Examining some of the raisons d'être for the Ethiopian anti-terrorism law

Author:Wondwossen Demissie Kassa
Position:PhD student at Flinders University of South Australia
Wondwossen Demissie Kassa
There has been a proliferation of counter-terrorism legislation around the world
following 9/11, a turning point in the history of counter-terrorism. Ethiopia
passed its anti-terrorism law in July 2009. This law and its application have
been controversial since its promulgation. A debate on several issues relating to
the law and its (mis)application was held in August 2013. Whether the law is
needed at all was one of the contentious issues deliberated on. Proponents
argue that the clear and present danger of terrorism in Ethiopia coupled with
inadequacy of ordinary laws to deal with this reality necessitated the law. They
also contend that the United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 (2001)
requires Ethiopia to pass the law. Challengers dismiss these justifications as
pretexts and maintain that the real reason for passing the law is to discipline
dissent and crack down on opposition. This article scrutinizes the
aforementioned justifications for the law and concludes that they are invalid.
Key terms
Ethiopian anti-terrorism law, Domestic terrorism, SC Resolution 1373, Report
to CTC
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v7i1.3
Ethiopia passed the Anti-terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 in July 2009. The
proclamation and its application have been contentious since its promulgation.1
In August 2013, Ethiopian Television and Radio Agency had hosted a debate2
LL.B (Addis Ababa University Law School), LL. M. (University of Michigan Law
School), PhD student at Flinders University of South Australia.
Email: wondwossend@yahoo.com
1 Human Rights Watch expressed its concern about the law in its draft stage. See:
Human Rights Watch (2009), An Analysis of Ethiopia’s Draft Anti-Terrorism Law,
>. Amnesty International (2011), dismantling dissent intensified
crackdown on free speech in Ethiopia, >; Committee to
Protect Journalists (2009), Anti-terrorism legislation further restricts Ethiopian press.
>. By way of introduction the journalist who hosted the debate on ETV
acknowledges this ongoing controversy.
2 see:
50 MIZAN LAW REVIEW Vol. 7 No.1, September 2013
among political parties3 on range of issues relating to the Ethiopian anti-
terrorism law and its application.
One of the issues raised and debated on was the raisons d'être for
promulgating the proclamation. Among the justifications provided in the
preamble of the law, three were raised and discussed during the debate.
Representatives of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front
(EPRDF), the ruling party, argued that the existence of clear and present danger
of terrorism in Ethiopia coupled with the inadequacy of ordinary laws to deal
with this reality called for special anti-terrorism legislation. Representative of
the Ethiopian Democratic Party, one of the four opposition political parties that
participated in the debate, referred to the obligation of states to pass anti-
terrorism legislation imposed by UN Security Council resolution 1373 (2001),
which was echoed by the representatives of EPRDF, as another justification for
the enactment of the law. According to this view, there is a consensus at the
United Nations level that terrorism is a global challenge as a result of which the
Security Council instructs every state, including Ethiopia, to pass anti-terror
Representatives of the other opposition political parties, on the other hand,
argued that although there have been incidents of terrorist attacks, the threat of
terrorism in Ethiopia has not been to an extent that justifies the special anti-
terror law. They claimed that the anti-terrorism proclamation is passed with a
view to use it as a tool to dismantle political opposition and dissent.
This article investigates the validity of the arguments advanced to justify the
promulgation of the Ethiopian anti-terrorism proclamation: domestic realities—
threat of terrorism and lack of appropriate law to cope with the threat—and
obligation under international instruments.4 The first section examines EPRDF’s
claim that the existence of clear and present danger of terrorism in Ethiopia
justifies the Proclamation. This part evaluates the evidence that EPRDF cited
and relied on, during the debate, to show the existence of clear and present
danger in light of Ethiopia’s reports to UN Security Council Counter Terrorism
Committee (CTC). Sections 2 to 4 examine whether or not the Security Council
resolution 1373 (2001) obliges States to pass laws on domestic terrorism.
3 Five political parties participated in the debate. They are Ethiopian Peoples’
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the ruling party, Ethiopian Democratic
Party, Blue Party, Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, and Ethiopian Federal
Democratic Unity Forum. Members with senior positions represent the parties.
4 Note that this article merely scrutinizes the reasons claimed during the debate as
justifying the enactment of the law. By so doing, it does not assume that these are the
only reasons for passing the law, nor does it explore and evaluate validity of other
possible reasons.

To continue reading

Request your trial