Human Rights Watch urges Ethiopia to reject aid Bill

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Ethiopian lawmakers on Monday to reject legislation it says would slap major government restrictions on foreign aid groups and ban them from some activities.

Ethiopia’s Parliament will debate the Charities and Societies Proclamation Bill later this month.

The legislation would give the government greater control over foreign NGOs and ban them from work related to ethnicity, gender and children’s rights, Human Rights Watch said.

In a statement, the New York-based watchdog urged Ethiopian lawmakers to reject the law “that would criminalise human rights activity and seriously undermine civil society groups”.

It also called on donor governments to “speak out publicly against the Bill”.

Although the Bill has been revised twice since May 2008, the current version retains many of the most controversial provisions.

“The only reason to have such a repressive law is if it would be used to strangle Ethiopia’s few remaining independent voices,” said Human Rights Watch’s Africa director, Georgette Gagnon.

“Donor governments should make clear to Ethiopia that enacting this law will threaten future funding,” she added.

The law would carry severe criminal penalties for violations, including three to five years’ imprisonment for minor administrative violations, HRW said.—AFP

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