(Washington, DC, June 19, 2015) – United States President Barack Obama will hold meetings at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa and with the Ethiopian government during a visit to Africa, planned for late July 2015. Obama’s trip to Addis Ababa, the first-ever visit by a standing US president to Ethiopia, will follow a previously announced trip to Kenya.
While billed as “strengthening ties and highlighting America’s longstanding commitment to investing in Africa,” Obama should use his visit to highlight publicly and privately the Ethiopian government’s poor human rights record, which includes cracking down on peaceful dissent using repressive laws. He should press Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to bring about real human rights reform.
“Ethiopia is too often presented as an African success story instead of the human rights disaster that is the reality,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “If Obama wants to make the case for investing in Ethiopia, he should be clear that means investing in the human rights of its people, not the repression of its government.”
The Ethiopian government uses arbitrary arrests and prosecutions to silence journalists, bloggers,protesters, and political opponents. Torture and other mistreatment of detainees is widespread, and security forces have been responsible for serious violations, including crimes against humanity, in several of Ethiopia’s regions. The authorities show no sign of amending repressive legislation that violates international standards, including a law severely restricting civil society organizations and the vaguely worded Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which has been used to convict numerous journalists and political critics.
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