Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Corruption Is Holding Back Democracy and Prosperity in Ethiopia

Ethiopia, a huge and beautiful country that straddles the Great Rift Valley just north of the equator in Africa, traces its history to biblical times.
Blessed with a long growing season and rich agricultural land, it is also a nation in political turmoil—albeit also one that is a key U.S. ally and partner in the fight against terrorism throughout that turbulent region of the world.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s political coalition claimed all 547 seats in May 2015 parliamentary elections that critics charge were conducted in an atmosphere of government intimidation.
Little remains of democracy in Ethiopia, especially since the hardening (beginning in 2015) of enforcement of laws that repress political opposition, tighten control of civil society, suppress independent media, and control online activity.
Although robust economic growth has reduced the percentage of the population living in poverty, the government’s violent repression of demonstrations in the past 12 months by the large Oromo tribe has claimed hundreds of lives.
In response to domestic and international pressure, in 2016 the government established the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission to investigate abuses.
Regarding the police’s aggressive use of teargas at a festival that triggered a stampede that killed dozens, the head of the Commission, Addisu Gebre-Egziabher, said that the state actors were “negligent.”
Speaking at an event attended by Heritage Foundation analysts in July 2017 at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, Gebre-Egziabher promised that those in power using excessive force are “being held accountable.”
This is a step in the right direction, but only time will tell if it is truly effective.
The commission is still largely connected to and dependent upon the government for substantial action. Freedom House reports that the media remains severely restricted in the country and that some journalists are among the political prisoners held by the state in grueling conditions.
Ethiopia’s overall score in The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom has risen by more than three points during the past five years, but if human rights conditions deteriorate, continued progress could be jeopardized.
Hopefully, the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission will be empowered to hold corrupt leaders accountable and lay a foundation for greater respect for the rule of law in the country to foster greater economic growth.
It is imperative, though, that the commission be more than just a public relations exercise by the government.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct a misquotation of Addisu Gebre-Egziabher, head of the Ethiopia Human Rights 


Charles Busch is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.
Portrait of James M. Roberts

James M. Roberts is the research fellow in freedom and growth at The Heritage Foundation's Center for International Trade and Economics. Roberts' primary responsibility is to produce the Index of Economic Freedom, an influential annual analysis of the economic climate of countries throughout the world.Commission. Gebre-Egziabher only stated that security forces had been “negligent.” The remainder of the sentence came from a Reuters report.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Migrants in France Say Police Abuse Is Common - The New York Times

PARIS — New allegations of routine police harassment of migrants in Calais surfaced Wednesday in a report detailing officers’ nearly daily use of pepper spray as well as limited access to food and the destruction of migrant shelters.
Human rights workers and around 60 migrants, nearly half under 18, told Human Rights Watch of daily identity checks, shortened hours for aid agencies to distribute food and unsanitary conditions caused by a lack of toilets and water.
They also accused officers of using pepper spray with abandon.
“There’s nowhere else that I can think of where I’ve encountered to this extent the use of pepper spray on people who were sleeping and especially on sleeping children,” said Michael Bochenek, senior counsel to the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch.
The report documented many complaints about the treatment of migrants that have arisen since the razing of “the Jungle,” an area in Calais where 6,000 to 10,000 migrants, many from Africa, Afghanistan and elsewhere, were living in often squalid surroundings. It was dismantled in October and the migrants were bused to other places around France.
Despite efforts to discourage them, migrants still travel in large numbers to Calais, an English Channel city, hopeful that despite many new safeguards intended to stop them from boarding trucks or the Eurostar train bound for England, they will be among the lucky ones to make it to better lives. While they wait, they camp outdoors in scattered groups, sleeping in the underbrush and under highway bridges. There are now an estimated 400 to 500 migrants in the Calais area and perhaps more, Mr. Bochenek said.
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Calais’s prefecture, the local government that oversees the police, disputed their depiction in the Human Rights Watch report and said the allegations that the police “gratuitously and systematically” used pepper spray were “calumnious.”
“The police in Calais work, as they do elsewhere in France, within a legal framework which allows them to conduct identity checks,” Fabien Sudry, prefect of the department of Pas-de-Calais, said in a statement. “In keeping with the prosecutor’s mandate, they can disperse groups and unauthorized gatherings and they can remove people who are in France illegally.”
Mr. Sudry said the police were also permitted to stop migrants from boarding the Eurostar train or from entering Calais’s port area. There have been 17,867 attempts so far this year, he said.


A police officer confronted migrants in Calais in June. CreditPhilippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Sudry said his office had received only three complaints about police conduct since the end of 2016, and he encouraged people who believe their rights have been violated to file complaints. Migrants living in insecure circumstances rarely have the wherewithal or the necessary language skills to do so, however, suggesting that number of formal complaints is not an accurate indicator of police abuse.
Migrants and aid workers complain that the police often take an aggressive stance toward migrants without provocation. Of the 61 migrants interviewed for the Human Rights Watch report, 57 said they had been hit with pepper spray at some point; 55 said they had been sprayed in the last two weeks. A day after being sprayed, aid workers say, children still suffer eye problems.
A 17-year-old identified in the report as Moti W., an Oromo from Ethiopia, told the rights group’s researchers: “This morning I was sleeping under the bridge. The police came. They sprayed all over our face, hair, eyes, clothes, sleeping bag, food. Many people were sleeping then. The police sprayed everything.”
It is also routine for the police to confiscate sleeping bags and extra clothes and to disrupt food distributions, especially those that occur at night, Mr. Bochenek said.
Pierre Henry, the director general of France Terre d’Asile, an aid organization that helps migrants applying for asylum, denounced the abuse. “Nothing justifies such degrading treatment,” he said.
Mr. Henry said the government should make a coordinated effort to handle the migrant influx, rather than relying on the police. More welcome centers are needed where migrants can stay, bathe and eat safely and apply for asylum, he said.
A government proposal would create more lodgings for people seeking asylum and greatly speed up the application process. But it would also hasten expulsion of those found not to have met France’s asylum requirements.
France’s ombudsman for human rights, Jacques Toubon, said the plan did not go far enough. Like Mr. Henry, he recommended that the government open many more welcome centers to process the thousands who are arriving in France.
“When you ask the police to manage migration problems and you don’t offer all the responses possible to permit the migrants to have their rights, you have difficulties,” Mr. Henry said. From a police perspective, he said, the only solution is “dispersing the migrants.”