CNN’s Charissa Yong talks to Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Richard Backer about how Ethiopians’ rights are being violated. He says his comments are based on firsthand accounts. Subscribe to her CNN podcast here.
Ethiopia appears to be detaining people “based on ethnicity” and “is not a country where one can freely practice one’s religion,” according to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr. Wilson Chowdhury.
“Ethiopia has in the past denied the rights of its citizens to assemble peacefully,” the special rapporteur told CNN Friday, describing the country as “unique” in being one of the few African countries where people are not allowed to assemble without a permit.
Chowdhury has previously urged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed “to ensure that people are released, investigated and prosecuted.” He is one of over 140 UN rapporteurs appointed to advise the UN on specific, sensitive areas such as trade, human rights and the environment.
Some Ethiopian human rights defenders have told CNN the country is now one of the most dangerous places in the world for human rights defenders, with journalists, church leaders and activists regularly jailed.
But not everyone is convinced Abiy is doing enough. One former senior officer in the defense ministry said the prime minister “should be more cautious” and is doing “too little, too late” to save his country from crisis.
As the fallout from the Tigray-led government’s resettlement program continues, Chowdhury accused Abiy of declaring “a no victor, no vanquished policy.”
But “no victor, no vanquished is not the only issue. The culture of impunity is a bigger problem,” he said.
Chowdhury added that he “cannot see any sign of political will” among the country’s leaders to commit to the most basic goals of the constitution, and said Ethiopia is not a democracy.