Ethiopian Government Uses State of Emergency as a Tool for Silencing Dissent and Violating Human Rights, says Amnesty International

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The Ethiopian government has come under fire for using the state of emergency as a means to suppress dissent and silence opposition voices. Amnesty International has accused authorities of arbitrarily detaining politicians critical of the government and journalists, while also highlighting the lack of transparency and violation of basic rights.

The state of emergency was initially implemented in August 2023 amidst escalating violence in the Amhara region between government forces and the Fano militia. The emergency measures granted authorities broad powers, including the ability to arrest suspects without a court warrant, impose curfews, restrict freedom of movement, and ban public gatherings.

Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah, condemned the government’s actions and called for an end to the denial of basic rights under the pretext of emergency laws. Chagutah emphasized the importance of media freedom and the right to free expression in a time of armed conflict, humanitarian crises, and pervasive impunity across the country.

One major concern raised by Amnesty International is the lack of transparency surrounding the extension of the state of emergency. The government has not yet published the extension in the country’s official gazette, leaving Ethiopians unsure of what conduct may be considered illegal and whether the emergency measures still apply nationwide.

Amnesty International has documented the arrest and detention of several politicians and journalists without charge. Family members of those detained have reported limited access to legal representation and heavily monitored visits. The organization has called for the Ethiopian authorities to either press charges or release all those detained under the state of emergency, including high-profile figures in politics and journalism.

The Ethiopian media has reported mass arrests since the declaration of the state of emergency, with thousands of individuals taken into custody. While some have been released after receiving “education,” hundreds remain detained under the emergency measures. Amnesty International has urged the government to halt the practice of mass detentions without due process and to uphold its national laws and international human rights commitments.

The media crackdown under the state of emergency has also targeted journalists. Several prominent journalists have been arrested and remain in police custody, with authorities banning legal visits and failing to press charges. This suppression of press freedom has been strongly condemned by Amnesty International, which called for the release of all detained journalists and politicians.

Amnesty International highlighted a pattern in which the Ethiopian government has frequently utilized states of emergency to suppress dissent and crack down on peaceful opposition. The organization also expressed concern over reports of extrajudicial executions by Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) soldiers in the Amhara region.

The Ethiopian government’s actions have drawn criticism and calls for justice and accountability from both Amnesty International and Ethiopians advocating for their basic rights. With systemic impunity and the repeated declaration of states of emergency, the rights and safety of the Ethiopian people remain at risk.