By Mel Biso 13/07/2009



Since the 9/11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, terrorism has been a pre-eminent concern of the international community, both with regard to its impact on human rights and how to confront it. 


 Ethiopia has been experiencing acts of terrorism in one form or another in the last two decades. Various armed groups which have committed egregious human rights abuses such as the ONLF, which operates in the Somali region that carried out terrorist attacks in different parts of the country, for example, the assassination of Ethiopian and Chinese oil explorers in Ogaden is a case in point.  In the aftermath of the attacks Ethiopia has introduced anti-terrorist legislation.


There is no universally accepted definition of terrorism. Since the 1920s the international community has unsuccessfully attempted to formulate a universally accepted definition of terrorism.  The lack of a universally accepted definition of terrorism is primarily attributable to the fact that terrorism is a controversial and elusive concept which evokes strong emotional and contradicting responses.




There has been regular warning of terrorist attacks in eastern Africa. Those terrorist supporters of Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups are active in the region. Ethiopia’s borders with Somalia and Kenya are considered porous which makes terrorism a significant concern in Ethiopia.


There are high terrorist threats in Ethiopia.  These terrorist Attacks are indiscriminate, including places, where often used by foreigners such as tourist, investor etc. in addition to hotels, government building, embassies, transport hubs, and gas stations are targets for terrorists. Terrorist attacks frequently occurred in different parts of the country mainly in Somali region, wolega and Addis Ababa. On these attacks many civilians were killed, injured and dislocated from their locality.   


Terrorism poses a threat to the social and political values that are directly or indirectly related to the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedom. Irrespective of the entity that perpetrates them-whether a state or group of individuals, all acts of terrorism seriously impair or impede the enjoyment of human rights, including a range of socio economic right, such as the right to health, food and housing. Women and children have particularly been vulnerable to acts of terrorism, committed OLF, ONLF etc. women and girls have been raped and sexually enslaved, while children have been abducted from their home and families by these groups. It is important to recognize that acts of terrorism have resulted in serious violation of human rights. The government can curb this situation by adopting appropriate legal framework that coincides with international human right conventions and recognize internal situation and the behaviors of terrorists.

One third of the Ethiopian constitution deals with fundamental human rights and freedom, such as the right to Life, Liberty and Security of Person. The government progressively has been working to implementing the constitution by establishing a human rights commission has made effort to create awareness of citizen with respect to their rights under constitution. These rights can’t be allowed to be negatively affected by acts of terror.    



The September 11 terrorist act had a significant impact on the commitment of countries to become part of the international counter-terrorism convention. African countries like Algeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Algeria, Senegal, etc, have been adopting domestic conventions to minimize the risk of terrorist attacks. The main Purpose of these legislations is to protect their citizens from terrorist attacks and ensure the security and rights of all citizens.


Acts of terrorism have the potential to impact negatively on fundamental rights and freedoms of human rights, and as the result, many countries have been forced to introduce anti-terrorism legislation to ensure that the safety and security of its citizens. It is therefore important that each state should have the freedom to adopt anti-terrorist legislation that not only helps it to address the scourge of terrorism and ensure the security of all persons subject to devastative terrorist attacks


Accordingly, Ethiopia has implemented specific legislation to address terrorism and human rights. Ministry of Justice, as entrusted in article 23 of proclamation No 4/95, has prepared a legal memorandum with the view to facilitate the enforcement of UN convention related to terrorism. The article 252 of the penal code defines a “terrorist act” as:-


1.“Whosoever commits a terrorist act which may endanger the life, physical integrity or freedom of, or causes serious injury or death to, any person, any number or group of persons, or causes or may cause damage to public or private property, natural resources, environment or cultural heritage and is calculated or intended to:

    1. ntimidate, put in fear, force, coerce or seduce any government, body, institution, the general public or any segment thereof, to do or abstain from doing any act, or to adopt or abandon a particular standpoint, or to act according to certain principles; or
    2. Disrupt any public service, the delivery of any essential service to the public or to create a public emergency; or
    3. Create general insurrection in a state is punishable with rigorous imprisonment from ten to twenty five years; or in grave cases, with rigorous imprisonment for live or death.


  1. Any promotion, sponsoring, contribution to, command, aid, incitement, encouragement, attempt, threat, conspiracy, organizing, or procurement of any person, with intent to commit any of the acts referred to in sub-article (1) of this article shall be punished in accordance with sub-article (1) hereof (emphasis added)”


“Recruitment into terrorist groups for the commission of an offence is a criminal act, punishable under article 37 of the penal code. Article 32 and 36 make a distinction between “offender”, ” co-offender” and “accomplice”.  Article 475, 763, and 764 of the penal code classify of weapons as an offence. Illegal trafficking also in harms is also punishable with severe penalty under article 41 of the reversed special penal code (proclamation 214/82).”


Currently, the Ethiopian parliament has passed an anti-terrorism bill. The bill has a crucial role in curbing terrorism. The bill was designed based on international anti-terrorism conventions and taking the experience of other countries that ratified such bills. The draft bill was passed after a series of desiccation with stakeholder and debate by the parliament. Contrary to allegations by same human right organization, the bill is not rather draconian nor does it infringe on rights and freedom of the people. In fact the law is consistent with the constitution of the country and is no different in content with existing anti-terror legislation in the developed democracies.