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The 2019 CSO Law: Winds of change for human rights defenders in Ethiopia?

After ten dark years, a process of socio-political transformation, sparked by last year’s resignation of the prime minister, is slowly reopening the operational space for civil society organisations (CSOs) in Ethiopia.

In a briefing note published on 17/04/2019, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH), the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) and the Human Rights Council (HRCO) analyse the impact and scope of this reform process, with a focus on the new CSO Law.

In February 2018, three years of violently repressed protests led to the resignation of former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, opening the way to a process of reforms which has included the release of several human rights defenders and political prisoners, the signing of a peace agreement with Eritrea, and the appointment of the first women President of Ethiopia and President of the Supreme Court.

One year later, in February 2019, the adoption of the revised Civil Society Proclamation represented another important breakthrough for civil society organisations in the country[1]. The new law repeals repressive 2009 legislation, which had ushered in a decade of severe crackdowns on human rights organisations in the country[2]. Under the new law, CSOs will now be able to freely decide the scope of their activities, including those concerning human rights. However, hindrances remain in the registration process and international organisations’ activities are still limited.

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