The ever hopeful UN kept on observing, every 10th of December, what it calls “Human Rights Day.” Last December, the day was commemorated around the world (almost) with one motto: Human Rights 365. This year will mark half a century since the world agreed to give effect to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. But with less than a year to go the UN frets that “on any scale, 2014 will be remembered as a year of daunting human rights challenges.” UN’s task of ensuring these wish lists in countries which are signatories to the declarations is indeed daunting and monumental at the same time.
It’s daunting because “in places where only recently there had been progress in achieving human rights, there has now been retreat” the UN says. It’s monumental because this magazine believes many countries in the world care no more about these jargons all together; out of these countries the report card in some, including Ethiopia, shows not only persistent abuses of rights but a disturbing regress.
Ethiopia exhibited all signs for the year 2014 to be remembered as a year of ‘daunting human right challenges.’ A two year anti-state intervention protest by the Muslims in the capital Addis Abeba and many major towns around the country continued facing police brutalities and an endless trial against Muslim members of a committee formed to seek for solutions. In April last year what began as a simple students’ protest rally in many universities located in Oromia, a regional state home to the largest ethnic group in the country, the Oromo, ended up with abysmal bloodletting and arbitrary arrests of hundreds of Oromo students. The students’ demand was simple: they were protesting against a master plan by the Addis Abeba city administration that wants to annex peripheral towns surrounding Addis Abeba but belonging to the Oromia regional state. The heavy-handed crackdown primarily orchestrated by the regional state police (supported by the federal police) resulted in the killings, by some accounts, of more than 40 students and the arrest and mysterious disappearance of hundreds of students. The state’s account put the number to less than ten and just a few dozens of arrests. No legal procedure to try the perpetrators has been established so far. End of April also saw a major crackdown against six bloggers belonging to the zone9 blog collective and three journalists, whose trial has continued to show a series of court drama.
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