Halfway into the six-month state of emergency the Ethiopian government declared on 9 October 2016, this is a commentary on the State of Emergency Declaration and the Directive for the Implementation of the Declaration. The commentary analyses the State of Emergency Declaration against established human rights norms provided for in the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. These norms include: notification to the United Nations Secretary General; legality; non-derogable rights; necessity; and proportionality.
Specifically, the Ethiopian government failed to notify the UN Secretary General of the fact that Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency, the exigencies that required the state of emergency and the measures and restrictions imposed under the state of emergency declaration. The State of Emergency Declaration also violated all elements of the principle of legality since the Ethiopian government failed to avail the official text of the State of Emergency Declaration in an accessible form, the measures and restrictions it imposes lack clarity and precision and its punishment measures are applicable retroactively.
In addition, the measures and restrictions in the State of Emergency Declaration violate, directly or indirectly, non-derogable rights such as freedom from torture and other ill-treatment and freedom from non-retroactive application of criminal laws. The geographic expanse of the state of emergency, covering as it does the whole country, violates the requirement that restrictions under a state of emergency shall be necessary and proportionate to the exigencies that required the state of emergency.
Finally, the commentary proposes actionable recommendations for the Government of Ethiopia to address the inconsistencies of the State of Emergency Declaration with international and regional human rights treaties. These include: revision of the state of emergency to comply with Ethiopia’s international and regional human rights obligations regarding notification, legality, necessity and proportionality. The commentary additionally calls for the establishment of an independent and impartial body to oversee, monitor and publicly report on implementation of the State of Emergency Declaration.