Ethiopia : New Jersey congressman Chris Smith initiated and submitted HR 861

President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. Source – Wikipedia

September 13,2016

Toronto – New Jersey congressman initiated and submitted HR 861 – “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.” The resolution is submitted to Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Congress.

From the document released on Congress website, Congressman Chris Smith submitted HR 861 resolution on behalf of Congressmen Ellison (Minnesota), Congressman Al Green (Texas), Congressman Michael Coffman (Colorado)and Congressman Eliot Engel (New York)

Citing Department of State report on HR practices for Ethiopia, the bill noted what it called serious human rights violations including killings and torture by security fores and restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Furthermore, Bill HR 861 specifically made references to killings of protesters in Amhara and Oromia regions of Ethiopia, state sponsored violence in the country and painted criminal courts in Ethiopia as “weak, overburdened and subject to political influence” with a will to accept confessions under duress.

In light of documented human rights violations, many of which are stated above, HR 861 condemned killings of peaceful protesters, what it called as “excessive use of force” and the use of “anti-terrorism” legislation for purposes of stifling political and civil dissent.

In terms of actions, HR861 identified seven action areas for different parties. Regime in Ethiopia is demanded to end “killing of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces” – among other things. In terms of actors in the non-for profit sector, the bill called for USAID to undertake program review in a way to develop comprehensive strategy to support democracy ( in Ethiopia). Finally, for the House of Representatives to stand by the people of Ethiopia to exercise rights guaranteed by the constitution of Ethiopia in their peaceful pursuit of democracy.

While the proposed Bill makes numerous good points as it relates of human rights violations and repression by the regime in power, it still employed some ambiguous and equivocal expressions and wordings. For example, just to mention one, it “urges protesters in Ethiopia to refrain from violence” which implies that there was one during the peaceful protest in Amhara and Oromia regions which in turn seem to uphold the narratives of the regime in power. Besides the Bill seem to envisage continuation of the regime that live for well over 25 years now and implies democratic space as opposed to change. Good thing about it is that, if it passed, and if Ethiopians get a chance to exercise constitutional rights, an end to the regime that has consumed Ethiopia under unprecedented repression is sure to thing to happen, forsee some activists.

Full version of the document is available HERE

Written by Dimetros Birku. Can be reached on twitter : @dimetros

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