Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.
Ethiopia continued its transition
from a unitary to a federal system of government. Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi leads the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic
of Ethiopia (GFDRE), which was elected in 1995 to replace a transitional
government established in the aftermath of a long and brutal civil
war. Most opposition groups boycotted the elections, and candidates
affiliated with the dominant party within the transitional government,
the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF),
won a landslide victory in national and regional elections. Although
observers judged the elections to be generally free and fair,
they cited irregularities. The principal faction within the EPRDF
remains Prime Minister Meles' Tigray Peoples' Liberation Front
(TPLF). The judiciary is weak and overburdened, but continued
to show signs of independence.
Federal regions, largely organized
along ethnic lines, are increasingly autonomous, having greater
local control over fiscal and political issues. However, the
relationship between the central Government and local officials,
and among various judiciaries, has not yet been finalized. A
history of highly centralized authority, great poverty, civil
conflict, and unfamiliarity with democratic concepts combine to
complicate the implementation of federalism. The Federal Government
has considerable difficulty in protecting constitutional rights
at the local level, especially when local authorities are unwilling
or unable to do so. Local administrative, police, and judicial
systems remain weak in many regions.
Responsibility for internal security
continued to shift from the military forces to the police and
local militia in most regions. Military forces conducted low-level
operations against the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the Somalia-based
Al'ittihad terrorist organization, and elements of the Ogaden
National Liberation Front (ONLF), although there was less of this
activity than in 1997. In response to the movement of Eritrean
forces into territory previously administered by Ethiopia and
the resulting outbreak of hostilities, the military forces engaged
in hostilities with the Eritrean armed forces. The national police
organization is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. Some
local officials and members of the security forces committed human
The economy is based on smallholder
agriculture, with more than 85 percent of the estimated population
of almost 61.7 million living in rural areas under very poor conditions.
Per capita gross national product is estimated at $125 (875 birr).
Real economic growth in 1998 was 6 percent. Coffee accounts
for about 60 percent of export revenues. The Government continued
to implement an internationally supported economic reform program
designed to liberalize the economy, attract foreign investment,
and bring state expenditures into balance with revenues.
Serious problems still remain in
the Government's human rights practices; although the Government
made efforts to improve its record in a few areas, its record
worsened significantly in others. Security forces sometimes beat
or mistreated detainees, and arbitrarily arrested and detained
citizens. These problems persisted despite government efforts
to improve the security forces' human rights practices through
increased training. Prisons are seriously overcrowded, and prolonged
pretrial detention remains a problem. Crackdowns early in the
year on suspected OLF activists resulted in the detention of approximately
100 Oromos who were held incommunicado for several days for allegedly
assisting OLF activities. In response to the movement of Eritrean
forces into territory previously administered by Ethiopia and
the resulting outbreak of hostilities, the Government abrogated
due process and detained and deported Eritreans and Ethiopian
citizens of Eritrean origin. By year's end, a total of 45,000
such persons of an estimated total population of up to 400,000
had left Ethiopia for Eritrea; the vast majority were deported,
although a small number left the country voluntarily to join family
members who were deported. Although prompted by national security
considerations, the sudden expulsions raised fundamental concerns
regarding arbitrary arrest and detention, forced exile, the forcible
separation of families, nationality issues, and the hardship and
financial losses suffered by those who were detained or expelled.
The judiciary lacks sufficient staff and funds, which limits
its ability to provide citizens with the full protection provided
for in the Constitution. In response, the Government sought to
strengthen the judiciary; it trained additional civil and criminal
judges and assigned them to regional courts and dismissed many
others in an effort to eliminate judicial malfeasance. The Supreme
Court introduced new rules, applicable to the entire court system,
to limit the practice of carrying over cases from one session
to the next, thereby speeding up the provision of justice. In
a significant action, the Government released All Amhara People's
Organization (AAPO) Chairman Dr. Asrat Woldeyes in December.
Asrat was permitted to travel abroad for medical treatment. The
Federal Prosecutor's Office suspended pending charges of treason
against Asrat. The Government infringes on citizen's privacy
rights. The law regarding search warrants is widely ignored.
The Government restricts freedom
of the press and continued to detain or imprison journalists.
The number of journalists detained or imprisoned on any given
date fluctuated from a high of 22 to a low of 13 at year's end.
Most were accused or convicted of inciting ethnic hatred, committing
libel, or publishing false information in violation of the 1992
Press Law. Some journalists continued to practice self-censorship.
Nevertheless, the private press is very active and often critical
of the Government. Although the Government has not banned any
newspaper or publication, the publication of some newspapers was
suspended temporarily by the arrest or detention of editorial
staff. On at least one occasion the Government limited freedom
of assembly. While freedom of association increased, the Government
still imposes limits on this right. The registration process
for nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) is slow and tedious,
but measurably improved during the year. Many NGO's that had
long been unsuccessful in their efforts to register were registered
in 1998. Nevertheless, the Government continues to refuse the
registration of some NGO's. On at least one occasion local authorities
interfered with religious freedom. The Government restricted
freedom of movement. Societal discrimination and violence against
women and abuse of children remained problems; female genital
mutilation is widespread despite active government support for
groups opposed to the practice. There were instances in which
young girls were sold and forced to work as prostitutes. Societal
discrimination against disabled persons is a problem. Ethnic
conflicts and the fighting with Eritrea displaced a large number
of persons. Child labor is a problem.
The Government's Special Prosecutor's
Office (SPO) continued conducting the trials of persons accused
of committing crimes under the brutal Marxist regime (1974-91)
of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Charges have been brought against
5,198 persons. Many of those accused were held in detention for
more than 6 years without formal charge. All have now been indicted
and arraigned, and the testimony of victims continues to be heard
in open court. However, more than half of those accused were
not in custody and were charged in absentia.
In May the Government took a step
towards carrying out the constitutional requirement to establish
a human rights commission and office of the ombudsman by convening
an international conference for this purpose.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity
of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial
There were no confirmed reports of
extrajudicial killings by government security forces, although
there were unconfirmed reports from the Oromiya region. Violent
encounters between police and armed opposition groups decreased
significantly in 1998.
As the result of a border conflict
that began in June, Eritrea and Ethiopia exchanged artillery fire
and engaged in air attacks that led to numerous civilian casualties.
In June Ethiopian forces bombed the Asmara airport in Eritrea,
killing one Eritrean civilian.
In late August and early September,
50 children died in a refugee camp due to a lack of medical treatment
(see Section 2.d.). In December police shot and killed a prisoner
when he attempted to escape.
An investigation into the 1997 death
of teacher Wako Tola while in police custody revealed that he
died of kidney disease. There has been no investigation into
the 1997 deaths of three men suspected in an OLF attack, but the
Government stated that the three men died in a shoot-out with
police. The November 1997 arrests of three confessed OLF terrorists
for deadly bomb attacks against the Tigray hotel and the Blue
Tops restaurant in Addis Ababa and the Mekonnen hotel in Dire
Dawa in which several persons were killed were followed by arrests
of groups of individuals allegedly involved in planning the attacks.
In November 1997, the Federal Police arrested 17 alleged supporters
of the OLF. A total of 31 Oromo activists and suspected OLF members
were arraigned on various terrorist and weapons' possession charges
in December 1997.
In 1997 the Federal High Court in
Addis Ababa began the arraignment and prosecution of 5,198 persons
formally charged with genocide and other war crimes, including
extrajudicial killings, under the previous regime. For example,
in January the SPO charged Major Melaku Tefera, former administrator
of Gondar province, with genocide and crimes against humanity
involving the mass slaughter of 1,000 persons during the 1977-78
Red Terror campaign. A state prosecutor told the court that Melaku
"had killed or ordered the killing of 691 opposition members.
He also was charged with "exterminating 411 persons for
minor offenses, including theft." Of the 5,198 persons charged,
2,246 were in detention, while the remaining 2,952 were charged
in absentia. At year's end, witnesses were being heard and evidence
taken in the ongoing trials.
Banditry remained a serious problem
in a few parts of the country. Bandits, often heavily armed,
killed civilians, police and soldiers during robberies and attempted
robberies. Most evidence suggests that their motives were primarily
In June Eritrean forces bombed the
Ethiopian town of Mekele and killed 47 civilians, including children.
In June and again in November, Eritrean forces fired artillery
shells at the Ethiopian town of Adrigat, killing six persons and
wounding several others.
There were no confirmed reports of
disappearances perpetrated by the Government. The Ethiopian Teachers
Association claims that five of its members disappeared; however,
the claim is difficult to substantiate.
In 1997 the Federal High Court in
Addis Ababa began the arraignment and prosecution of 5,198 persons
charged with genocide and other war crimes under the previous
regime, including the disappearance of 14, 209 persons. Of the
5198 persons charged, 2,246 were in detention, while the remaining
2,952 were charged in absentia. At year's end, witnesses were
being heard and evidence taken in the ongoing trials.
Several disappearances during the
year were attributed to terrorist organizations. In March the
ONLF claimed responsibility for the kidnaping of a foreign tourist,
who was held for several days before being released. In June
six unknown persons kidnaped employees of the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) who were working in the Ogaden region.
They were released in July.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman,
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits the use
of torture and mistreatment of prisoners; however, there were
numerous credible reports that security officials sometimes beat
or mistreated detainees. There were reports that the president
of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association, Dr. Taye Woldesemayat,
was kept handcuffed in his cell for long periods and denied access
to adequate medical care. Tesfaye Deressa and Solomon Nemera
of the private newspaper Urjii reportedly were beaten, and there
were unconfirmed reports that Nemera also was handcuffed for long
periods. Government media published occasional reports of officials
who were jailed or dismissed for abuse of authority and violations
of human rights. The Government stated that it would improve
its human rights record and continued to remove and jail corrupt
or abusive officials. The Government enlisted donors to provide
additional police training to combat this problem.
Prison overcrowding remains a serious
problem. Prisoners often are allocated less than 21.5 square
feet of sleeping space in a room that may contain up to 200 persons,
and some prisoners must sleep outdoors. Prison food is adequate,
but prison conditions are unsanitary and access to medical care
is not reliable. Prisoners typically are permitted daily access
to prison yards, which often included working farms, mechanics'
shops, etc. Visitors are permitted, and many prisoners receive
regular deliveries of food and other supplies from family members.
Prison letters all must be written in Amharic, making outside
contact difficult for non-Amharic speakers; however, this restriction
is not enforced. Female prisoners are housed separately from
men, and rape does not appear to be a problem.
Approximately 1,200 civilian residents
of Eritrean origin and 166 prisoners of war captured in fighting
between Ethiopia and Eritrea were housed first at a military camp
in Fiche, 2 hours from the capital, and then at Bilate camp, some
6 hours south of Addis Ababa (see Section 1.d.). The Government
allowed the ICRC access to the detainees on a regular basis.
Once the detainees were moved to the Bilate camp, the Government
also permitted foreign diplomatic observers to visit and to speak
with the prisoners. While conditions generally were described
as Spartan but adequate, an international team of observers that
visited Bilate camp in July found that there was not enough food,
that many persons slept without blankets or mats, that medical
care was rudimentary, and that sanitation was poor. According
to international observers, conditions at Bilate improved as the
year progressed. There were credible reports that detainees received
physical punishment for infractions of camp rules. There was
an unverified report from a student who claimed to have been detained
at the Fiche camp and stated that abuse of detainees is routine
and that detainees are beaten after they talk to ICRC officials.
In late August and early September, 50 children died in a refugee
camp due to a lack of medical treatment (see Section 2.d.).
The army sometimes used military
camps for the temporary detention and interrogation of OLF fighters
and alleged OLF supporters. These camps are located near Goba
in Bale zone, Oromiya.
The Government permits independent
monitoring of prison conditions, military camps, and police stations
by the ICRC and sometimes by diplomatic missions. The ICRC had
routine access to regional prisons, civilian detention facilities,
and police stations throughout the country, although the Government
did not grant the ICRC permission to visit federal prisons on
a regular basis. The ICRC has restricted access to military detention
facilities in eastern Ethiopia, where suspected OLF fighters are
There were frequent diplomatic visits
to some prominent detainees held by the SPO for alleged war crimes,
or for allegedly plotting violent insurrection, including former
Derg housing ministry official and governor of Sidamo, Abera Yemane-Ab,
1968 Olympic marathon winner Mamo Wolde, former Addis Ababa University
President Dr. Alemayehu Tefera, Ethiopian Teachers' Association
(ETA) secretary general Dr. Taye Woldesemayat, editor-in-chief
of Uriji newspaper Tesfaye Deressa, and AAPO founder and personal
physician to two former heads of state, Professor Asrat Woldeyes.
None of the six reported abuse while in prison, although other
prisoners reportedly were beaten. International observers, among
them a delegation from the European Parliament, also were granted
access to prisoners.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or
The Constitution and both the Criminal
and Civil Codes prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the
Government does not always respect these rights in practice.
Under the Criminal Procedure Code,
any person detained must be charged and informed of the charges
within 48 hours and, in most cases, be offered release on bail.
Those persons believed to have committed serious offenses may
be detained for 15 days while police conduct an investigation,
and for additional 15-day periods while the investigation continues.
Some offenses, such as murder and treason, are not bailable.
In practice, and especially in the outlying regions, authorities
often detain persons without a warrant, frequently do not charge
them within 48 hours, and--if persons are released on bail--never
recall them to court. Over 10,000 criminal suspects remained
in detention without charge, most of whom were accused of participating
in armed actions by the OLF or the ONLF. Often these lengthy
detentions are due to the severe shortage, and limited training
of judges, prosecutors, and attorneys, as well as to longstanding
Federal and regional authorities
arrested and detained more than 1,500 persons without charge or
trial for activities allegedly in support of armed opposition
groups. The vast majority of these incidents took place in the
Oromiya and Somali regional states. In typical cases, security
forces arrested and held these persons incommunicado for several
days or weeks before eventually releasing them. Observers report
that with the decrease of armed actions by opposition groups,
incidents of detention have declined, although more than 10,000
persons allegedly associated with armed opposition groups remain
in detention. Some 93 OLF fighters arrested in 1994 remain in
From February to April, 34 Oromos
were arrested, often without warrants, and held incommunicado.
Along with 31 Oromos arrested in November 1997, they were tried
in closed sessions for alleged terrorist activities. Their verdicts
still were pending at year's end. In April security forces sealed
the Oromo Human Rights League's office because of alleged connections
with the OLF, confiscated documents, and detained league member
and prominent local attorney Bekele Nadi for 2 days of questioning.
Bekele Nadi has not been detained subsequently.
Although the OLF is an illegal organization
due to its refusal to renounce violence and accept the Constitution,
simple membership is not necessarily cause for arrest. OLF members
travel abroad without hindrance. However, the Government draws
a distinction between the OLF rank-and-file membership and its
The authorities arrested five journalists
and editors associated with the opposition newspaper Urjii in
October and November 1997. The arrests of the journalists occurred
without warrants, and the detainees were held incommunicado for
up to a month. Four of the detainees, after being held for almost
4 months, were charged with involvement in terrorist activities
and violating the Press Law. They remained in detention at year's
end. One detainee was charged with violating the Press Law, but
was released on bail in December (see Section 2.a.). In January
the authorities detained four journalists from the influential
Amharic private newspaper Tobia and kept them in jail for 6 months.
In July authorities detained three journalists of the private
weekly Nishan for 2 months (see Section 2.a.).
In September three Ethiopian Teacher's
Association executive council members were detained without charge
for 2 months (see Section 2.a.). They were subsequently released.
Of the 5,198 persons charged with
genocide and other war crimes under the previous regime, some
had spent 6 years in pretrial detention (see Sections 1.a. and
In 1997 the SPO removed the parliamentary
immunity of two EPRDF Members of Parliament, arrested them, and
indicted them for war crimes. The Federal Sports Commissioner
was arrested because of his affiliation with the previous regime's
"reign of terror." Their trials, as well as the trials
of Olympic marathon champion Mamo Wolde and former Addis Ababa
University President Alemayehu Tefera, were ongoing at year's
end. The trial of Dr. Taye Woldesmayet, ETA president, began
in 1997 but was ongoing at year's end. Dr. Woldesmayet was indicted
for sedition for alleged involvement in an underground terrorist
Opposition groups allege that
some of the persons detained by the SPO, as well as some others,
are held for political reasons. The Government denies that it
holds persons for political reasons.
Approximately 1,200 civilian
residents of Eritrean origin and 85 Eritrean exchange students
were detained following the outbreak of hostilities between Ethiopia
and Eritrea. More than 50 of the students were subsequently released
and deported to Eritrea, but over 30 remained in detention at
year's end. The Government justified these detentions for reasons
of national security. A total of 166 prisoners of war captured
in fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea also were detained.
Exile is illegal, and the Constitution
provides that Ethiopian nationals shall not be deprived of their
nationality against their will. However, since the outbreak of
conflict with Eritrea, the Government had detained and deported
thousands of persons with links to Eritrea or of Eritrean origin
on national security grounds. The Government asserted that these
were not Ethiopian citizens, and had been involved in actions
detrimental to the security of Ethiopia. Moreover, many of these
persons had Ethiopian documentation. The Government actions raised
serious issues of due process, as there were no preliminary hearings
to determine the merits of the deportations, no right to counsel
was provided to detainees, and detainees had only a very circumscribed
opportunity to register protest. In addition, the issue of the
nationality of Eritrean-origin Ethiopians has never been settled
since the independence of Eritrea in 1993. Heads of households
were taken without warning, detained, and often deported via bus
within less than 48 hours, sometimes leaving behind children with
no family member to look after them. Remaining family members
were given arbitrary deadlines to sell property, and sometimes
were subjected to departure taxes based on estimated annual income
and unpaid balances on government bank loans. The Government
apparently attempted to intimidate persons of Eritrean background.
For example, in June the Government executed an Eritrean businessman,
Jamil Yasin Mohamed. While Mohamed was convicted of killing Major
General Hayelom Araya, the timing of this execution, the first
legal execution since 1991, was seen by many as a warning to Eritreans
in Ethiopia and a morale booster for the Ethiopian military.
Some Ethiopians of Eritrean origin, a number of whom had never
even been to Eritrea, attempted to leave Ethiopia by means other
than the deportation bus, but routinely were denied exit visas
and often had their Ethiopian passports confiscated. There were
reports that those deported included elderly persons and children.
By year's end, a total of 45,000 Eritreans and Ethiopian citizens
of Eritrean origin of an estimated population of up to 400,000
had left Ethiopia for Eritrea; the vast majority were deported,
although a small number left the country voluntarily to join family
members who were deported (see Section 2.d.).
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for
an independent judiciary; however, it is weak and overburdened.
Although the federal and regional courts continued to show signs
of judicial independence, in practice severe shortages of adequately
trained personnel in many regions, as well as serious financial
constraints, combine to deny most citizens the full protections
provided for in the Constitution.
Consistent with the Constitution,
the Government continued to decentralize and restructure the judiciary
along federal lines with the establishment of courts at the zonal
(county) and regional (state) levels. The federal High Court
and federal Supreme Court adjudicate cases involving federal law,
transregional issues, and national security and hear both original
and appeal cases. The regional judiciary is increasingly autonomous;
with district (Woreda), zonal, high, and supreme courts mirroring
the structure of the federal judiciary. The Government has delegated
some of the war crimes trials to the supreme courts in the regions
where the crimes allegedly were committed.
The Government continued a sweeping
overhaul of the military justice system. The Government relies
on foreign assistance to train officers and noncommissioned officers
in topics including judicial and nonjudicial punishment, human
rights, and the conduct of soldiers during military operations.
The Constitution provides that
persons arrested have the right to be released on bail. However,
in May regional authorities arrested the president and two Supreme
Court judges of the Gambella regional Supreme Court for defying
a regional government order to deny bail to former regional officials
charged with corruption. The judges subsequently were released
due to intervention from the Federal Government.
Authorities detained more than
1,500 persons without charge, especially in the Oromiya and Somali
regions, for supposed involvement with the OLF and the ONLF, but
ultimately released many without an appearance before a judge
(see Section 1.d.). Such cases often reflect arbitrary actions
on the part of local officials, but also result from an overburdened
and cumbersome judicial system marked by a shortage of trained
and competent prosecutors and judges.
Regional offices of the federal
Ministry of Justice monitor local judicial developments, but the
federal judicial presence in the regions is limited. Anecdotal
evidence suggests that some local officials interpret decentralization
to mean that they no longer are accountable to any higher authority,
even within their own regions. For example, there were reports
that police officers disregarded decisions of the federal Supreme
Court, and instances when police approached several judges until
they found one would issue an arrest warrant or remand a case
with little or no evidence.
To remedy the severe lack of
experienced staff in the judicial system, the Government continued
to identify and train lower court judges and prosecutors, although
officials acknowledge the pay scale offered must be increased
significantly to attract the required numbers of competent professionals.
Senior government officials charged with judicial oversight estimate
that the creation of a truly independent and skilled judicial
apparatus would take decades. The Government has welcomed foreign
financial and technical assistance to accelerate this process.
Pending passage by regional legislatures
of laws particular to their region, all judges are guided exclusively
by the federal procedural and substantive codes.
According to the Constitution,
accused persons have the right to a public trial by an ordinary
court of law within a reasonable time after having been charged.
Accused persons have the right to be represented by legal counsel
of their choice. In practice, however, lengthy pretrial detention
is common, closed proceedings occurred, and at times, detainees
were allowed little or no contact with their legal counsel. The
Public Defender's Office provides legal counsel to indigent defendants,
although its scope remains severely limited, especially with respect
to SPO trials. The law does not allow the defense access to prosecutorial
evidence before the trial.
The Constitution provides legal
standing to some preexisting religious and customary courts and
gives federal and regional legislatures the authority to recognize
other courts. By law, both parties to a dispute must agree before
a customary or religious court may hear a case. Shari'a (Islamic)
courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims.
In addition, some traditional courts still function. Although
not sanctioned by law, these courts resolve disputes for the majority
of citizens who live in rural areas and who generally have little
access to formal judicial systems.
The SPO was established in August 1992 to create an historical record of the abuses during the Mengistu government and to bring to justice those criminally responsible for human rights violations. The Federal High Court has considered the cases of 2,658 defendants accused of genocide, war crimes, and aggravated homicide. Trials began in 1994 and continue; however, the
3-year-long process is subject
to frequent and lengthy adjournments. Court-appointed attorneys,
sometimes with inadequate skills and experience, represent many
of the defendants, following claims that they could not afford
an adequate defense. The Government also is trying 2,952 persons
in absentia, including the former dictator colonel Mengistu Haile
Mariam, who is now in exile in Zimbabwe. All the defendants in
custody appeared before court in 1998. These cases were still
in progress at year's end, and no defendant had been released
on bail. Legal observers expect relatively few additional cases
to be brought, with many defendants charged and tried collectively
in each instance. On September 10, the Government announced the
release of 33 SPO defendants for lack of evidence.
On December 27, the Government
released AAPO chairman Professor Asrat Woldeyes, who was convicted
in 1994 of conspiracy and incitement to violence and sentenced
to 5 years' imprisonment, and permitted him to travel abroad for
medical treatment. The Federal Prosecutor's Office suspended
all pending charges against him. Asrat had been hospitalized
for diabetes, vision loss in his right eye, a recurring heart
condition, high blood pressure, and hypertension.
f. Arbitrary Interference with
Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law requires judicial search
warrants but, in practice, they seldom are obtained outside Addis
There were unconfirmed reports
that in certain rural areas local officials use threats of land
redistribution to enforce support for the ruling coalition.
Section 2 Respect for Civil
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution and the 1992
Press Law provide for the freedom of speech and of the press;
however, the Government used legal and other mechanisms to restrict
these rights in practice. The Government continued to prosecute
journalists and editors for publishing articles that violated
the Press Law, and some journalists practiced self-censorship.
Nonetheless, the private press was very active and often published
articles extremely critical of the Government.
The Government uses provisions
of the Press Law concerning publishing false information, inciting
ethnic hatred, and libel to justify the arrest of journalists.
The number of journalists detained or imprisoned on any given
date fluctuated from 13 to 22; at year's end, 13 journalists remained
In January the authorities detained four journalists from the influential Amharic private newspaper Tobia and kept them in jail for 6 months. Only one, the editor-in-chief, was charged. The authorities arrested five journalists and editors of the
Oromo-controlled private weekly
"Urjii" in October and December 1997 for allegedly abusing
their free speech rights. Four of the detainees, Urjii editors
Tesfaye Deressa, Solomon Nemera and Alemu Tolossa and publisher
Garomo Bekele, after being held for almost 4 months, were charged
with involvement in terrorist activities, and violations of the
Press Law. They remained in detention at year's end. One detainee,
Urjii Deputy Manager Waqshum Bacha, was charged with violations
of the Press Law, but was released on bail in December (see Section
2.a.). Authorities detained three journalists of the private
weekly Nishan in July, allegedly for an editorial that cautioned
against propaganda against Eritreans. All three were released
However, despite the threat of
legal action, the private press still is very active. Many private
newspapers continue to publish false information, unsubstantiated
stories, and harsh antigovernment articles without any official
sanction. The Government has not banned any newspaper or publication.
However, the newspapers Ethop, Wenchiff, and Tobia were forced
to interrupt their publication because of the arrest of the bulk
of their staff.
A major step by the Government
in providing access to information was the establishment of the
new Office of the Government Spokesperson soon after the conflict
with Eritrea broke out in June. The Spokesperson started distributing
press releases to the Ethiopian news agency, foreign embassies,
foreign news agencies, and other international organizations.
The Government continued to bar some private newspapers and news
organizations from attending government briefings and press conferences,
and most government officials still refuse to meet with private
Although most private newspapers
support the Government regarding the conflict with Eritrea, the
private press remains confrontational and continues to report
that government forces or regional officials commit human rights
abuses. Most private press accounts are unsubstantiated and extremely
difficult to verify.
Citizens are generally free to
discuss publicly any topic they choose. A number of groups critical
of the Government held press conferences and public meetings without
retribution. However, authorities disrupted an ETA seminar in
August by sealing ETA offices, although the meeting continued
unimpeded at another location. On September 17, reportedly acting
without a warrant, police ordered ETA acting general secretary
Shemelis Zewdie and two executive board members to open sealed
offices and surrender documents. When the three refused to cooperate,
they were detained for over 2 months.
Because of an 85 percent illiteracy rate and extreme poverty, only about 1 percent of citizens regularly read any newspaper or magazine, and citizens outside Addis Ababa have extremely limited access to the print media. About 34 weekly and 2 fortnightly newspapers appear regularly. Nearly all private newspapers as well as the state newspapers are printed at one of the
state-owned printing presses,
but there were no reports of problems printing any newspapers
Foreign journalists continued
to operate freely and often wrote articles critical of government
policies. They or their local affiliates were granted greater
access to government officials than were local journalists. In
January the Ministry of Information imposed new regulations requiring
foreign journalists to apply for visas 2 weeks before travel and
requiring work permits and evidence of training for foreign correspondents.
In response to criticism, the regulations were rescinded a month
While much of the private press
continues to lack professionalism in its reporting, some print
media are developing into more responsible publications. Others
are actually opposition newsletters that often purvey unsubstantiated
criticism of the Government. Several are tied to distinct ethnic
groups, especially Amhara and Oromo, yet severely criticize the
Government for being ethnocentric. Newspapers critical of government
leaders and their policies are widely available in the capital,
but scarce elsewhere.
Radio remains the most influential
medium in reaching those who live in rural areas. The Press Law
allows for private radio stations, but the only operating nongovernmental
radio stations are Radio Fana, a station controlled by the ruling
EPRDF coalition, and the Mekele Voice of Tigray. The Government
operates the sole television station. Ownership of private satellite
receiving dishes, facsimile machines, and modems is permitted.
Internet access is unrestricted, but private satellite transmission
uplinks are not allowed.
The official media, including
broadcast, wire service, and print media, are legally autonomous
and responsible for their own management and partial revenue generation,
although they continue to receive government subsidies. Government
reporters practice self-censorship but at times have questioned
official policies. The Government's press and information department
acts as an official spokesperson and implemented a 1996 information
policy, which guides contacts among government, the press, and
Academic freedom is respected.
In general, however, political activity is not encouraged on
university campuses. Despite government assurances that the Addis
Ababa University would not be affected by the conflict with Eritrea,
the institution dismissed nine Ethiopian academics of Eritrean
origin. In addition the authorities detained approximately 82
Eritrean exchange students early in the hostilities; some 30 of
the students remained in detention in Bilate on grounds that they
had received military training and would be conscripted into the
Eritrean army if released.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The Constitution provides for
the right of peaceful assembly; however, while the Government
generally permitted groups to assemble, on at least one occasion
it interfered with this right. In August authorities disrupted
an ETA seminar by sealing the association's offices (see Section
2.a.). Organizers of large public meetings or demonstrations
must notify the Government in advance and obtain a permit. Permits
appear to be granted routinely.
The Constitution provides for
freedom of association and the right to engage in unrestricted
peaceful political activity; however, the Government limits this
right in practice. The Government changed its procedures for
registration of NGO's in 1996, but a number of problems regarding
NGO's remain unresolved. The NGO registration process remains
slow and tedious, but improved during the year. Many NGO's that
had long been unsuccessful in their efforts were registered, including
the Action Professionals for the Advancement of People. Primary
registration responsibility rests with the Ministry of Justice
(MOJ), which conducted a public review of draft comprehensive
written procedures for NGO registration on September 24. The
Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), which the Government asserts
is primarily a political organization, has not been granted registration
as an NGO, yet operated freely. The Ethiopian Free Press Journalist's
Association also has experienced problems registering as an NGO.
Authorities closed the offices of the Oromo Human Rights League
(OHRL) in April, on the grounds that that some OHRL board members
wished to use the organization as a front for the OLF. Some members
of the OHRL were detained and questioned about OLF involvement
(see Section 1.d.). Board members denied any connection to the
OLF. The OHRL had been operating without a license, but it had
fulfilled the prerequisites for licensing and had been waiting
for over a year to get a license (see Section 1.d. and 4).
The Government requires political
parties to register with the National Election Board (NEB). Parties
that do not participate in two consecutive national elections
are subject to deregistration. There are about 60 organized political
parties. Of these, eight are national parties and the remainder
operate only in limited areas.
Opposition Council of Alternative
Forces for Peace and Democracy (CAFPD) official Dr. Beyene Petros
complained that local officials in the Southern Peoples' region
blocked CAFPD candidates from registering to compete in December
29, 1997 district elections. Although an investigation by the
NEB discounted many of these allegations, the federal Government
began a series of constitutional awareness conferences for local
officials. The opposition AAPO is registered with the NEB yet
its activists often complain that the Government restricts their
ability to campaign for popular support.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for
freedom of religion, including the right of conversion; although
the Government generally respects this right in practice, on occasion
local authorities disrupted religious services. There have been
instances of conflict among religious groups, most noticeably
between Orthodox Christians, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals.
In most interreligious disputes, the Government maintains neutrality
and tries to be an impartial arbitrator. However, in February,
despite generally good relations with the Government, Jehovah's
Witnesses reported that regional officials in Tigray disrupted
religious services, which they termed illegal meetings, and arrested
and briefly detained some 50 believers. Authorities in Tigray
also sought to prevent Jehovah's Witnesses from proselytizing.
The Government decided that Jehovah's Witnesses of Eritrean origin,
who might face religious persecution in Eritrea, were not to be
subject to deportation. Unlike in past years, there were no complaints
by Pentecostals and Evangelicals that the police failed to protect
them adequately during instances of interreligious conflict.
d. Freedom of Movement Within
the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for
freedom of movement, including the right of domestic and foreign
travel, emigration, and repatriation; however, the Government
restricted these rights in practice. In principle, citizens can
and do freely change their residence or workplace. However, after
the outbreak of the border conflict with Eritrea, Eritreans and
Ethiopian citizens of Eritrean-origin were subjected to detention
and deportation to Eritrea. By year's end, a total of 45,000
such persons of an estimated population of up to 400,000 had left
Ethiopia for Eritrea; the vast majority were deported, although
a small number left the country voluntarily to join family members
who were deported (see Section 1.f). Passports of Eritrean-origin
Ethiopian citizens routinely were confiscated. The Government
stated that it took these actions in response to security concerns.
The law requires citizens and
residents to obtain an exit visa before departing the country.
However, in the case of Eritrean-origin Ethiopian citizens who
feared deportation, exit visas were extremely difficult to obtain
after the outbreak of the border conflict with Eritrea.
The Government of Israel opened
an office in Gondar to assist approximately 3,000 Falashas (Ethiopian
Jews) from the Quara area near the Sudan border who were in the
process of immigrating to Israel. Over 8,000 Feles Mora (Ethiopians
who claim that their ancestors were converted forcibly from Judaism
to Christianity) have also expressed an interest in immigration
to Israel. Such cases are handled under provisions of Israeli
law pertaining to family reunification.
As a result of the border dispute
with Eritrea, more than 188,000 persons were forced to flee their
homes in northern Ethiopia. The Government has presented relief
and rehabilitation proposals for these internally displaced persons
to bilateral donors and NGO's.
From late July
to early August, ethnic conflict in the south-center of the country
displaced approximately 160,000 persons, but they were resettled
in their homes when the situation improved later in the year (see
The law includes provisions for
the granting of refugee or asylee status in accordance with the
provisions of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status
of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government treats asylum
seekers fairly and cooperates with the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting
refugees and returning citizens. There were no reports of the
forced expulsion of individuals having a valid claim to refugee
status; however, early in the year there was a major roundup of
Sudanese refugees residing in urban areas. Before they were moved
to refugee camps along the Sudanese border, the refugees were
detained temporarily under sometimes overcrowded conditions, which
in one instance provoked unrest in a detention facility resulting
in a death. In late August and early September, 50 children died
in a refugee camp due to diarrheal disease and lack of medical
treatment. Measures were taken in early November to improve medical
care at the facility.
Ethiopia, in cooperation with
the UNHCR, continues to provide first asylum to approximately
270,000 refugees, mostly from Sudan and Somalia. There are up
to 8,000 Djiboutian Afar asylum seekers in the country, but they
have not been granted refugee status. Negotiations began in 1997
between the Government and the UNHCR concerning their status and
were ongoing at year's end.
Section 3 Respect for Political
Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens exercised the right
to vote for a national government for the first time in 1995.
However, most opposition groups chose to boycott the elections,
although opposition participation was widely believed to be possible.
Boycotting parties claimed that the Government impeded their
ability to participate in the political process. Concerted efforts
by foreign governments to promote dialog and political reconciliation
between the Government and several key opposition groups leading
up to the elections were not successful. Nevertheless, observers
organized by foreign donor governments, the Organization of African
Unity (OAU), and a coalition of domestic NGO's judged the elections
to be generally free and fair, although they cited numerous irregularities.
The boycott was one factor that led to an overwhelming victory
by candidates of the better-funded and better-organized EPRDF
over candidates of the relatively weak and poorly organized opposition
parties and independent candidates. By-elections were held in
mid-June with minimal opposition participation. Several opposition
parties, including the Oromo National Congress, successfully registered
with the National Electoral Board.
Political participation remains
closed to a number of organizations that have not renounced violence
and do not accept the Government as a legitimate authority. These
groups include Medhin, the Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic Forces,
the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party, the Oromo Liberation
Front, some elements of the Ogaden National Liberation Front,
and several smaller Somali groups.
Neither law nor practice restricts
the participation of women or minorities in politics. While women's
status and political participation are greater than ever, women
are represented minimally in the Council of Ministers and among
the leadership of all political organizations. Only 1 of the
15 members of the Council of Ministers is a woman; 2 other women
hold ministerial rank; and a number of others hold senior positions.
There are only 13 women among the 545 members of the lower House
of Peoples' Representatives; in the upper house, the House of
Federation, 7 of 108 members are women, including the speaker.
Among the 23 judges on the federal High Court, 6 are women, and
there are 2 women on the Supreme Court.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude
Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged
Violations of Human Rights
Human rights organizations include the Ethiopian Human Rights and Peace Center, the Ethiopian Congress for Democracy, the Ethiopian Women's Lawyers Association, the Ethiopian Human Rights League, the Inter-Africa Group, and Hundee. These groups are engaged primarily in civic and human rights education, legal assistance, and trial monitoring. During a national conference in December, female journalists formed the Ethiopian Women's Media Association, which seeks to promote women and women's issues in the media. With foreign assistance, the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions began a program of democracy and human rights education. The Ethiopian Human Rights Council, a
self-proclaimed human rights
monitoring organization, continues to operate without legal status
as an NGO because the Government considers some of its activities
as primarily political. The Government closed the OHRL in April,
alleging that it was a front for the OLF (see Sections 1.d. and
The ICRC conducts regular visits
to detention centers throughout the country (see Section 1.c.).
In August the ICRC began to escort Eritrean-origin deportees
during their walk across "no man's land," the distance
from the deportation bus stops at the Ethiopia border into Eritrea.
The Government also invited the ICRC, foreign diplomats, and
international NGO's to visit centers where detained Eritreans
were gathered prior to deportation, and permitted diplomats to
visit Eritrean-origin detainees in Bilate prison camp.
Delegations from Human Rights
Watch/Africa, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Rapporteurs
Sans Frontieres, Amnesty International, Education International,
the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights, and various international
labor organizations visited during the year. Representatives
from these organizations held substantive discussions with a number
of senior government officials, including Prime Minister Meles.
The Government continues to encourage international human rights
groups and foreign diplomats to observe the war crimes trials
that began in 1994.
The Government hosted an international
conference on the establishment of a human rights commission and
office of ombudsman on May 18-22, and participants included a
number of prominent international human rights advocates. The
conference represented a step towards the implementation of the
constitutional requirement to establish a human rights commission
and office of the ombudsman and an attempt to bolster human rights
awareness among government officials and the general public.
Opposition parties and domestic and international human rights
organizations did not participate, in some instances because they
were not invited, but they were expected to participate in the
next phase of the process.
Section 5 Discrimination Based
on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution states that
all persons are equal before the law. The law provides that all
persons should have equal and effective protection without discrimination
on grounds of race, color, sex, language, religion, political
or other opinion, national or social origin, wealth, birth or
other status. However, the Government has not yet put fully into
place mechanisms for the effective enforcement of these protections.
Culturally based abuses, including
wife beating and marital rape, are pervasive social problems.
While women have recourse to the police and the courts, societal
norms and limited infrastructure inhibit many women from seeking
legal redress, especially in remote areas. Social practices obstruct
investigations into rape and the prosecution of the rapist, and
many women are not aware of their rights under the law.
The Constitution provides for
the equality of women; however, these provisions are often not
applied in practice. Although women played a prominent role (including
service in combat) during the civil war, in practice women do
not enjoy equal status with men. The law considers men and women
as equal, but tradition and cultural factors place the husband
as head of the household. All land belongs to the State. However,
land reforms enacted in March 1997 stipulate that women may obtain
government leases to land. Discrimination is most acute in rural
areas, where 85 percent of the population lives. In urban areas,
women have fewer employment opportunities than men do, and the
jobs available do not provide equal pay for equal work. To further
enhance the status of women, the Government formally adopted a
National Program of Action in 1997. The program seeks to expand
educational and work opportunities for women, improve women's
access to health care, and educate women about certain unhealthy
traditional practices such as early marriage.
The Government has encouraged
the efforts of domestic and international NGO's that focus on
children's social, health and legal issues. However, the Government
has limited ability to support efforts to provide improved health
care and basic education. Despite efforts by the Government to
increase the number of schools, there are not enough schools to
accommodate the country's youth, and less than 30 percent of children
actually attend school; many do so in shifts.
The societal abuse of young girls
continues to be a serious problem. The great majority of girls
undergo some form of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is
widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to
both physical and psychological health. Reports place the percentage
of women and girls who have undergone FGM at between 73 and 90
percent. Clitorectomies typically are performed 7 days after
birth, and the excision of the labia. Infibulation, the most
extreme and dangerous form of FGM, is performed at any time between
the age of 8 and the onset of puberty. The law does not specifically
prohibit FGM, although it is officially discouraged, and the Government
has been very supportive of the National Committee on Traditional
Practices in Ethiopia, which is dedicated to eradicating FGM.
The Government also is working to discourage the practice of
FGM through education in public schools. In September Orthodox
and Muslim leaders criticized publicly the practice of FGM.
The Constitution defines the
age of consent as 15 for females and 18 for males. Nevertheless,
early childhood marriage is common in rural areas, with girls
as young as age 9 being party to arranged marriages. Especially
in the Afar region of eastern Ethiopia, young girls continue to
be married to much older men, but this traditional practice is
coming under greater scrutiny and criticism. The maternal mortality
rate is extremely high, due in part to food taboos for pregnant
women, poverty, early marriage, and birth complications related
to FGM, especially infibulation.
There are thousand of street
children living in Addis Ababa. These children beg, sometimes
as part of a gang, or work in the informal sector in order to
survive (see Section 6.d.). Government and privately run orphanages
are unable to handle the number of street children, and older
children often abuse younger children. Due to severe resource
and financial constraints, abandoned infants often are overlooked
or neglected at hospitals and orphanages. There are credible
reports that children are occasionally maimed or blinded by their
"handlers" in order to raise their earnings from begging.
Child prostitution continues to be a problem. There were many press reports of the large-scale employment of children, especially underage girls, as hotel workers, barmaids, and prostitutes in resort towns and truckstops south of Addis Ababa. According to the head of the Labor and Social Affairs Office of East Shoa zone, children are being bought or stolen from the countryside by "child vendors" and sold to bar and liquor store owners in Shashemene and Nazareth. The going price for a child is reportedly about $36. Young girls are working as dancers, barmaids, and prostitutes in the town of Shashemene. There are also credible reports that poor rural families sell their young teenage daughters to hotel and bar owners on the main truck routes. Social workers note that these girls are prized because their clients believe that they are free of sexually transmitted diseases. The unwanted babies of these young girls usually are abandoned at hospitals, police stations, welfare clinics, and adoption agencies. Some families send their unemployed,
out-of-school, underage daughters
to work in Middle Eastern countries as house servants and nannies,
some of whom are kept in sexual bondage (see also Section 6.c.
People With Disabilities
The Constitution stipulates that
the State shall allocate resources to provide rehabilitation and
assistance to the physically and mentally disabled. However,
limited government resources restrict action in these areas.
The Amhara Development Association operates a project to provide
vocational training to disabled war veterans in Bahir Dar. The
Tigray Development Association has established a similar center
in Mekele. The Government has not yet put into place mechanisms
to enforce a 1994 law mandating equal rights for the disabled.
The Government does not mandate access to buildings or government
services for persons with disabilities, and people with minor
disabilities sometimes complain of job discrimination. An official
at the Government's Rehabilitation Agency estimated that, partly
as a result of the long civil war, there are more than 5 million
disabled persons in the population.
Despite the country's broad level
of religious freedom and tolerance for established faiths, there
have been instances of open conflict among the religious groups,
most noticeably between Orthodox Christians and Pentecostals.
Although there were no reported instances of physical conflict
among religious groups during the year, there continued to be
interreligious tension and criticism. In most sections of the
country, Orthodox Christians and Muslims participate in each other's
religious observances and there is a level of tolerance for intermarriage
and conversion in certain areas, most notably in Welo. Longstanding
Evangelical Protestant denominations, particularly the Lutheran
Mekane Yesus church, provide social services such as health care
and education to nonmembers as well as members. However, newer
faiths encounter problems. Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals
sometimes have encountered overt opposition from the public.
Early in the year Jehovah's Witnesses encountered difficulties
in holding meetings and proselytizing in a handful of communities
in the highly Orthodox Christian region of Tigray, where local
officials arrested some members of Jehovah's Witnesses and warned
them not to hold prayer sessions. On two occasions in 1997, Orthodox
Christians disrupted Pentecostal revivals in Debre Zeit and Arba
Minch, apparently incited by Orthodox clergy. Orthodox members
inflicted injuries and destroyed property before police intervened
to restore order. While some Pentecostals have complained in
the past that the police did not do enough to protect them, most
observers assert that the Government strictly enforces the constitutional
right to freedom of religion, and that the police strive to maintain
impartiality in all interreligious disputes. Muslims and Orthodox
Christians complain about proselytization by Pentecostals and
Jehovah's Witnesses. Muslims complain that some Pentecostal preachers
disparage Islam in their sermons.
There are more than 80 ethnic
groups. Although many of these groups have influenced the political
and cultural life of the country, Amharas and Tigrayans from the
northern highlands have played a dominant role. Some ethnic groups
such as the Oromos, the largest single group, were subjugated
during the 19th century. In an attempt to address ethnic concerns,
the Government has established a federal system with political
boundaries drawn roughly along major ethnic lines. With federalism,
for example, citizens of the Oromiya region now have greater say
over their own affairs and resources. Primary school students
are taught in their local languages, consistent with the Constitution.
Ethnic conflicts erupted in some
remote areas. There were reports of conflict between the Nuer
and the Anuak in Gambella region. Near the border between the
Oromo and Southern Peoples' regions, the July 22 murder of a ruling
coalition official touched off interethnic fighting between the
Gudji Oromos and the Geddeo in villages around Hagare Mariam.
According to credible sources, 22 of the 88 kebeles (municipalities)
in the Hagare Mariam district were damaged badly. Fleeing villagers
were housed temporarily in schools or village halls. In September
the Government began repatriating an estimated 160,000 displaced
persons to the villages from which they had fled, and all had
reportedly returned by year's end.
The military services continued their efforts to recruit ethnic minorities at all levels. All new recruits are screened as potential officer candidates, and those who qualify are offered officer training. Seven of the military's nine generals are
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Only a small percentage of the
population is involved in wage labor employment, which is largely
concentrated in urban areas. Approximately 85 percent of the
work force live in the countryside and are engaged in subsistence
The Constitution and the Labor
Law provide most workers with the right to form and join unions
and engage in collective bargaining, but only about 300,000 workers
are unionized. In general, employees of the civil and security
services (where most wage earners are found), judges, and prosecutors
are not allowed to form unions. Workers who provide an "essential
service" are not allowed to strike. Essential services include
a large number of categories such as air transport, railways,
bus service, police and fire services, post and telecommunications,
banks, and pharmacies.
There is no requirement that
unions belong to the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU),
which was established in 1993, decertified in December 1994 because
of internal management and political disputes, and officially
reestablished and recertified in 1997. CETU includes eight federations
organized by industrial and service sector rather than by region.
CETU complained that members
of the Government's privatization authority believed that labor
did not have to be consulted regarding the potential effects on
the work force caused by parastatal privatization or sales. In
April a faction aligned with the Government tried to form a new
industrial federation of banking and insurance trade unions with
new leadership, but it was unable to gather support for replacing
the present federation.
The Labor Law stipulates that
a trade organization may not act in an overtly political manner.
The Labor Law explicitly gives workers the right to strike to
protect their interests, but it also sets forth restrictive procedures
that apply before a legal strike may take place. These apply
equally to an employer's right to lock out workers. Strikes must
be supported by a majority of the workers affected. The Labor
Law prohibits retribution against strikers. Both sides must make
efforts at conciliation, provide at least 10 days' notice to the
Government, include the reasons for the action, and in cases already
before a court or labor board, the party must provide at least
a 30-day warning. If an agreement between unions and management
cannot be reached, the Minister of Labor may refer the case to
arbitration by a Labor Relations Board (LRB). The Government
has established LRB's at the national level and in some regions.
The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs appoints each LRB chairman,
and the four board members include two each from trade unions
and employer groups. Some efforts to enforce these regulations
are made within the formal industrial sector. There were no strikes
during the year.
Independent unions and those
belonging to CETU are free to affiliate with and participate in
international labor bodies.
b. The Right to Organize and
Collective bargaining is protected
under the Labor Law and under the Constitution, and it is practiced
freely throughout the country. Collective bargaining agreements
concluded between 1975 and the promulgation of the 1993 Labor
Law are covered under the 1975 Labor Code and remain in force.
Labor experts estimate that more than 90 percent of unionized
workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Wages
are negotiated at the plant level. The law prohibits antiunion
discrimination by employers against union members and organizers.
There are grievance procedures for hearings on allegations of
discrimination brought by individuals or unions. Employers found
guilty of antiunion discrimination are required to reinstate workers
fired for union activities.
There are no export processing
c. Prohibition of Forced or
The Constitution proscribes slavery,
which was officially abolished in 1942, and involuntary servitude.
The Criminal Code specifically prohibits forced labor, but it
can be used by court order as a punitive measure. The Criminal
Code does not apply to children age 15 or younger. Forced or
compulsory labor by children is illegal. There were no reports
of slavery within Ethiopia; however, thousands of young girls
were reportedly sold into forced prostitution (see Section 5).
There also were numerous anecdotal accounts of young persons,
especially girls, being sent by their families into involuntary
servitude in the Middle East to work as house servants and nannies,
some of whom are kept in sexual bondage. There is reportedly
a network of sex smugglers based in the tourism and import-export
sectors who are heavily involved in soliciting potential clients,
recruiting young girls, arranging travel, and fabricating counterfeit
work permits, travel documents, and birth certificates (see Sections
5 and 6.d.).
d. Status of Child Labor Practices
and Minimum Age for Employment
Under the Labor Law, the minimum
age for wage or salary employment is 14 years; special provisions
cover children between the ages of 14 and 18 years, including
the prohibition of night work or hazardous work. Forced or compulsory
labor by children is illegal. However there are reports that
children are sent into involuntary servitude abroad, and that
children are stolen from the countryside, sold to bar and liquor
store owners, and forced to work as prostitutes (see Sections
5 and 6.c.). Children may not work more than 7 hours per day;
work between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.; work on public holidays
or rest days; or perform overtime work. While authorities make
some efforts to enforce these regulations within the formal industrial
sector, social welfare activists, civic organizers, government
officials, and entrepreneurs agree that child labor is pervasive
throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Large
numbers of children of all ages tend animals and work in fields
outside most government regulatory control in the countryside,
or work as street peddlers and beggars in the cities. The Government
disputes the existence of child labor.
e. Acceptable Conditions of
There is no minimum wage in the
private sector. However, since 1985 a minimum wage has been set
and paid to public sector employees, by far the largest group
of wage earners. This public sector minimum wage is about $25
(175 birr) per month, which is insufficient to provide a decent
standard of living for a worker and family. According to the
Office of the Study of Wages and Other Remuneration, a family
of five requires a monthly income of $61 (439 birr).
The legal workweek, as stipulated
in the Labor Law, is 48 hours, consisting of 6 days of 8 hours
each, with a 24-hour rest period. However, in practice, most
employees work a 40-hour workweek, consisting of 5 days of 8 hours
The Government, industry, and
unions negotiate to set occupational health and safety standards.
However, the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Labor and
Social Affairs enforces these standards ineffectively, due to
a lack of human and financial resources. Workers have the right
to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy
to continued employment.
[end of document]
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