With a view to achieve the objectives, the LHR has been working with NED under Grant Number 2019-0984 for advancing human rights implementation in Ethiopia. The project involves Lawyers/Human Rights Defenders Capacity Building Training, Research, Monitoring Human Rights and Advocacy, Assisting Human Rights through Trial Monitoring and Consultative workshops. In the implementation of this project, LHR has previously submitted the first and second interim reports to the NED covering the activities implemented in the first and second quarters of the project period. This report is the third interim report which includes project activities implemented in the third quarter of the project period.
The activities planned within this project period were/are highly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic just like our second quarter plans. As we have detailed in the second quarter report, the LHR has been undertaking different activities that are included in the amendment proposed.
According to the amended plan, online training to Lawyers/Human Rights Defenders, Strategic litigation Guideline, research on the prevalence of early marriage, consultations and workshops on issues identified in collaboration with LJAAC and publications of strategic litigation manual and research outputs are the activities that we have been implementing.
Project Activities Performed
According to the amended plan, online training to Lawyers/Human Rights Defenders, Strategic litigation Guideline, research on the prevalence of early marriage, consultations and workshops on issues identified in collaboration with LJAAC and publications of strategic litigation manual and research outputs are the activities that we have been implementing. The following are the activities we implemented in the third quarter of the project period.
- Lawyers/Human Rights Defenders Capacity Building via E-Learning
Even if this activity was first planned to be conducted in six regional towns in collaboration with universities, the restrictions imposed by the Ethiopian government following the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled us to resort to the option of delivering the trainings via online. In line with this, we have had a discussion with your program officer, Scott Hoag and submitted a formal request for amendment and waiting for responses. At the interest of time and hoping that the proposed amendment will be approved, we have employed IT consultant and IT Developer company through a competitive process. The IT consultant is working on our behalf on issues demanding IT expertise. The winning IT developer company is working developing a Learning Management System (LMS) integrated to our website.
- Research Activities
Four researches were planned to be conducted on identified areas. It is to be reminded that two research projects i.e. “The Concept and Legal Framework of Human Rights Defenders” & “Human Rights Violations and Practices in the Federal Civil Service” have already been commissioned to consultants. The first drafts of the two researches are now submitted by the researchers and the LHR team is reviewing for feedbacks.
In the third quarter, the remaining two research projects, one freedom of movement and another on Advocacy Interventions for Accessibility issues with Persons with Disabilities, are commissioned to researchers. These researches are expected to be completed around end of August 2020.
- Rapid Assessment on the prevalence of early marriage during COVID-19 in the Selected Amhara Regional State
Owing to the challenges that COVID-19 pandemic paused on human rights, the LHR has collaborated with the University of Gonder in order to assess the prevalence of early marriage in the Amhara Regional State. Accordingly, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with the University and have started undertaking preparations for the assessments.
- Consultative Workshops
Conducting consultative workshops on draft laws, policies and institutional frameworks was another activity planned in the project. We have reported in the second quarter that LHR has collaborated with the Federal Attorney General’s Legal and Justice Affairs Advisory Council (LJAAC) to prepare the consultations. However, we were unable to hold the consultations due to the pandemic. The LHR has requested in the amendment proposal to hold these workshops via webinars. These webinars will be held in the final quarter of the project period.
In addition, the LHR has conducted two webinars on issues relating to the impact of COVID-19 on specific human rights particularly on election rights and access to justice. These webinars were attended by many lawyers, concerned government officials and academicians.
Regarding the first webinar held on May 29, 2020, titled ‘election as democratic right’, the panelists were Dr. Sisay Alemahu (Addis Ababa University School of Law), Rakeb Messele (Senior Strategic Advisor, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission) and Dr. Yonas Ashene (Addis Ababa University, Department of Political Sciences and International Relations). The Discussion was moderated by Mr. Metasebiah Hailu (Ethiopian Lawyers Association). This webinar aimed at creating a discussion platform to explore the impact of COVID-19 postponing the 6th general election of Ethiopia, which resulted in constitutional crisis which has become a subject of contentions in the academia, the legal profession and the politics. Questions were also raised by the participants to the panelists where they reflected on the possible recourses especially from the perspective protecting human rights. It was one of the successful webinar which was attended by diverse experts and the public.
The Second webinar was titled as ‘promoting access to justice’ which was led by distinguished panelists H.E. Fuad Kiyar Ahmed (President of Federal First Instance Court), Mr. Molalign Melese (Consultant and Attorney at Law), and Seble Assefa (Consultant and Attorney at Law). The webinar had the purpose of creating a platform to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the right to access to justice of citizens and indicate the way forward. One of the measures taken by the government to halt the spread of the virus was to shut down courthouses and suspend their services. There were concerns as to the proportionality of such measures in light of the right to access to justice of the public especially of those accused persons who are still custody, those who claim violation of their rights due emergency measures and so on. H.E. Fuad and other panelists emphasized the need to make justice accessible during the pandemic and the government will work towards promoting access to justice as the pandemic is expected to stay longer. The webinar was fruitful in terms of articulating the right to access to justice and its importance during the pandemic and informed the government about the concerns that should be taken in to account in dealing with the pandemic from the perspective of making justice accessible.
The LHR has planned, under the amended plan, to publish the four researchers being undertaken under the project. Two of the researches have been completed at the end of June 2020 and the remaining two will be done by the end of August 2020. We have also a plan to publish a strategic litigation guideline. Both publications will be complete in the coming and final quarter.
Plans for the coming quarter
As the coming quarter is the final quarter for the project period, the LHR plans to aggressively work on the project with a view to fully implement the activities within the project period.
As it is indicated in the amendment requested, we will proceed with recording lectures and uploaded to the learning management system once the system is developed by the IT company. Four trainers will be selected and they will be presenting the different sections of the training manual and will be recorded. The recorded presentations will be uploaded along with the training manual. Trainees will then be able to register and take the training online.
Regarding the rapid assessment that will be conducted by the University of Gonder on the prevalence of early marriage, the researchers have already started undertaking the research and it is expected that it will be completed within the remaining fourth quarter of the project period. Following the submission of the research report, a webinar will be prepared by inviting stakeholders.
The consultations we planned to hold with the LJAAC will be conducted via online in the month of August 2020. So far, we have been communicating with the LJAAC leadership to schedule the consultations and we hope the dates will be fixed soon.