Congressman Chris Smith is in Ethiopia today, leading a bipartisan Congressional delegation to encourage continued political reforms, reinforce human rights issues, and press for freedom for Menashe Levy, an Israeli citizen who has been brutally imprisoned since July of 2015 and beaten in Ethiopia with no access to due process rights.
There has been impressive human rights progress in Ethiopia since April of this year due to a new government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who has been implementing reforms advocated by the congressional resolution, H.R. 128 ,which was authored by Congressman Smith, the Chairman of the Sub-committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations
Over 2000 political prisoners have been released in Ethiopia since April.
“There is no doubt that progress has been made since Prime Minister Abiy was sworn into office in April,” Smith said.“We have seen this in the release of thousands of political prisoners, the lifting of the state of emergency, the return and registration of political opposition parties, and the allowance of peaceful demonstrations by citizens.”
Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of National Advocacy for the Amhara Association of America (a diaspora group representing people from Ethiopia’s Amhara Region), said that “The passage of the resolution had a direct impact on the reforms we are witnessing in Ethiopia.”
Smith said,“The delegation plans to raise these critical issues of the release of all political prisoners, freedom of the press, the history of forced disappearances, accountability for past abuses committed against civilians, and an end to torture and all human rights abuses. These reforms will only strengthen the country, and we stand in solidarity with the Ethiopian people in pushing to promote these rights.”
The delegation will meet with Prime Minister Abiy and Minister of Foreign Affairs Workineh Gebeyehu, as well as religious and civic leaders and journalists, focusing on human rights and democracy in Ethiopia. Smith visited the country in 2005, raising human rights issues, and he authored the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006, comprehensive legislation to promote human rights and democracy in Ethiopia, after his return.
“More can and must be done to ensure the reforms are systematic. We will encourage the administration to continue upholding fundamental freedoms—respect for human rights and democracy will mean a stronger Ethiopia,” Smith said.
Smith will also push for freedom for Menashe Levy, an Israeli citizen imprisoned in Ethiopia who has been beaten and denied proper medical care in prison.