Ethiopia Human Rights Bill Advances - 2006 (HR 5680)—includes an authorization of $20 million

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A comprehensive bill authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to promote human rights and democracy in Ethiopia was approved today by the International Relations Committee.
Smith, who is the Chairman of the Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations Subcommittee said “freedom and human rights in Ethiopia have seriously deteriorated under President Meles Zenawi.”
According to Smith, more than a hundred elected officials, party activists, journalists and human rights defenders were “thrown into jail on trumped up charges.” He said, “Violence against dissidents has increased significantly and yet there have been no credible accounts for the slaughter of protestors in the streets of Addis last year.”
Smith was joined by Rep. Donald Payne, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee in presenting the Bill. The bipartisan legislation has 15 cosponsors.
The bill—the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006 (HR 5680)—includes an authorization of $20 million over two years to assist political prisoners, indigenous Ethiopian human rights organizations, independent media, civil society and to promote legal training.
We not only call on the Ethiopian government to unconditionally release all political prisoners, we establish a program to tangibly assist them.” Smith said.
The people of Ethiopia deserve an independent, fair and transparent judiciary, another goal of this bill,” he said.
The legislation puts limitations on security assistance except for peacekeeping and counter-terrorism.
HR 5680 also denies visas to anyone who was involved in the June and November 2005 killings of demonstrators.
Nearly 40 political activists were shot to death by government forces in the capital city of Addis Ababa last June,” Smith said. “A similar demonstration in early November also resulted in the deaths of scores of protesters and bystanders at the hands of government forces. Seven policemen also were killed in the struggle,” he said.
The bill is a comprehensive measure that provides funding and technical assistance to those who want democracy and want to positively change the circumstances that have limited progress in Ethiopia,” he said.

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2006
Contact: Ryan Goodwin (202) 225-3765

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