Human Rights Watch Executive Director Visits Ethiopia

June 29, 2009

The Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Mr. Kennett Roth, and his colleague Ms. Leslie Lefkow, Special Initiatives Researcher of the African Division, visited Ethiopia and met with Dr. Tekeda Alemu, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, and other officials of the Ministry. The visit by Human Rights Watch was intended to explore ways in which the organization and Ethiopia could establish working relations without necessarily agreeing on positions taken on the respective assessments made on the situation of human rights in Ethiopia. On the Government side, the officials explained that Ethiopia does not hold a position that it should be immune to criticism by external actors like Human Rights Watch but that they be based on objective facts and arrived at using methodology that is credible. The Human Rights Watch also used the occasion to present cases that it considers do not comply with Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations. It has also defended its approach in producing the reports and assured the Government that it would take onboard the position of the Government before finalizing and publicizing its reports.

The visit has helped the two sides reach an understanding on the respective positions on what has been a very acrimonious and difficult relationship. The common understanding is that this relationship could be improved step by step through building confidence in the respective approaches.  It would be recalled that Ethiopia has at different occasions been forced to respond in detail to the reports by Human Rights Watch. It is Ethiopia’s hope that prior consultation and gradual development of working relations might improve the situation.