Global Freedom of Expression

Ethiopian Council of Ministers Regulation for the Implementation of the State of Emergency


Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers issued the following Regulations regarding the implementation of the State of Emergency Declaration 3/2020, which went into effect on April 11, 2020. The State of Emergency is aimed at limiting the impact of COVID-19, pursuant to Article 93 of the Constitution of Ethiopia. In times of crisis, Article 93 allows for the suspension of democratic and political rights “to the extent necessary to avert the conditions that required the declaration.” The State of Emergency requires consent of a supermajority of the House of Representatives, and can only remain in effect for 6 months without renewal by the House. It remains to be seen how the implementation of this order will impact expression, as this is not a freedom protected during a State of Emergency. Read more about the State of Emergency here.

This translation was generously provided by the Open Society Justice Initiative. Provisions relating to freedom of expression are in bold.

State of Emergency Declaration No. 3/2020

The Regulation has eight provisions, and has four sections. The first section deals with prohibitions and restrictions (Article 3, sub Articles 1-26). The second one consists of obligations on different actors. The third section is on the structures for the enforcement of the State of Emergency. The last section contains provisions related to criminal procedure and court proceedings related to violations of the Regulation.

I. Restrictions/Prohibitions (Article 3)

  1. Meetings: The regulation prohibits meetings of four or more persons for any religious, political, social or other purposes, including meetings at places of worship, hotels, government institutions, hotels, meeting halls or other places. In exceptional circumstances, the Ministerial Committee or Sub committees at different levels may grant permission to hold such meetings.
  2. Restrictions on Transport: any private vehicle, long distance bus, city transport vehicle including taxis, minbuses, buses and public employee transport busses, and the Ethio-Djibouti railway cannot carry passengers whose number is more than 50% of their seats. Addis Ababa City Rail shall not carry more than 25% of its passenger capacity
  3. Entertainment Places: Cinema, theatre and similar entertainment places, childrens’ playgrounds/kids’ entertainment services, bars, nightclubs and shisha and khat houses shall be closed. Games, sport tournaments, and mass sport activities are prohibited. Hotels, cafes and restaurants remain open, but shall make sure that there is physical distance of 2 meters between consumers, and no more than 3 customers are allowed to sit at a table.
  4. Right to counsel and visitation: Prisoners and detainees can meet their defence counsels. However, no other visitors are allowed, although family can bring food for detainees to police stations.
  5. Restrictions on Border entry: No one shall enter or exit through Ethiopian borders except cargo/freight transport. However, special permission might be granted to Ethiopian citizens to enter the country.
  6. Restrictions on Giving statements on COVID issues: No federal or regional government official or expert may give statements on COVID 19 on behalf of federal or regional authorities except Committees established for this purpose at federal or regional levels. This shall not apply to periodic statements issued by Ministry of Health or professional analysis or explanations/clarifications given by medical experts. Disseminating rumors or information that is likely to create confusion or panic among the public is prohibited.
  7. Economic/Housing and Employment: No landlord may evict a lessee (of residential or commercial premises) without the latter’s consent or increase rent on the same. Private organizations to terminate their employees other than in accordance with the Guidelines of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs;
  8. Education: All educational institutions shall be closed/are not allowed teachers and students to be at one place/meet for teaching purposes.
  9. Physical Distancing: It shall be prohibited to stand or sit closer than 2 meters apart in banks, markets, transport stations, shops, pharmacies, public service places or any other place where there is a large pubic presence.
  10. Utilities and Production and Services: It is forbidden to stop or delay work in basic public service institutions, including electricity, water, telecom, banks, medical institutions, organizations working on food supply and sanitary services, fire brigades and security services. It is prohibited to stop or delay work related to freight/cargo (solid or liquid), production, agricultural activities or construction.

II. Obligations: (Art. 4)

  1. Mandatory quarantine and testing and anyone suspected of contracting COVID 19 or any international passenger entering the country, the latter to be quarantined at own cost. Those tested positive shall be kept in isolation.
  2. The Public and carriers have a Duty to inform the police or Ministry of Health the case of any person suspected of contracting the virus.
  3. Duty to wear face masks in public places including banks, markets, transport stations, shops, pharmacies etc.
  4. Duty of service providers to prepare sanitary items (including water and soap) for customers and ensure that customers take the necessary care and put marks so that customers stand two meters apart;
  5. Government and private media shall ensure that information and news on COVID are not exaggerated or underreported, are sufficient and are not likely to create panic.
  6. Employers shall make sure that employees do not work in places which do not allow physical distance by granting leaves or making them work on shifts, and provide trsansport services to employees.
  7. Any owner of a house, hotel, apartment, vehicle, hall or any other property shall cooperate/comply when requested by the Ministerial Committee or sub committees to avail his/her/ its property for purposes of prevention, control or mitigation of harm from COVID, unless he/she uses the property for daily consumption.
  8. Any producer or service provider shall comply with orders of the Ministerial Committee or a delegated organ to provide or expand the necessary service, manufacture products, or sell its products to the government, consumers or cooperatives at a reasonable price.
  9. Anyone medical or other expert who is working, retired or in school shall comply when asked by Government to participate/contribute efforts to prvent, control or mitigate the effects of COVID 19.

III. Implementation Structure (Art. 5)

A Ministerial Committee is established and shall be chaired by the Deputy Prime Mininster. The number and composition of the Committee shall be determined by the Prime Minister. Its powers include, directing, coordinating and leading efforts to prevent, control and mitigate the effects of COVID 19; collect and analyze information on the spread of the virus and set the required directions; establish sub committees at Federal, regional, district and town level, provide them with the necessary information, delegation and assignment, evaluate their reports and set guidelines; based on its assessment of the situation, lift restrictions and obligations as necessary and communicate the same to the public through the sub committees; or give instructions for the presentation of the necessary regulations when additional restrictions and obligations are necessitated by the spread of the virus.

IV. Other issues (Art. 6)

  1. Without prejudice to the Criminal Procedure Code and other procedural laws, law enforcement organs shall not be bound by remand procedures and timelines for court appearance
  2. Federal and Regional Courts shall set up specialized benches that render expedient justice in cases of violations of SOE related cases and hoarding of goods. Courts may be partially or fully stop adjudicating civil cases on the decision of Federal and Regional Supreme courts.
  3. Funeral of COVID victims shall be carried out by the Government in special places designated for this purpose, and the number of attendees and the conduct of the funeral shall be determined by a directive.
  4. Directives will be issued regarding vehicles other than those under mentioned under Art.3 sub art. 4,5,6.
  5. Anyone who is found violating the restrictions or fails to observe the obligations in this Regulation shall be subject to the penalties mentioned in the State of Emergency Declaration.
  6. The Ministerial Committee shall issue detailed directives for the implementation of the Declaration and this Regulation.

The Regulation has been effective since 11 April 2020.