By Staff Reporter
January 2, 2020 (Ezega.com) --The Ethiopian House of Peoples Representatives has approved a new anti-terrorism law consisting of an article imposing the death penalty against terrorists.
The country’s anti-terrorism law enacted in 2009 was criticized for containing articles overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism that were susceptible to misinterpretation and misapplication, which critics said adversely affected the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and political opposition.
The new anti-terrorism law was approved on Thursday, January 2, 2020, amid growing concerns raised by some MPs calling for clarity on the definitions of some articles of the law, which they referred to as “vague.” Many seats of the parliament were vacant as the vote was being taken.
According to the new anti-terrorism law, perpetrators of terrorist acts will be punished from 15 years of rigorous imprisonment to capital punishment, as opposed to the previous anti-terrorism law of the country which did not include capital punishment.
The anti-terrorism law states that the federal police can search, chase and apprehend criminals of terrorist acts in any corner of the country sometimes without the knowledge of the regional security forces.
In previous Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation, the House of Peoples Representatives was in charge of labeling if an offense is a terrorist act or not. The revised law provides that mandate to the Council of Minister.
Similarly, the previous anti-terrorism law used to label those forces which were engaged in armed struggle against the government as “terrorist groups” but this one does not. It is unclear why that was omitted given that the country still has at least one armed group that is operating inside Oromia.
Foreign Relations and Peace Affairs Standing Committee of the House of Peoples Representatives, Tesfaye Daba, said even though the national parliament invited citizens to comment on the anti-terrorism and other laws, their participation was very minimal.
“People have not been coming for comment unless otherwise new methods are established as proposed by the speaker of the house," Tesfaye said.
In the past, the government of Ethiopia was accused of using and abusing the anti-terrorism law to stifle dissent and crackdown on members of legal opposition parties, human rights activists, journalists, bloggers and the civil society who criticize the ruling party and its policies and practices.
Although a proper application of anti-terrorism law is indispensable to counter threats of ‘terrorism’, the Ethiopian case demonstrates that the law can be misused as a tool for political repression.
According to the government, the new law was drafted by the Federal Attorney-General office of Ethiopia to protect the peace and security of the people and the government from the threats of terrorism. The law was developed to fill the gaps in the previous anti-terrorism proclamation No.652/2009, it was noted.
Many people have expressed concern about the draft bill, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, Human Rights Watch (HRW), local civic societies and journalists. A forum organized to review the bill this week expressed grave concerns about the bill.
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