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Volume 454: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Government of Ethiopia on independence of the judiciary. (105182)

The independence of the judiciary is a stated priority for the Government of Ethiopia. Along with other partners, we are working to support the reform of the justice sector in Ethiopia and discuss these issues with Government officials in the Ministry of Justice whenever appropriate.

Most recently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sponsored a group of senior Ethiopian members of the judiciary to visit the UK to assist with their justice sector reform programme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the level of political freedom in Ethiopia. (105183)

The election in May 2005 marked a step change in the democratisation process in Ethiopia. The degree of political freedom and debate in the run- up to the election was unprecedented. We were disturbed that subsequent disputes over the election results led to civil unrest and violence, widespread arrests and allegations of human rights abuses. The main opposition leaders and some civil society representatives remain in detention facing serious charges including genocide and treason. Since the election there has been a closing down of political space for the opposition, the independent media and civil society.

We continue to encourage both the Government and opposition to move forward with the democratisation process and to work towards political reconciliation. We have a regular dialogue with the Government on governance and human rights issues and the Government are now beginning to take steps to create space for opposition parties to contribute and participate in the House of Peoples’ Representatives. We continue to urge the Government to open up the political space and encourage open debate with all parts of society.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on the treatment of Supreme Court President Teshale Aberra by the Government of Ethiopia. (105185)

Teshale Aberra, the Oromia region Supreme Court President made allegations about his treatment by the Ethiopian authorities. We have no information to confirm such reports, but we continue to urge the Government of Ethiopia to comply with international human rights standards and respect individual human rights.