Washington, D.C.: Today, Freedom Now filed a petition on behalf of jailed Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Freedom Now seeks a legal opinion from the Working Group that the Ethiopian government’s detention of Mr. Nega is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The Ethiopian government’s actions in this case clearly violate international law,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “The government detained Mr. Nega for exercising his fundamental right to freedom of expression and failed to observe minimum international standards of due process. We call on the Ethiopian government to abide by its international commitments and immediately release Mr. Nega.”
Mr. Nega has worked as an independent journalist in Ethiopia since 1993 and authorities have detained him seven times previously. Mr. Nega’s current detention, beginning with his arrest September 14, 2011, violates both Ethiopian and international law. In prosecuting Mr. Nega under Ethiopia’s widely criticized 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, the government relied upon Mr. Nega’s public calls for peaceful democratic reform in the country. Such speech is expressly protected under international law.
The government also failed to observe minimum international standards of due process. Authorities held Mr. Nega for nearly a month before he was allowed access to his family and denied him access to legal counsel for nearly two months—during which time the government held two proceedings extending his pretrial detention. Mr. Nega was also denied the right to the presumption of innocence.