29 April 2014

Africa: U.S. - Kerry's Africa Trip Should Emphasize Rights - Promote Links Between Rule of Law and Security, Development

Photo: U.S. State Dept
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry engages with young people at the University of Addis Ababa on his last visit to Ethiopia. Alongside him is BBC television anchor Zeinab Badawi.

press release

US Secretary of State John Kerry should raise concerns about endemic human rights violations when he visits Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola, Human Rights Watch said today. Kerry will visit the three countries from April 29 to May 5, 2014.

According to the State Department, Kerry will travel to Africa to "encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, advance peace and security, engage with civil society... and promote trade, investment and development partnerships in Africa."

"These three African countries are tremendously important for the United States, so Secretary of State Kerry should be careful not to marginalize their poor human rights records," said Sarah Margon, acting Washington director at Human Rights Watch. "During his visit, Kerry should emphasize that rights, development, and security are inextricably tied."

In Ethiopia, Kerry should call on officials to release unconditionally all activists and journalists who have been arbitrarily detained or convicted in unfair trials, including the six bloggers and three journalists arrested on April 25 and 26. Kerry should also press the Ethiopian government to amend or repeal two repressive laws on association and terrorism that have been used to oppress activists, independent organizations, and the media, and to bring politically motivated prosecutions.

In Congo, Kerry should call on the Congolese government and parliament to move forward with the establishment of independent, credible, and effective specialized mixed chambers to prosecute serious abuses domestically, and to consult with donors, civil society, and other stakeholders in order to make improvements to the current draft law.He should also press Congo's leaders to take concrete steps to arrest and prosecute, in credible and impartial trials, leaders of armed groups - including the M23 rebel group - as well as army officials implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In Angola, Kerry should urge the government to respect the rights to freedom of assembly and speech and cease harassment, arbitrary arrests, and detention of protesters and journalists. The Angolan government should open credible investigations into serious abuses by the security forces, including the abduction, torture, and murder of two protest organizers, which came to light in a leaked internal government report.

"Kerry should not let this important opportunity to raise human rights concerns go wasted," Margon said. "Strong language on rights will resonate throughout the African continent."

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