ADDIS ABEBA – A public discussion on the amended anti-terrorism law, put forward by the house of parliament, has attracted underwhelming participants on Wednesday.
Various provisions of an anti-terrorism law, which critics its broad definitions have been used indiscriminately against anyone who opposes government policy, have been amended by the federal attorney general.
The lawmakers directed the bill for further review to the house of parliament’s legal and justice affairs standing committee after a brief discussion in June.
Officials said the revised bill, named as Proclamation to provide for Prevention and Suppression Terrorism Crimes, has redefined controversial terms in the 2009 proclamation.
These include terrorism, terrorist organizations, means of detention, levels of punishment and investigation systems as well as responsible institutions to conduct an investigation.
– No show –
Although, the anti-terrorism law has been mentioned as a major obstacle for democracy in Ethiopia and the parliament has sent out invitations to hear views, few were able to attend the consultative meeting.
This was for the third time this happened, said one attendant, after the first meeting had to be canceled for lack of enough participants.
Wednesday’s meeting had faced similar challenges with only four officials from two institutions together with the standing committee, attending it.
Chairman of the committee, Abebe Gedebo, said the parliament has made several announcements to the public and institutions that may be concerned in the subject through various channels to no avail.
“We were expecting lots of participants. Unfortunately, that is not the case. So, we can consider the bill has been exhaustively discussed,” said Abebe, adding the bill should be ratified soon.
– Revised parts –
The newly proposed bill removes key provisions which were a point of contention among rights activists, who argue violate the basic human rights of individuals.
State minister to General attorney, Gedion Timotiwos said his office has prepared the provisions of the bill as clear as possible and avoid legal definitions that are difficult to practice, unlike the existing proclamation.
The bill also brought just punishment system to equivalent crimes with clear functional demarcation while seizing, arresting and detaining suspected criminals, he added.
The current law sometimes tries to consider the very minimum hubbub or rush incidents in the middle of public demonstration or assembly as an act of terrorism, said Gedion.
Gedeion said the newly proposed bill clearly stipulates situations and areas when and how to designate terrorist acts.
By Sisay Sahlu