March 7, 2009
2008 Human Rights Reports: Ethiopia
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
US State Department
Ethiopia is a federal republic led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. The population was approximately 77 million. In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the EPRDF won a third consecutive five-year term. In local and by-elections held in April the EPRDF and allied parties won virtually all of the more than three million seats contested, severely diminishing opportunities for mainstream political opposition. Prior to the vote, ruling coalition agents and supporters used coercive tactics and manipulation of the electoral process, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters. Political parties were predominantly ethnically based, and opposition parties remained fractured. During the year fighting between government forces, including local militias, and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), an ethnically based, nationalist, insurgent movement operating in the Somali Region, resulted in continued allegations of human rights abuses by all parties, particularly diversion of food aid from intended beneficiaries suffering from a severe drought. Although there were fewer reports of extrajudicial killings and other similar human rights violations in the Ogaden than the previous year, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and others reported persistent abuses. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were numerous instances in which elements within those forces acted independently of government authority.
Human rights abuses reported during the year included limitations on citizens' right to change their government in local and by-elections; unlawful killings, torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces, usually with impunity; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of suspected sympathizers or members of opposition or insurgent groups; police and judicial corruption; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; infringement on citizens' privacy rights including illegal searches; use of excessive force by security services in an internal conflict and counterinsurgency operations; restrictions on freedom of the press; arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists;restrictions on freedom of assembly and association; violence and societal discrimination against women and abuse of children; female genital mutilation (FGM); exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and religious and ethnic minorities; and government interference in union activities, including harassment of union leaders.
Read full report here: US State Department