2 June 2009

Ethiopia: Country Moves to Strengthen Anti-Terrorism Law Media Warner Not to Serve Terrorist Purposes

Addis Ababa — The Ethiopian government is working on draft law providing for a tougher punishment of individuals involved in terrorist activity.

To that effect, the Council of Ministers has submitted the draft law to the House of Peoples' Representatives (HPR) for endorsement.

According to the Ministry of Government Communications Affairs, the new draft law gives officials more authority to prosecute crimes and inspect communication including interception of telephone and internet communications that are thought to endanger the country.

It also prohibits any involvement with suspected terrorist groups, including contacting them, preparing for a terror attack by collecting money, financing terrorist activities, among others.

The law also forces any one to cooperate with security personnels in delivering any information they may know of any terrorism acts being plotted by terrorists.

Moreover it states failing to cooperate is a criminal act by itself, punishable by the court.

National committees of anti-terrorism coordinating office comprised of Ministry of Justice, Central intelligence and Information Agency, and the Federal Police would be set up, once the draft law gets approved by the House, officials said.

"As Ethiopian is geographically located in the Horn of Africa, It is likely the target of many terrorist acts. It has been experiencing the plotting of terrorists like the Al-shabab of Somalia, OLF, and ONLF and so on," Ermias Legesse, State Minister of Government Communication Affairs Bureau said in a weekly press briefing along with Shimelis Kemal, the other state minister with the ministry on Monday.

He added that the new draft law was intended to ensure the welfare of the country and public with special emphasis to the protection of the rights of people to live in peace, liberty and stability from terrorism.

Who, exactly? said the bill was drafted to prevent terrorism, which is against democracy and development. Terrorism endangers the constitutional system, safety and peace in the country.

According to the two officials, any suspect can be detained for at least 48 hours with out any charge and even with no clear intent to carry out an attack.

Similarly, the law also states that any media may be enquired in terrorism act whenever it attempts to serve as the voice of any terrorism act even the reporting was by mistake "The new draft law states that any report that terrorizes the public attempts to voice out the intention of terrorist, event if it includes a silly mistake, the law sees as an intentional offence," Shimeless said adding propagating any acts that are denounced as criminal was an act punishable by law.

He, however, underscored that the new proposed law do not derogate the constitutional human right of any person arrested for other "ordinary" crimes.

According to the two officials, most of the core provisions of the draft anti-terrorism law have been drawn from the anti-terror laws of the UK, Canada, Australia, the US, Uganda and South Africa.

Criticisms also on their part are saying that the draft law is more or less a copy of the aforementioned anti-terror laws.

Moreover, the draft makes lots of emphasis to due process of law, most importantly ensuring judicial oversight on the activities of law enforcement organs in their effort to combat and bring terrorism suspects before a court of law.

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