Ethiopia has denied that a new
anti-terrorism law passed Wednesday
will undermine the fundamental human rights of ordinary Ethiopians.
Rights Watch criticized the law as ambiguous and said the government would use it to crack down on diseenting views.
The rights group also urged
legislators to redraft the anti-terrorism bill, but
parliament passed it into law unchanged.
Ethiopia insists the law is necessary
because it faces growing threats of destabilization from several internal rebel
everybody knows, Ethiopia intervened in Somalia because these terrorist, misfit
groups declared war on Ethiopia…and they have been sending many subverting
groups which have been inflicting many damages on Ethiopia," said Bereket Simon, Ethiopia's communications minister
He said the constitution
mandates the government to defend its territory against rebels.
"Ethiopia has every
legitimate right to defend itself and that was supported by international law
as well as the constitution of Ethiopia," he said.
Simon said the legislature
backs the government's effort in fighting terrorism.
"By the way, Ethiopia has
approved government's plan to take action against extremist (and) this was
approved by parliament. We have strictly adhered to the constitutional
prerogative of Ethiopia," Simon said.
Human Rights Watch recently
said the government could use the anti-terrorism law to define criticism of the
government as a "terrorist act". But Simon dismissed the accusation as
"The Ethiopian government
cares for the rights of the Ethiopian people more than what the Human Rights
Watch does. Secondly the Ethiopian constitution obliges the government…to
respect human rights and other civil and political rights of citizens and the
people," Simon said.
He denied President Meles
Zenawi's government is clamping down on the opposition.
"The government hasn't went
(gone) out of its mandate to stifle any dissent. In fact on the contrary, by
focusing on the terrorists, the Ethiopia government is working to ensure that
all citizens going to view their democratic rights in the best way," he said.
Simon said the government is
protecting Ethiopians from terrorists.
"It is the terrorists who
are causing fear and intimidation and they are the menace for us. And by adding
some law so that we strengthen the fight against terrorism," Simon said.
Some political observers say
the new law criminalizes any speech the government would interpret as
But Simon denied the charge,
saying Ethiopia simply adopted the anti-terrorism law from the West.