Ethiopian immigration officials detained a member of staff from ARTICLE 19’s East Africa office on 3 April for 29 hours without any access to legal advice or consular support. Fortunately, Patrick Mutahi, a trainer in protection, reacted according to strict ARTICLE 19 security protocols, notifying Ethiopian contacts of his detainment before his mobile phone was confiscated.

Following a rapid campaign for his release, Mutahi was deported back to Kenya on 4 April, and was warned that he would face jail if he returned.

ARTICLE 19 is one of the last remaining international human rights organisations working in Ethiopia and providing independent information to the UN Human Rights Council, and we are therefore concerned that the situation will only deteriorate further.

We urge the government to publicly withdraw their threat to jail Patrick Mutahi, and to respect fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

We also call upon the UN to address increasing threats towards human rights defenders who provide a source of independent information without which the UN cannot fulfil their mandate, specifically by urgently establishing the mechanism agreed in Human Rights Council Resolution 24/24.

“Patrick’s detention is a chilling indictment of the state of freedom of expression in Ethiopia. Over the past five years we’ve witnessed growing hostility towards journalists, civil society groups and political opposition. That hostility is now being extended to those that support these groups’ exercise of their right to freedom of expression,” said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

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