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Press briefing notes on Ethiopia and Honduras

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location: Geneva
Date: 19 January 2018

(1) Ethiopia

We welcome Ethiopia’s decision to release 115 federal detainees on Wednesday 17 January, including several leading political figures.

The ruling Coalition has also indicated that cases against some 400 other detainees held at the regional level are being discontinued.

These are positive developments. We urge the Government to continue to take steps to release individuals detained for expressing their political views, including those who may have been detained for trying to exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion.

The Attorney General has indicated that detainees eligible for release exclude those suspected of murder, causing injury, destruction of infrastructure, and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by force. We appreciate the seriousness of some of these offences that may have been committed, but we urge the Government to ensure that these conditions are neither interpreted nor implemented too broadly, thereby resulting in people being wrongfully detained. We recall that pretrial detention should be the exception and not the rule and should be based on an individualized assessment.

The Government has also announced that there will be investigations into recent instances of violence and killings and that those responsible will be held to account. Such investigations should be prompt, independent, impartial, transparent, effective and thorough. We recall that the High Commissioner during his visit to Ethiopia in May 2017 requested the Ethiopian Government to consider giving the Office access to areas affected by protests and violence in Ethiopia to assist the authorities in creating a stable and open democratic space for all its people.

The Government has stated its willingness to review legislation. Such a review should prioritize bringing anti-terrorism legislation and laws regarding civil society and the media in line with international human rights law and principles. We stand ready to offer our support with regard to such a review.

(2) Honduras

We are concerned about the risk of heightened unrest in Honduras, amid continuing tensions following the disputed November presidential election, and call on all political parties, media and civil society representatives to refrain from any statements that may be interpreted as an incitement to violence.  The opposition has announced widespread nationwide protests starting on 20 January, culminating on 27 January, when Juan Orlando Hernández is due to be sworn in as president.

Between 29 November and 22 December, at least 22 people were killed in the context of post-electoral protests – among them 21 civilians and one police officer. We have verified information that 13 of these deaths were at the hands of the security forces.

Our Honduras Office on 13 January voiced concern at the extensive and indiscriminate use of tear gas to break up demonstrations the previous day, 12 January, and condemned acts of vandalism. We once again call on all parties to refrain from violence, and for the right to peaceful assembly to be respected.

We reiterate the call made by our Honduras Office for the authorities to undertake an assessment of the rules of engagement, including the use of force, and for the security forces to use only necessary and proportionate force, in line with international law, in policing demonstrations. There should be full public accountability for any use of lethal force, which should be strictly restricted to the protection of life, in accordance with international human rights law.

We also call on the Honduran authorities to avoid using the Military Police and armed forces to police demonstrations, functions for which they are neither effectively trained nor equipped.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466/ ethrossell@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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