Ethiopia: What's Behind Visit of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights?

Sudan: U.S. Delegation of World Commission On Religious Freedom Visits Human Rights Commission

Recently, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein visited Ethiopia at the government's invitation. While the country has seen a sea change and political reforms in recent years, the question is regarding the implications of the invitation and his visit at this critical juncture.

It is to be recalled that following the release of the 2017 'Human Rights Watch' report, which stated that Ethiopia made little progress on much-needed human rights reforms, the High Commissioner had also visited the country at the government's invitation.

As a result of the political turmoil that erupted in some parts of the country for much of the last three years, a total of 669 people, including members of security forces, were reportedly killed, according to the 2017 Ethiopian Human Right Commission official report.

Since then, the government has been engaged in deep reform to improve the situation. Several politicians and individuals have been released from jail as per the government's decision in what it said would foster dialogue and widen up the political space.

According to some experts and officials, the second visit of the High Commissioner is expected to play a constructive role in building the country's image in the handling of human rights.

Endale Nigussie, Deputy Director of Civil Service University School of Diplomacy and International Relations says that the invitation signals the desire and commitment of the government to further bring improvement in the area of human rights handling.

Though there are visible changes in human right protection, UN's judgment has not been sound as it is highly dependent on secondary resources that do not help them see the realities on the ground, adds Endale.

"So, the invitation happened at the right time. As we are beginners when it comes to democracy and human right issues, working jointly with the UN commissioner is quite important."

However, it does not mean that they have no angle of their own, Endale warns. Along with the assistance they give us, countries and donors have their own interest to upload on a given country, he explains.

"Here, the country should stand guard." On the other hand, much is expected from the government in implementing the principles enshrined in the Constitution.

Endale further explains how working with human rights organization leads to further improvement in human rights handling.

Working with human right organizations is very critical, he says, and there is no doubt that it will improve the country's reputation and acceptance in the international arena.

And good reputation means a lot for a given country, and has its own influence in diplomacy; and diplomacy directly influences the economy. As a result, investors show interests to invest here. And this gives the government the incentive to further boost its commitment in bringing further improvement in human rights protection.

Ameha Mekonnen from Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) says that the Commissioner met with members of the Council during his second visit and discussed major human right problems, the changes observed after the coming to power of the new Premier, and ways to support the new initiative and bring advanced changes.

As to him, discussions were also held regarding the human rights handling observed over the past three years. "We discussed about the excessive measures taken by government forces, and the efforts to provide compensation for victims. We also discussed the issue of accountability and so on."

"The other point we raised was related to the speech and commitment of the new Prime Minister to protect human right, where the Premier acknowledged that human right activists were arrested," Ameha says adding "The High Commissioner also applauded Dr. Abiy desire to work with political parties residing in and outside the country."

Ethiopian Human Right Commission (EHRC) Commissioner Dr. Addisu Gebregziabher tells The Ethiopian Herald that the invitation of the Commissioner adds value in creating strong collaboration between the two institutions.

And the most important thing here is that the Zeid came here to physically observe the situation, and discuss with various organizations, he adds.

Addisu highlights the effort of the EHRC, especially the various investigations it conducted on the violation of rights, and other tasks. "As UN and the Commission have common vision, they would and should work together for the respect of human rights, governed by international law."

Dr. Addisu also states that the second visit enables the High Commissioner to observe the progress made in relation to human and political right protection and peace and stability in the country.

Human and democratic rights performance is not connected with such visits, as this can be realized through the effort of the country alone, says Addisu. "But his visit has its own impact in supporting us to do more on the issue. They could assist us by facilitating capacity building training, and filling other gaps through sharing best practices."

He also notes that Zeid has also signed agreement with Ministry of Foreign Affairs to open office in Addis Ababa.

The UN commissioner has been finalizing his term, where only four months remains in his tenure. The visit of the commissioner enables the country to build its image.


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Publish date : 2018-05-03 11:11:35
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