(Washington, DC) – United States President Barack Obama should use his upcoming trip to Kenya and Ethiopia to call for fundamental human rights reforms in both countries, a group of 14 nongovernmental organizations and individual experts said in a letter to Obama. Obama is expected to depart for Africa on Thursday, July 23, 2015.

The governments of Kenya and Ethiopia have been using the pretext of national security to clamp down on core freedoms, which not only violates their international legal obligations, but undermines efforts to address terrorism, the letter’s signatories said.

While important partners for the United States, both Kenya and Ethiopia present pressing concerns that we hope will be at the forefront of your discussions,” the letter says. “Both countries face real security threats but we are concerned by the way in which each government has responded, often with abusive security measures and increased efforts to stifle civil society and independent media.”

Letter Signatures:

  • Bronwyn E. Burton, deputy director, Africa Center, Atlantic Council
  • John Campbell, senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Brian Dooley, director, Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights First
  • John Harbeson, professor emeritus, CUNY Graduate Center and City College of New York
  • Steven Hawkins, executive director, Amnesty International USA
  • David Kramer, senior director for human rights and democracy, The McCain Institute for International Leadership
  • Mark Lagon, president, Freedom House
  • Princeton Lyman, senior advisor to the president, United States Institute of Peace
  • Sarah Margon, Washington director, Human Rights Watch
  • Sarah Pray, senior policy analyst, Open Society Policy Center
  • Jeffrey Smith, advocacy officer, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  • David Throup, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins SAIS
  • Mark Yarnell, senior advocate, Refugees International
  • Amb. (Ret) William M. Bellamy, Warburg professor of international relations, Simmons College

Source: Human Rights Watch

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