Activist returns to lead Human Rights Commission
Once an exiled human rights activist, Daniel Bekele (PhD), has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to lead the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The latest appointment once again marks another bold move by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), picking a prominent figure who was once considered as either a dissident or an anti-peace activist by the ruling government.
During the regular session of the House held on Tuesday, MPs deliberated on the nomination that presented the renowned human rights advocate to be the head of EHRC, a state-run body whose main job is making sure that the rights and fundamental freedoms of people are respected.
During the session, the Deputy Whip told the House that Daniel was selected out of a total of 88 potential candidates (73 male and 15 female) who were also nominated to fill the vacant EHRC commissioner’s post after the former Chief Commissioner, Addis Gebregziabher (PhD) left the office for a diplomatic role abroad.
Prior to his new role, Daniel was working for Amnesty International and then the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and two other rights group that have undertaken an extensive work on the human rights situation in Ethiopia over the last few years.
Daniel has served as a Senior Advisor during his time at Amnesty International and was HRW’s Africa Director. He has held consultations with non-governmental organizations including Oxfam, ARTICLE 19, Freedom House, PACT as well as USAID and the World Bank. Furthermore, he has an employment history as a Research and Policy Director of Action Aid Ethiopia.
Particularly, before he was forced to flee into exile, he has served as the legal department director and secretary of the Board for United Insurance SC.
He has worked in varying capacities with numerous civil society organizations, and led the national-level campaign for the Global Call to Action against Poverty.
According to the constitutional Powers and Functions granted to it, the HPR is tasked to establish a Human Rights Commission and shall determine by law its powers and its functions. Similarly, both the Commission and its Chief Commissioner are accountable to the House of People’s Representatives.
According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Establishment Proclamation [Proc. No. 210/2000], the Chief Commissioner, the Deputy Chief Commissioner and other Commissioners shall be appointed by the House.
The appointment of Daniel was approved with a majority vote while one MP abstained.
In the same session, the House has passed the draft bill to establish the Ethiopian Press Service.
The draft bill, termed as Regulation for the implementation of the Proclamation for the Re-establishment of the Ethiopian News Service, was first presented before the House, last month.
The Agency has board members nominated by the government and appointed by the HPR. In order to avoid conflicts of interest, members of the board cannot be appointed by any individuals who are engage in a similar profession.
In addition to the budget allocated to it from the government, the new bill grants the agency the right to make its own revenue by selling products such as news, articles and documentaries. It can also earn its own income from commercial advertisements and related businesses.
However, while the Agency seeks payment for the services and products it provides; it should be carried out only in accordance with the regulation issued by the Council of the Ministers.
After deliberating on the resolution presented by the Law, Justice and Administration Standing Committee head, the House passed the draft bill with a majority vote and one abstention.
In a related news, the House in the same session has approved a draft bill it was presented a few months ago to amend the existing Higher Education Proclamation [Proclamation 650/2009].