Text: H.Res.861 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (09/12/2016)

[Congressional Bills 114th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
[H. Res. 861 Introduced in House (IH)]


  2d Session
H. RES. 861

     Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive 
                        governance in Ethiopia.



                           September 12, 2016

  Mr. Smith of New Jersey (for himself, Mr. Ellison, Mr. Al Green of 
Texas, Mr. Coffman, and Mr. Engel) submitted the following resolution; 
         which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs



     Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive 
                        governance in Ethiopia.

Whereas the first pillar of the United States Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan 
        Africa, announced in 2012, is to strengthen democratic institutions, and 
        the Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Strategy of the United 
        States Agency for International Development states that ``strong 
        democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and participatory, 
        accountable governance are crucial elements for improving people's lives 
        in a sustainable way'';
Whereas the third pillar of the United States Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa 
        is to advance peace and security, including supporting security sector 
Whereas democratic space in Ethiopia has steadily diminished since the general 
        elections of 2005;
Whereas elections were held in 2015 in which the ruling Ethiopian People's 
        Revolutionary Democratic Front party claimed 100 percent of 
        parliamentary seats;
Whereas the 2015 Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 
        for Ethiopia cited serious human rights violations, including arbitrary 
        arrests, killings, and torture committed by security forces, 
        restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association, 
        politically motivated trials, harassment, and intimidation of opposition 
        members and journalists;
Whereas the Ethiopian Human Rights Council reports at least 102 protestor 
        deaths, but according to Human Rights Watch, Ethiopian security forces 
        have killed at least 400 peaceful protestors in the Oromia and Amhara 
        regions, and the actual number is likely at the higher end;
Whereas state-sponsored violence against those exercising their rights to 
        peaceful assembly, in Oromia and elsewhere in the country, and the abuse 
        of laws to stifle journalistic freedoms stand in direct contrast to 
        democratic principles and violate the constitution of Ethiopia;
Whereas since protests started in Oromia in 2015, the Ethiopian government has 
        charged 135 Oromo students, opposition leaders, and activists at the 
        Federal High Court under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) and 
        repeatedly has abused such law to limit the freedom of the press, 
        silence independent journalists, and persecute members of the political 
        opposition, including by--

    (1) charging 20 university students in March 2016 under the criminal 
code for protesting in front of the United States Embassy in Addis Ababa, 
based only on a video of their protest and a list of demands;

    (2) charging Bekele Gerba, the deputy chairman of the opposition Oromo 
Federalist Congress party (the largest registered opposition political 
party in Oromia) and 21 others, including many senior members of that 
party, under counterterrorism laws for having links with the banned Oromo 
Liberation Front;

    (3) charging Yonatan Tesfaye Regassa, the former head of public 
relations for the opposition Semayawi Party (the Blue Party), with 
``planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt'' of a 
terrorist act, citing Facebook posts by Regassa about the protests as 

    (4) arresting Getachew Shiferaw (the editor-in-chief of the online 
newspaper ``Negere Ethiopia''), Fikadu Mirkana, (a news editor and reporter 
with the public ``Oromia Radio and TV''), and blogger Zelalem Workagenehu 
(with an independent diaspora blog) under charges of conspiring to 
overthrow the government and supporting terrorism under the ATP; and

    (5) refusing to allow timely life-saving medical treatment for Habtamu 
Ayalew, the former spokesman for the opposition Adenet (Unity) party, when 
he became unconscious due to apparent ill treatment during imprisonment;

Whereas, on April 25, 2016, the Federal High Court sentenced the former governor 
        of the Gambella region, Okello Akway Ochalla, to nine years 
        imprisonment, and the trial of Ochalla and his co-defendants was marred 
        by violations of fair trial guarantees and included the use of witness 
        testimonies in exchange for non-prosecution under the ATP;
Whereas in August 2015, eighteen Ethiopian Muslim leaders received prison 
        sentences ranging from seven to 22 years in prison for peacefully 
        protesting against government interference in the religious affairs of 
        the Islamic community;
Whereas criminal courts in Ethiopia are weak, overburdened, subject to political 
        influence, accept the use of forced confessions, and allow detainees to 
        be held for months without charge;
Whereas serious concerns have been raised regarding prison conditions in 
        Ethiopia, including overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of access to 
        potable water, excessive use of solitary confinement, withholding access 
        to medical treatment, and denial of access to proper legal counsel or to 
Whereas laws such as the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation have been 
        used to restrict the operation of civil society organizations in 
        Ethiopia, especially those investigating alleged violations of human 
        rights by governmental authorities;
Whereas in June 2016, the government of Ethiopia announced that it closed down 
        more than 200 nongovernmental organizations within the past nine months 
        for failing to comply with the restrictive provisions of the 2009 
        Charities and Societies Proclamation;
Whereas the development strategy of the Government of Ethiopia has targeted the 
        relocation of over 1,500,000 people, including indigenous Anuaks in the 
        Gambella region, from their ancestral lands for large-scale land 
        development under the ``villagization'' program;
Whereas the case of the ``Zone 9 Bloggers'', whose arrest, detention, and trials 
        on terrorism charges brought international attention to the restrictions 
        on the freedom of the press in Ethiopia, is indicative of the coercive 
        environment in which Ethiopian journalists operate; and
Whereas during President Barack Obama's historic visit to Addis Ababa in July 
        2015, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn expressed the commitment of 
        his government to deepen the democratic process and work towards 
        improving governance and respect for human rights, and noted the need to 
        step up efforts to strengthen institutions: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
            (1) condemns the--
                    (A) killing of peaceful protesters and excessive 
                use of force by Ethiopian security forces;
                    (B) arrest and detention of journalists, students, 
                activists, and political leaders who exercise their 
                constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and 
                expression through peaceful protests; and
                    (C) abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to 
                stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic 
            (2) urges protesters in Ethiopia to refrain from violence;
            (3) calls on the Government of Ethiopia to--
                    (A) end the use of excessive force by security 
                    (B) conduct a full, credible, and transparent 
                investigation into the killings and instances of 
                excessive use of force that took place as a result of 
                protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions and hold 
                security forces accountable for wrongdoing through 
                public proceedings;
                    (C) release dissidents, activists, and journalists 
                who have been imprisoned, including those arrested for 
                reporting about the protests, for exercising 
                constitutional rights;
                    (D) respect the right to freedom of peaceful 
                assembly and guarantee the freedom of the press and 
                mass media, in keeping with Articles 30 and 29 of the 
                Ethiopian constitution;
                    (E) engage in open and transparent consultations 
                with citizens regarding its development strategy, 
                especially those strategies that could result in the 
                displacement of people from their land;
                    (F) allow a rapporteur appointed by the United 
                Nations to conduct an independent examination of the 
                state of human rights in Ethiopia;
                    (G) repeal proclamations that--
                            (i) can be used as a political tool to 
                        harass or prohibit funding for civil society 
                        organizations that investigate human rights 
                        violations, engage in peaceful political 
                        dissent, or advocate for greater political 
                            (ii) prohibit or otherwise limit those 
                        displaced from their land from seeking remedy 
                        or redress in courts, or do not provide a 
                        transparent, accessible means to access justice 
                        for those so displaced;
                            (iii) allow for the arrest and detention of 
                        peaceful protesters and political opponents who 
                        legally exercise their rights to freedom of 
                        expression and association; and
                            (iv) prohibit or otherwise limit peaceful 
                        nonprofit operations in Ethiopia; and
                    (H) investigate the circumstances surrounding the 
                September 3, 2016, shootings and fire at Qilinto Prison 
                and publically release the report in an expedient 
            (4) calls on the Secretary of State to conduct a review of 
        security assistance to Ethiopia in light of recent developments 
        and to improve transparency with respect to the purposes of 
        such assistance to the people of Ethiopia;
            (5) calls on the Administrator of the United States Agency 
        for International Development to immediately lead efforts to 
        develop a comprehensive strategy to support improved democracy 
        and governance in Ethiopia;
            (6) calls on the Secretary of State, in conjunction with 
        the Administrator of the United States Agency for International 
        Development, to improve oversight and accountability of United 
        States assistance to Ethiopia, pursuant to the expectations 
        established in the United States Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan 
        Africa; and
            (7) stands by the people of Ethiopia and supports their 
        peaceful efforts to increase democratic space and to exercise 
        the rights guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution.

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