Anti-terror law makes about-turn
A revised document of the contested anti-terrorism law has been tabled for discussions with legal experts this weekintroducing a number of new provisions in a bid to protect the rights of those convicted or charged of terrorism and related crimes, The Reporter has learnt.
The draft document, which was presented at the meeting held on February 28, 2019, came up with a number of provisions said tobe radically differentfrom the ones inthe previous terrorism proclamation.
Diametrically opposed to the current Anti-terrorism Law, the amended version introduces new articles which will hold government bodies and the law enforcement entities involved in preventingacts of terrorism accountable.
In this regard, the new draft document puts disciplinary measures on those involved in the process of investigating terrorism cases and those who violate the law in the process. Those in violation of the law will be liable in both civil and criminal cases. In addition, the victims will be entitled to compensationranging from 1,000 to 50,000 birr.
“The current law has a number of implementation gaps and gives guarantee only for the government,” said AmehaMekonnen, a lawyer and a member of the committee established to propose an amendment to the text of law. According to Ameha, there is no safeguard in place to protect civilians from abuse by law enforcement or the government in the name of preventing an act of terrorism.
He went on to explain that any international law states that any law should have two: preventing crime and protecting human rights of suspects; and this should be the same with anti-terrorism proclamation. In fact, Ameha also notes that the amendment has incorporated provisions that would allow the court to consider any allegation of human right abuse by executive and law enforcement even in the middle of reviewing other cases.
Furthermore, the amendment has introduced an article which gives journalists the right to protect their sources in cases related to terrorism as opposed to the previous proclamation which compels everybody including journalists to reveal any source or information in relation to terrorism.
The law also clearly states that any group or individual holding a strike or a demonstration will not be declared as a terrorist unless a crimessuch as killings or property damagesare committed in the process. It is to be remembered that one of the most difficult aspects of the anti-terrorism proclamation was that the crime of terrorism was defined rather loosely. According to commentators, this loose definition was a strong tool for the government to incorporate any politically dissenting movements to classify them as an act of terrorism.
The new amendment which has six sections and 54 articles also states that those involved or those who have committed acts of terror will face a 15 years to life imprisonment. Unlike the existing law, the amendment has delisted death penalty as a means of punishment. Furthermore, amendment also provides for the bail rights of suspects to be handled as those suspected under different crimes. In the existing proclamation there was no provision for suspects to exercise their bail right if they are suspected of terrorism; later on, this proclamation was amended and striped bail right if suspects face charges that could land them 10 year and more rigorous prison terms.
Once it passes, the amendment will be presented to the Council of Ministers and the parliament for approval.