Ethiopia adopts strict anti-terrorism bill
AFP | July 7, 2009
ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – Ethiopia's parliament on Tuesday adopted a new anti-terrorism bill despite criticism by rights groups that the legislation violates civil liberties.
The law, proposed last year after a string of bomb attacks in the capital, comprises 38 sections and paves the way for arrests and searches without court warrants.
The legislation championed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was voted for by 286 lawmakers in Ethiopia's 547-seat parliament, 91 against and one abstention, an AFP correspondent reported.
"Whosoever writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicises, disseminates, shows, makes to be heard any promotional statements encouraging... terrorist acts is punishable with rigorous imprisonment from 10 to 20 years," it says.
Several opposition members, while insisting they were committed to the fight against terrorism, also criticised the law for being prone to abuse by security forces.
"The law itself terrorises citizens. We are strictly against it," former president and now opposition MP, Negaso Gidada, told AFP.
Last week, the US-based Human Rights Watch said the law broadly defined terrorism, risked muzzling political speech and encouraging unfair trials.
The law is also meant to counter the activities of some separatist groups, who have been blamed by Addis Ababa for carrying out "terror attacks" throughout the Horn of Africa nation.
In recent months, Ethiopia's parliament has passed a series of laws tightening up on the activities of non-governmental organisations, associations and the local media, while most political opponents are in prison or living in exile.
Elections are due in June 2010, five years after disputed polls led to the death of nearly 200 people.
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