Human Right Commission Gets New Boss

ADDIS ABEBA – The lower house of parliament has approved the appointment of Daniel Bekele (Ph.D.) as commissioner of the Ethiopian human right commission.

Daniel first got the nod from 88 shortlisted nominees before receiving approval from the MPs for the top post at the state-funded commission on Tuesday. “I am very happy that I’m appointed as commissioner,” said Daniel.

“It will help me contribute to my country,” said the former adviser of Amnesty International. Soon after his approval, Danial asked the house of the parliament, to which the Ethiopian human rights commission is responsible, to be allowed to take other positions apart from the commissioner.

Members of the parliament rejected his question saying that he should first prove his worth at the commission before asking to work other jobs.

Prior to his latest appointment, Daniel was also a senior director for New York-based Africa Advocacy at human rights watch. He practiced law in Ethiopia as a partner at Abebe Worke & Associates.

He also served as the legal department director and secretary of the board for United Insurance Co., and he managed Action Aid Ethiopia’s policy research and advocacy departments.

Despite having an impressive CV, the commission he is about to lead is expected to be a much tougher job than his previous ones.

Even his former employers, including Human Rights Watch, are asking for the commission to go through a detailed reform to correct its “past miscarriage of justice”.

The EHRC has a reputation for operating outside established human rights frameworks and standards when investigating allegations of violations, casting doubts on its methods and findings, an injustice to countless victims of human rights violations that denied them access to effective remedies.

Amnesty International recommends that the EHRC be overhauled into an institution that will foster respect for human rights.

Daniel told The Daily Monitor that he knows the commission’s checkered past history, and will work to change that. Besides, he said, it’s time to “focus more on the opportunities created for change right now… instead of challenges”.

Daniel too is a victim of previous government repressions, according to his CV. In the 2005 parliamentary elections in Ethiopia, Daniel was actively involved in promoting human rights, and independent election monitoring, as well as peace initiatives in the aftermath of the post-election crisis.

However, he was arrested by the authorities and spent more than two years in prison. He was internationally recognized as a prisoner of conscience, and in 2009 received the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism and in 2010 was nominated for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defenders Award and the Index Freedom of Expression Award.

By Mhret G/Kristos