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"We haven‘t arrested anybody b/c of opinion" – Hailemariam Desalegn in Brussels

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn defended Ethiopia‘s democratic and human rights record after talks with European Union officials in Brussels on Thursday.

Ethiopia has been accused by groups such as Amnesty International of stifling the opposition and the media.

“Democracy and observation of human rights is an … existential issue for Ethiopia. It is not a choice,” Desalegn told journalists at a joint briefing with European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.

“You have to differentiate between observing human rights and also keeping the rule of law,” he added.

“We haven‘t arrested anybody because he is a journalist, because of his opinion, because of his expression of his opinion. It‘s simply anyone who commits crime, especially in conjunction with working with terrorist groups.”

Barroso said he and Desalegn had had “a very frank and open discussion” about human rights and democracy, including the role of non-governmental organizations and the respect of fundamental and political freedoms.

“We believe these values are universal values that we should all respect.”

Barroso said Ethiopia deserved “praise” for having improved social conditions and poverty rates.

Desalegn, who was sworn in as premier of the country that is a a major recipient of Western aid in September, met with EU President Herman Van Rompuy on Wednesday.

“Success of socio-economic developments depends on the participation of a strong and open society and on the respect of fundamental freedoms,” Van Rompuy said. dpa shg eb amh bve Author: Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl.

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Source: Europe Online Magazine – April 18, 2013. Originally titled “Ethiopian premier defends democratic record during Brussels visit“.

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Daniel Berhane
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