S. 3457 (110th): Support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia Act of 2008

110th Congress, 2007–2009. Text as of Sep 09, 2008 (Introduced).

Status & Summary | PDF | Source: GPO

II

110th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 3457

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

September 9, 2008

(for himself and Mr. Leahy) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations

A BILL

To reaffirm United States objectives in Ethiopia and encourage critical democratic and humanitarian principles and practices, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia Act of 2008.

2.

Findings

Congress makes the following findings:

(1)

Despite progress and an estimated annual growth rate of nearly 10 percent, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest and most famine-prone countries in the world, with more than half of the population of 78,000,000 living on less than $1 per day.

(2)

Since the collapse of the Derg and overthrow of the Mengistu regime in 1991, the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)-led government has overseen the introduction of a multiparty system and the drafting of a new constitution that guarantees economic, social, and cultural rights and states that human and democratic rights of peoples and citizens shall be protected.

(3)

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bloody border war between 1998 and 2000, and, despite the Algiers Accord ending the conflict and the agreement to abide by the final and biding Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission (EEBC) arbitration, the Government of Ethiopia has refused to comply with the final physical demarcation of the border and the Government of Eritrea has virtually expelled the United Nations peacekeeping force, resulting in a high risk of renewed fighting and regional instability.

(4)

Following high turnout and marked improvement in pre-election campaigning and voting in the third general elections of the Government of Ethiopia held on May 15, 2005, widespread charges of violations in the finally tallying and inadequate response to opposition complaints resulted in observer findings that the elections failed to satisfy international standards.

(5)

Subsequent opposition progress led to a crackdown by EPRDF security forces in which 763 civilians were injured and 193 killed, and thousands more opposition party leaders and their followers were detained, 112 of whom were not released until the summer of 2007.

(6)

In its 2007 Countries at a Crossroads report, Freedom House noted that [i]ncreased threats to and violations of civil liberties were a consequence of the political tensions that sprang from the flawed 2005 elections.

(7)

In December 2006, military forces of the Government of Ethiopia came to the aid of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government against the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and continue to serve as the primary security force for the United Nations-backed transitional government in Mogadishu.

(8)

Credible nongovernmental organizations report widespread violations of human rights and international law by the Ethiopian military in Mogadishu and other areas of Somalia, as well as in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia.

(9)

According to the Department of State's 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, “human rights abuses [in Ethiopia] … include: limitation on citizens' right to change their government during the most recent elections; unlawful killings, and beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention … use of excessive force by security services in an internal conflict and counter-insurgency operations; restrictions on freedom of the press; etc.”

(10)

The Department of State's 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices also stated that [Ogaden National Liberation Front] ONLF forces … were responsible for widespread human rights abuses, including killings and the diversion of food supplies resulting in the displacement of thousands of persons.

(11)

In June 2007, in response to this violence, including the deadly April 2007 attacks on a Chinese oil exploration site in the Ogaden and at a May 2007 political rally, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, announced that the Government of Ethiopia was launching a political and military operation to contain the activities of the ONLF, which, according to credible reports, has resulted in the displacement of thousands of civilians to government-designated protection zones, while thousands more have fled across Ethiopia’s borders.

(12)

Although the Government of Ethiopia has legitimate security concerns in the Ogaden, and, according to the Department of State’s 2007 Country Report on Terrorism, Ethiopian forces [also] countered Somali-based extremists who attempted to conduct attacks inside Ethiopia, a number of credible media accounts, human rights organizations, and humanitarian agencies have documented the ENDF's unjustifiably brutal tactics against its own citizens there, as has been previously been reported in other regions of the country including Oromiya, Amhara, and Gambella.

(13)

In May 2008, the Government of Ethiopia circulated a draft law that claims to be a tool to enhance the transparency and accountability of civil society organizations, but if enacted, is instead likely to create a complex web of onerous bureaucratic hurdles, draconian criminal penalties, and intrusive powers of surveillance that would further decrease the political space available for civil society activities.

3.

Statement of policy

It is the policy of the United States—

(1)

to support the efforts by the people and Government of Ethiopia—

(A)

to achieve a participatory multiparty democracy, an active and unhindered civil society, rule of law and accountability, judicial capacity and independence, freedom of the press, respect for human rights, and economic development; and

(B)

to combat extremism and terrorism in their country and the region;

(2)

to promote stability, democracy, accountability, social and economic development, human and political rights, humanitarian assistance, the rule of law and accountability, and counterterrorism efforts in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa;

(3)

to seek the unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia;

(4)

to prohibit United States funding to any unit of the Ethiopian security forces if there is credible evidence that a unit of the security forces has committed gross violations of human rights, unless the Secretary of State has determined and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that the Ethiopian government is taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice; and

(5)

to contribute to regional peace and stability by urging the Government of Ethiopia to comply with the EEBC arbitration decisions on border demarcation, urging the Government of Eritrea to permit a United Nations peacekeeping presence, and pressing both Governments to ensure that they are playing a productive role in helping to bring about stability along the border and throughout the Horn of Africa, including in Somalia.

4.

Sense of Congress

It is the sense of Congress that the United States Government should—

(1)

build on successful diplomatic efforts that contributed to the October 2007 release of political prisoners in Addis;

(2)

urge the Government of Ethiopia to protect the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Ethiopian citizens;

(3)

encourage the Government of Ethiopia to enter into discussions with political groups interested in reconciliation in order to bring such groups into full participation in the political and economic affairs of Ethiopia;

(4)

call on the Government of Ethiopia to allow human rights and humanitarian groups and the media to undertake their work in all regions of Ethiopia without intimidation or harassment while ensuring they are protected from any threats regardless of their political affiliations;

(5)

encourage and assist the United Nations and other independent organizations and the media in investigating credible reports of grave violations of human rights or international humanitarian law, publishing any evidence of serious abuse, and sending strong and consistent messages to the Government of Ethiopia that the continuation of such violations or impunity for the perpetrators of crimes in the Ogaden region, Ethiopia more generally, or in Somalia carry consequences; and

(6)

encourage the Governments of both Ethiopia and Eritrea to take steps to lessen tensions, physically demarcate the border in accord with the EEBC decision, and promote normalization of relations between the two countries.

5.

Support for democracy and human rights in Ethiopia

(a)

Authority

Subject to subsection (b) and notwithstanding any other provision of law, the President should take additional steps to support the implementation of democracy and governance institutions and organizations in Ethiopia consistent with the provisions of the Ethiopian Constitution of 1994 and related national law, including—

(1)

to support democracy development in Ethiopia, including developing the capacity of government and civil society organizations to undertake free, fair, and peaceful elections, strengthen good governance practices, and encourage transparency and accountability, in accordance with international norms and standards;

(2)

to support the autonomy and fundamental freedoms of national and international civil society organizations to effectively pursue these objectives without excessive government regulation or intimidation;

(3)

to promote and bolster the independence of the judiciary in Ethiopia, including developing capacity at the national, regional, and local levels;

(4)

to support programs to defend and protect the human rights of all the people of Ethiopia, especially women and minorities;

(5)

to expand programming of the Voice of America and other independent media in Ethiopia and ensure they are able to broadcast without interference;

(6)

to support efforts of the international community to gain full access to the Ogaden and other conflict-affected regions throughout the country to provide humanitarian and development assistance; and

(7)

to support a United Nations Special Envoy to launch a comprehensive dialogue process that seeks to bring about the normalization of economic and political relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea and works with the governments of both countries to address issues of stability both along their shared border as well as more broadly across the Horn of Africa, including in Somalia.

(b)

Authorization of appropriations

There is authorized to be appropriated $20,000,000 for fiscal year 2009 to carry out this section.

(c)

Conditions

(1)

In general

Assistance provided pursuant subsection (b) shall be allocated and dispersed in a fully transparent manner.

(2)

Congressional notification

Funds made available to the Government of Ethiopia under subsection (b) and all other nonessential funds made available to the Government of Ethiopia under any other provision of law shall be subject to the regular notification requirements with respect to the appropriate congressional committees.

(3)

Discontinuation in event of government obstruction

The President shall cease the provision of assistance provided under subsection (b) if the Government of Ethiopia acts to obstruct such assistance.

(d)

Report

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall prepare and submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that describes the activities undertaken pursuant to subsection (a), including a description of amounts committed, and the amounts provided, to Ethiopia during the reporting period.

6.

Offsets

Of the amounts available to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for fiscal year 2009, $20,000,000 shall be available to carry out the provisions of this Act.

7.

Definitions

In this Act:

(1)

The term appropriate congressional committees means—

(A)

the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and

(B)

the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.

(2)

The term non-essential United States assistance means assistance authorized under any provision of law, other than humanitarian assistance, food aid programs, assistance to combat HIV/AIDS and other healthcare assistance, and peacekeeping assistance.