Amnesty says State-Sponsored Rights Body Needs Reform  

ADDIS ABEBA – State-funded Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has to be reformed to correct a miscarriage of justice, said Amnesty International on Monday.

The reform “could enable it to contribute to the country making a break with its repressive past while promoting access to justice for victims of human rights violations, said London-based rights group.

Amnesty released on Monday a new briefing examining the investigation reports the Commission published primarily between 2016 and 2017.

It alleges that the Commission operated outside established human rights frameworks and standards when investigating allegations of violations.

The allegation cast doubts on its methods and findings, an injustice to countless victims of human rights violations that denied them access to effective remedies.

“Our analysis shows that the Commission is not fit for purpose as the country tries to break with a repressive past and must be reformed in line with international standards and best practices,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa.

Amnesty reviewed seven publicly available reports of the EHRC and found “glaring gaps in the methods used to investigate and report allegations of human rights violations and abuses”.

The reports examined were two human rights situation reports on protests in Oromia and Amhara regional states submitted to parliament; four investigation reports into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in detention demanded by the Federal High Court; and a submission to the UN Human Rights Council on prison conditions in the country.

It found out that rather than thoroughly investigate and expose alleged abuses by the security forces, the EHRC was quick to blame other actors, including opposition parties and parliament, even victims of human rights violations.

“Brazen bias against victims and a dismissive stance towards their complaints means that the EHRC’s reports on protestor killings and prison conditions squandered opportunities to make things right for the victims, and everyone else in the country,” said Joan.

Responding to the Amnesty International findings, a spokesperson of the Federal Parliament of Ethiopia affirmed the new government’s commitment to reform the EHRC to “build rule of law and respect of human dignity”.

They also confirmed that the EHRC is mandated to report and publish its findings without seeking parliament’s approval.

Amnesty recommended that the Commission to be overhauled into an institution that will foster respect for human rights and went on to advise lawmakers to revise the proclamation establishing the EHRC.

The Government, on its part, should investigate the commission’s past failures and guarantee non-repetition, “in order to catalyze its transformation into a true human rights institution capable of promoting respect for human rights in the country”, said Joan concluded.

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