dignity

The UDHR demands meeting basic human needs and recognizes the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, and freedom of expression; or economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education. The improvement of one right contributes to the advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others. The entitlement to and fulfilment of all human rights are essential to a life of dignity.

The Declaration’s enduring relevance is more compelling still when we listen to the voices of people at the grassroots level. When the World Bank conducted its “Voices of the Poor” surveys in the late 1990s, interviewing over 80,000 people in villages and local communities on their values, needs and strongest aspirations, the results read like the list of everyday rights in the UDHR.

Justice

The UDHR declares in its preamble that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” It was the first, and remains the foremost, statement of the rights and freedoms of all of us as human beings, without distinction of any kind.

All of Us

The UDHR belongs to all of us. No matter where you live, how much money you have, what faith you practice or political views you hold, all the human rights in the UDHR apply to you and have everything to do with you.

Dignity and Justice for All of Us

Human Rights Research & Resource Center

DIGNITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL OF US, MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE


Background to the UDHR

The UDHR: The Foundation of International Human Rights Law and for Our Common Future
Over the years, the commitment to human rights has been translated into law, whether in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles, regional agreements and domestic law, through which human rights are expressed and guaranteed. Indeed, the UDHR has inspired more than 80 international human rights treaties and declarations, a great number of regional human rights conventions, domestic human rights bills, and constitutional provisions, which together constitute a comprehensive legally binding system for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The People behind the vision: UDHR Drafting Committee

The Commission on Human Rights was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. It met for the first time in 1947 Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR drafting committee. With her were René Cassin of France, who composed the first draft of the Declaration, the Committee Rapporteur Charles Malik of Lebanon, Vice-Chairman Peng Chung Chang of China, and John Humphrey of Canada, Director of the United Nations Human Rights Division, who prepared the Declaration’s blueprint. The final draft by Cassin was handed to the Commission on Human Rights, which was being held in Geneva. The draft declaration sent out to all UN member States for comments became known as the Geneva draft. The first draft of the Declaration was proposed in September 1948 with over 50 Member States participating in the final drafting. By its resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with eight nations abstaining from the vote but none dissenting.
 
The entire text of the UDHR was composed in less than two years. At a time when the world was divided into Eastern and Western blocks, finding a common ground on what should make the essence of the document proved to be a colossal task.
 
Universality
It was the UDHR that first recognized what have become nowadays universal values: human rights are inherent to all and the concern of the whole of the international community. The Declaration and its core values, including non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality, apply to everyone, everywhere and always. The UDHR belongs to all of us including African women, men, children, youths, elderly; those with living HIV and AIDS and persons with disabilities as well the rural and city-dwellers.
 
More than ever, in a world threatened by racial, economic and religious divides, we must defend and proclaim the universal principles - first enshrined in the UDHR - of justice, fairness and equality that people across all boundaries hold so deeply.
 
The core principles of human rights first set out in the UDHR, such as universality, interdependence and indivisibility, equality and non-discrimination are crucial in achieving justice. Non-discrimination, for example, has become one of the cross-cutting principles in human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human rights treaties and provides the central theme of some of them such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Enduring Relevance
Human rights are not only a common inheritance of universal values that transcend cultures and traditions. We should, through practice, laws and costumes make them the local and cultural values of our modern societies, in order for them to become nationally-owned commitments grounded in international treaties and national constitutions and laws.
Ongoing struggle
The UDHR aims to protect all of us, and it also enshrines the gamut of human rights. The drafters of the UDHR saw a future of freedom from fear, but also of freedom from want and ignorance. They put all human rights on an equal footing and confirmed human rights are all essential to a life of dignity.

The UDHR drafters’ vision has inspired many human rights defenders like you and me who have struggled over the last six decades to make that vision a reality. The contemporary international human rights edifice that originates in the UDHR is to be celebrated. But it has yet to benefit all of humanity equally, especially women; and in particular the women of Africa.
 
The struggle is far from over. As the Declaration’s custodians and beneficiaries, all of us must reclaim the UDHR, make it our own, and it has to do with both our rights and our responsibilities. While we are entitled to our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others and help make universal human rights a reality for all of us. In our efforts lies the power of the UHDR: it is a living document that will continue to inspire generations to come.

Dignity

The UDHR demands meeting basic human needs and recognizes the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, and freedom of expression; or economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education. The improvement of one right contributes to the advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others. The entitlement to and fulfilment of all human rights are essential to a life of dignity.
 
The Declaration’s enduring relevance is more compelling still when we listen to the voices of people at the grassroots level. When the World Bank conducted its “Voices of the Poor” surveys in the late 1990s, interviewing over 80,000 people in villages and local communities on their values, needs and strongest aspirations, the results read like the list of everyday rights in the UDHR.
 
Justice
The UDHR declares in its preamble that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” It was the first, and remains the foremost, statement of the rights and freedoms of all of us as human beings, without distinction of any kind.
All of Us

The UDHR belongs to all of us. No matter where you live, how much money you have, what faith you practice or political views you hold, all the human rights in the UDHR apply to you and have everything to do with you.

Dignity and Justice for All of Us

  

 

Report on an investigation into the alleged killing of a candidate from arena, an opposition political party, by an agent of the ruling party

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has established through its thorough investigation that Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, a member of the Arena party and a candidate who was running for the 4th Ethiopian national elections, was killed by a customer in a small hotel owned by the victim over a purely private dispute.

The investigation revealed that Aregawi was stabbed to death in his hotel on February 4th, 2010, around 3 a.m. by Tsege Birhane, a daily worker and a customer of the hotel, following a brawl over the settlement of the bill for the bottles of beer the latter had imbibed.

 

(Please find attached herewith the full text of the Amharic and abridged English versions of the investigation into the bloody fracas.)

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March 2010

  
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Human Rights for All!

International Human Rights Day

December 10, 2012

The International Human Rights Day is celebrated accross the World on Decemeber 10. This year, the Human Rights Day is celebrated in Ethiopia under the theme "Human Rights for All". The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has organized a half day Panel Discussion on the Human Rights day. The Panel Discussion will comprise of a plenary session where all relevant partners from governmental organizations, national institutions, the civil society, international community and academic institutions come together. A brief presentation will be made on the Commission's "Human Rights Protection Monitoring in Ethiopian Prison Report" for discussion. The overall objective of the discussion is to launch the aforesaid primary report. The panel discussion will be held on December 10, 2012 at 2:30PM at the compound of West Gojam Prinsons Administration, Bahir Dar.