Leading constitutional law professor detained in Ethiopia

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  • Leading academic Professor Assefa Fiseha was arrested under Ethiopia's state of emergency laws.
  • At least 1 000 people have been detained without trial.
  • Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission says "the state of emergency was not executed in a manner that upholds the principles of human rights".

Leading Ethiopian academic and critic Professor Assefa Fiseha is one of at least 1 000 people arrested under that country's state of emergency which was enacted a fortnight ago.

Fiseha is a scholar of comparative federalism, constitutional law, management of diversity, intergovernmental relations, minority rights, second chambers and judicial systems.

Democracy and human rights group the Dullah Omar Institute, which is based at the University of the Western Cape, said it believed his detention was retrogressive to healing the divisions in Ethiopia.

"He is a true intellectual and thought leader on federalism in the Horn of Africa and can play a very meaningful role in healing the divisions in Ethiopia. He ought not to be harassed or harmed because of his background," added Professor Jaap de Visser, the institute's director.

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On 2 November, the Ethiopian government evoked a state of emergency a year after militias linked to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) engaged in conflict with government forces.

The state of emergency will last for six months and suspects can be detained without trial.

In a statement, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the detentions would further worsen the situation, adding it estimated around 1 000 people have fallen victim to the law.


"At least 1 000 individuals are believed to have been detained over the past week or so - with some reports putting the figure much higher."

Of concern is the arrests are along ethnic lines.

The TPFL is a political party that controls the northern parts of Tigray. It accuses the government of centralising power while the government in turn accuses it of attempting to seize power.

In a statement released last week, Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission said "the state of emergency was not executed in a manner that upholds the principles of human rights such as utmost necessity, proportionality and impartiality".

- The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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