MPs Criticize Human Rights Commission’s ‘Uninformative’ Report

ADDIS ABEBA – Members of parliament have criticized the state-funded human rights commission’s six-month performance report saying it failed to show the human rights conditions in the country. 

The lawmakers in their 9th regular session held on Thursday heard Ethiopian Human Rights Commission or EHRC’s first six-month performance report since the appointment of Daniel Bekele (Ph.D.) as a commissioner.

The report was a subject of MPs criticism for focusing more on activities carried out to restructure the institution, instead of what happened on the ground.

Jember Asmamw said the commission failed to include the outcome of its investigation in the report.

There is nothing different in it from what we hear on a daily basis, he said.

Shishay Hailesilassie also shared Jember’s concern and said the lawmakers know that there are several right cases of abuses on the ground

“It is not deniable. If the commission is not working its responsibility of investigating them, what is it different from the previous one,” she said.

Another MP Tesfaye Daba also said the commission’s report has “very limited information and without showing appropriate statistical figures”.

Daniel responded to various similar questions raised from MPs’ defended the report saying much of the focus during the past six-month period was strengthening the institution.

The commission was established 15 years ago but was largely ineffective. Security forces committed widespread abuses against civilians but the commission rarely documented them.

“The institution I received has not been built in a way one human right commission should function,” said Daniel, who noted most of the activities since his appointment has focused on restructuring it “from bottom to top” with the objective of creating a strong institution.

The institution had a gardener despite not having a garden, said Daniel and added the meager resources the parliament allocates had been channeled to irrelevant works.

Parliament approves the commission’s budget, equivalent to 3 million US dollars annually, but the finance ministry approves all spending.

Daniel had high ranking positions at watchdogs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty before coming home to take up the post.

His appointment as head of the EHRC is part of reform the country is going through that included unbanning political parties, releasing political prisoners and welcoming home exiled militant groups.

But the new freedoms have also meant long-repressed tensions have surged between the country’s many ethnic groups.

The commission receives hundreds of complaints monthly. He said despite the reform, “there are also various twisted issues and challenges that this change has created”.

He has mentioned Killing and raping as well as severe injuries are happening in areas such as schools, hospitals, both rural and urban places, indoor and outdoor due to religious and ethnic related violence.

Some of the challenges have been mentioned in the commission’s six-month report.

Besides, said it has also observed forced displacement of people from their workplaces and home as well as hostage cases conspired by armed individuals.

The commission has requested the government to enforce the rule of law throughout the country.

MPs, however, said the report has failed to provide the basic recommendations to the human rights challenges the country currently faces.

Daniel said the commission will soon release a separate report regarding the human rights conditions in various prisons and correction centers.

– By Sisay Sahlu

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