“The Charities and Societies law is debilitating us” Human rights organization staff member.
In practice, the law has had a devastating impact on human rights work in Ethiopia. Since
the law was passed human rights organizations have decreased in number, many have
changed the focus of their mandate, and those human rights organizations who have
‘survived’ have significantly scaled down their activities due to the major impact of funding
restrictions. Offices have been closed, and large numbers of staff have lost their jobs.
Development organizations have abandoned the ‘rights-based approach’ to development.
In restricting human rights organizations from doing their legitimate and essential work, the
law has significantly affected the promotion and protection of the rights of the Ethiopian
people. Civil society organizations are essential to upholding human rights, equality and
justice at all levels of society, and to holding governments to account for their performance
and adherence to national and international human rights commitments.
Before the law was passed, HRCO were undertaking significant levels of human rights work
across the country. For example, during 2008 HRCO investigators documented 9,000 reports
of human rights abuse. Of these, 1,723 were further investigated and reports issued. These
included 475 reports of unlawful detention, 435 reports of extra-judicial killings, and 201
reports of torture. Its mandated activities also included issuing three regular reports per year
on ‘The Human Rights Situation in Ethiopia,’ and special reports from detailed investigations
of specific issues. In 2008 HRCO issued the three regular reports, and six special reports on