The State of Emergency Inquiry Board established last week by the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) has officially began its duties to follow up and report the human rights handling of the government while implementing the state of emergency decree.
In a press conference held at the Defense Hall of the HPR, the Chairperson and members of the Inquiry Board announced it had officially commenced exercising its mandate in accordance with the constitutional provision that sets out the specific duties and responsibilities assigned to it as of this Thursday.
The members of the board, who called their first press conference to declare the launching of their formal duty, insisted that their affiliation to the ruling government will not affect their independence from exposing the truth whenever they carry out their duties and responsibilities.
Tadesse Hordoffa, the chairperson of the board, emphasized that the Board is determined to carry out its duties in compliance with the constitution and the basic obligation it owes the Ethiopian public.
Members of the Board—four from HPR and three from legal experts—were sworn in before the House last week following the endorsement of the State of Emergency bill as well as the subsequent formation of the Board.
Given the Board is accountable to a legislature wholly controlled by the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies, The Reporter asked the Board members how independent and neutral they are when it comes to determining if the Command Post that is overseeing the implementation of the State of Emergency had indeed exceeded its authority and perpetrated rights violations. “No interference is expected to occur while we are executing our responsibility,” Tadesse replied.
Explaining the board’s confidence regarding its independence he added, “Members of the Board drawn from Parliament are accountable to the House, the respective people they represent and their conscience. Though they cannot oppose the policy and the strategy of their party, they have the responsibility to monitor, supervise and take corrective measures whenever they come across infractions committed by the Executive in the exercise of its powers.”
Similarly Genet Tadesse, the deputy chairperson, underscored that the Board would never defend the EPRDF just because its members belong to it.
A member of the Board representing legal experts, Kifletsion Mammo, a judge at the Federal Supreme Court and member of Constitutional Inquiry Council, on his part also defended the Board’s independence saying, “While carrying out our duties and responsibilities, we will be guided by the constitution alone and never be swayed by the EPRDF”.
“In fact, it would have been good had the Board comprised of members from opposition groups. However, since the Board is accountable to HPR and the people, the board cannot play a different role had been the opposition been represented,” he said.
The tasks of the board include making public within one month the names of all individuals arrested on account of the state of emergency together with the reasons for their arrest as well as monitoring that no inhumane measures shall be taken while the state of emergency is in effect.
Kifletsion also indicated that it is up to the Board to recommend to the Prime Minister or to the Council of Ministers corrective measures if it finds any case of inhumane treatment adding the board is empowered to order legal measures to be enforced against individuals who are guilty of such act.
In addition, submitting its views to HPR at the time the House considers the extension of the state of emergency as well is a further task the Board is expected to carry out during the six-month-long duration of the state of emergency unless it is extended for successive four-month periods by a two-thirds majority vote of lawmakers.
The chairperson has also called on the public to inform the Board whenever they are subjected to or witness inhumane activities by the Command Post, security officials and/or any other law enforcement personnel.
He also disclosed that the public can report any inhumane treatment at the hand of law enforcement officers through telephone and fax numbers which are 011-154-4641 and 011-154-5926, respectively.
According to the Board members, its headquarters is located in Addis Ababa inside the premises of HPR and branch offices would also be opened in regions which are the focus of the implementation of the state of emergency.