VIII. ETHIOPIA: A CASE STUDY OF VIOLATIONS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM
Academic freedom encompasses more than the freedom of professors to speak and write freely on their fields of specialty. It also recognizes the crucial role that academics play as intellectual leaders of society. In countries such as Ethiopia where only a small percentage of the population completes secondary school, schoolteachers and even high school students are among the most educated members of society. Their role as community leaders is vital and must be protected. As this report demonstrates, academic freedom is a sensitive barometer of a government's respect for human rights. Educators and their students are often among the first targets of governments that do not respect their citizens' civil and political rights; education and academic institutions are often among the first to suffer at the hands of governments that do not provide their citizens with social, economic, and cultural rights. Because educational systems (and universities in particular) are public institutions or depend on government funding, and because such institutions are viewed by governments as prime instruments of national policy, governments have considerable power and incentive to influence what takes place in schools (and on campus). In Ethiopia, as in many other countries, governmental power has been used to turn the educational system into an institution that largely serves the interests of state power holders. This leads to violations of international human rights law, obstructing the fulfillment of other civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.
International law has long recognized the cardinal significance of the right to education and the importance of academic freedom in fulfilling this right. The right to education is enshrined in Article 26(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which simply states "Everyone has the right to education." The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) echoed this sentiment in Article 13: "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education." Article 13 sets forth in some detail the right to education, the purpose and content of education, and the critical role of teachers and their associations in establishing and implementing national educational policies. The U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR Committee), responsible for authoritatively interpreting the content of the rights enumerated in the ICESCR, has explained the importance of the right to education thus: "Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights."235
The ESCR Committee has identified a clear link between academic freedom and fulfillment of the right to education: "the right to education can only be enjoyed if accompanied by the academic freedom of staff and students."236 It is useful here to refer in full to the Committee's definition of academic freedom:
As set out by the Committee, academic freedom includes two sets of rights: one, the individual rights of educators and their students, in particular the rights to free expression and free association, and two, the collective right of the academic community to conduct its affairs so as best to fulfill its central mission of transmitting knowledge and information, as encapsulated in the concept of institutional autonomy.
In the first category are those fundamental rights, applicable to all individuals under international law, that are particularly relevant in allowing educators and students as individuals to engage in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and participate in the formation of educational policy. Chief among these are the rights to hold and express opinions and to freely associate in order to share these opinions.237 The situation in Ethiopia demonstrates how the violation of the right of academics to free expression and free association stifles their academic work and hence frustrates fulfillment of the right to education.
Freedom to Hold and Express Opinions
This issue has been squarely addressed by the U.N. Human Rights Committee (H.R. Committee), the body entrusted with the task of authoritatively interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The H.R. Committee found the government of Togo in violation of article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) for dismissing and detaining two university instructors who had criticized the government.238 The H.R. Committee held:
The status of the two instructors as employees of a university funded chiefly by state funds did not justify the government's actions in the H.R. Committee's eyes. Indeed, the Committee underlined the obligation of states "to ensure that there is no discrimination on the ground of political opinion or expression . . . . The rights enshrined in article 25 [regarding the right of citizens of all states to `take part in the conduct of public affairs'] should also be read to encompass the freedom to engage in political activity individually or through political parties, freedom to debate public affairs, to criticize the Government and to publish material with political content."239
In his "Thematic Report on Freedom of Opinion and Expression," presented at the fifty-sixth session of the H.R. Committee, the special rapporteur on freedom of expression focused mainly on self-censorship in relation to defamation laws and suppression of women, but also took particular notice of "actions taken by governments in relation to academic freedom." These actions were found to include:
Knowingly encouraging self-censorship through government policies amounts to a violation of the freedom of opinion, which is considered to be absolute, and is protected as such in the ICCPR-as noted in a report by the special rapporteur at the fifty-first session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights on December 14, 1994:
Freedom of Association
International law also explicitly envisages particular rights for teachers' associations. In many cases, educators' trade unions play a crucial role in protecting the material conditions of teachers and educational staff in order to allow them to pursue their pedagogical duties. Professional organizations for teachers are also essential for helping States develop and implement an adequate educational system. In many countries, as in Ethiopia, the same organizations carry out both professional and trade functions envisaged for teachers' organizations under international law. Article 13(2)(e) of the ICESCR states, "with a view to achieving the full realization of this right [to education]: . . . the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved."248 In its authoritative commentary on this article, the ESCR Committee explicitly linked educators' freedom of association with their ability to provide an adequate education to their students by noting "the relationship between articles 13(2)(e) . . . and 6-8 of the Covenant [regarding labor rights including the right to voluntarily form and join trade unions], including the right of teachers to organize and bargain collectively; . . . [and] Urges States parties to report on measures they are taking to ensure that all teaching staff enjoy the conditions and status commensurate with their role."249
The nexus between students' right to education and their teachers' right to free association has been recognized by the two leading international agencies addressing these rights, UNESCO and the ILO. The two organizations issued the landmark joint Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers in 1966, which reiterates the general proposition that "The teaching profession should enjoy academic freedom in the discharge of professional duties."250 Specifically, the Recommendation states: "Teachers' organizations should be recognized as a force which can contribute greatly to educational advance and which therefore should be associated with the determination of educational policy."251 These recommendations were expanded upon in 1997 to address higher-education teaching personnel. The UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel states clearly: "Higher-education teaching personnel should enjoy the right to freedom of association, and this right should be effectively promoted."252
In light of the intimate link between the role of teachers in providing education and the significance of teachers' organizations in facilitating this role, UNESCO and the ILO established a Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART) to oversee implementation of the two recommendations. CEART meets once every three years and has the authority to receive and analyze allegations by teachers' associations concerning non-observance of the recommendations' provisions.253 At its last meeting, CEART again underscored the important link between the right to education, academic freedom, and freedom of association for teaching personnel, which it called a "fundamental truism": "the status of teachers and the status of education are so intertwined that whatever produces change in the one will normally produce changes in the same direction in the other."254
CEART has repeatedly called on the Ethiopian government to explain its denial of freedom of association and its generally poor record on educational policy. In its most recent report (in 2000), CEART concluded:
The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association has, since 1996, annually called on the Ethiopian government to allow the ETA to function freely, to provide due process to detained ETA members, to cease harassment and intimidation of ETA members, and to investigate the 1997 assassination of Assefa Maru. The conclusions were based on detailed information submitted by ETA and Education International, an international federation of teachers' unions. In 2001, the ILO's Governing Body-the chief decision-making body of the organization, representing governments, business interests, and trade unions-endorsed these conclusions and urged the Ethiopian government to respond to the complaints. Finally responding in 1997 after several ILO requests for information, the Ethiopian government again, without supporting evidence, simply accused Dr. Taye Woldesemayat and the other incarcerated leaders of the ETA of "armed rebellion and of terrorist activities against the government." The government failed to address any of the ETA's complaints.0
Institutional autonomy does not mean that educational institutions are free to operate as they please. In fact, the ESCR Committee explicitly states that autonomy must be balanced against accountability to the public's needs and demands.3 But it has been demonstrated repeatedly that educational institutions can only meet their obligations to society-primarily satisfying the right of all individuals to education-if educators, staff, and students are free as a community to "enhance their prospective function, through the ongoing analysis of emergent social, economic, cultural and political trends, acting as a watchtower, able to foresee, anticipate and provide early warning, thereby playing a preventative role."4
Institutional autonomy encompasses many different elements. One important protector of institutional autonomy is a system, such as tenure, whereby educators are protected from politically motivated administrative meddling. The example of Ethiopian academics is instructive here. Lacking the protections of tenure, several were summarily dismissed from their positions due to their political and union activities, and the threat continues to this day to chill the activity of other academics. The Ethiopian government's use of administrative appraisals and two-year contracts for university faculty perpetuates uncertainty and decreases institutional autonomy, to the detriment of academic freedom. Another, more obvious attack on institutional autonomy is the presence of security personnel, especially when armed, in educational institutions. Particularly in the case of university campuses that are self-enclosed or physically separated from their surroundings, the intrusion of armed troops intimidates both teachers and students and is a serious breach of institutional autonomy. It was precisely this sort of aggressive violation of academic freedom and institutional autonomy on the campus of Addis Ababa University that set off student protests and led to the government's lethal reaction. In Ethiopia, as in too many other countries, academic freedom is often one of the first casualties of government repression.
Excessive Use of Force and Arbitrary Arrests in Repressing Demonstrations
The use of force by law enforcement officers is strictly governed. Article 3 of the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, states that force may only be used "when strictly necessary to the extent required for the performance of their duty."7 Furthermore, the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials requires that law enforcement officials shall not use firearms:
In the event that firearms are used, principle 10 requires clear warning and sufficient time for the warning to be observed unless inappropriate to the circumstances. Even when the use of firearms is deemed necessary, principle 5 lays out clear guidelines for their use, including:
· Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved;
Police are also required to ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered immediately to injured persons, according to article 6 of the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and principle 6 of the Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
In addition, arrests made in the wake of civilian protests or under other circumstances must meet the criteria set forth in the ICCPR.9
235 ECSCR Committee, Gen. Com. no. 13, para.1.
237 Staff and students at institutions of higher learning engage in critical questioning of the material and cultural world in order to advance human knowledge and understanding, and therefore face disproportionate pressure from oppressive governments. This essential linkage has been expressly recognized by international NGOs and other organizations. The Lima Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education, adopted by the World University Service in 1988 as a guidepost for the defense of academic freedom worldwide, states: "Every member of the academic community shall enjoy, in particular, freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly and association as well as the right to liberty and security of person and liberty of movement." The World University Service is an international nongovernmental organization focusing on education, development, and human rights.
238 The Human Rights Committee consists of eighteen independent experts who study reports provided by states parties to the Covenant and provide general commentary on the Covenant. Under the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant, a separate treaty open to States parties to the Covenant, the Human Rights Committee is authorized to receive complaints from individuals within the jurisdiction of those States that have acceded to the protocol.
239 U.N. Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 422/1990: Togo. 19/08/96. CCPR/C/57/D/422/1990 (Jurisprudence).
240 In "Routine Somersaults of Self-Censorship," Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon describe how people can develop a habit of regulating their own thoughts: "Self-censorship gains power as it becomes automatic. Former [U.S. Federal Communications Commission] commissioner Nicholas Johnson summarizes the process when he tells of `a reporter who first comes up with an investigative story idea, writes it up and submits it to the editor and is told the story is not going to run. He wonders why, but the next time, he is cautious enough to check with the editor first. He is told by the editor that it would be better not to write that story.' Johnson continues: `The third time he thinks of an investigative story idea but doesn't bother the editor with it because he knows it's silly. The fourth time he doesn't even think of the idea anymore.'" Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, "Routine Somersaults of Self-Censorship," Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, MediaBeat, Sept. 13, 1995.
241 Report of the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Abid Hussain, to the Commission on Human Rights, 56th Session, para.37, E/CN.4/2000/63 (2000). Mr. Abid Hussain (India) was appointed special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on 2 April 1993, pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/45.
242 Report of the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Abid Hussain, to the Commission on Human Rights, 51st Session, para. 24, E/CN.4/1995/32 (1994).
243 ICCPR, article 22(1). Ethiopia ratified the ICCPR on June 11, 1993.
244 ICESCR, article 8(1). Ethiopia ratified the ICESCR on June 11, 1993.
245 African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, articles 10 and 11 (1981). Ethiopia ratified the African Charter on June 15, 1998.
246 International Labour Conference, ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, 86th Session, Geneva, June 18, 1998. According to ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, "all Members, even if they have not ratified the Conventions in question, have an obligation arising from the very fact of membership in the Organization to respect, to promote and to realize, in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution, the principles concerning the fundamental rights which are the subject of those Conventions." Therefore, even countries that have not ratified the ILO Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and the ILO Convention concerning the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining are bound by this obligation.
247 ILO Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (ILO No. 87), 68 U.N.T.S. 17, July 4, 1950, article 2. ILO Convention No. 87 was ratified by Ethiopia on June 4, 1963.
249 Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 13, para. 27 (1999).
250 UNESCO, Recommendation Concerning Status of Teachers, para.61.
252 ILO and UNESCO, Recommendation concerning the status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, para. 52, 1997.
253 The Joint ILO and UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART) is composed of twelve independent experts - six each appointed by each organization - who meet once every three years to study the application of the standards. CEART also analyzes specific allegations of noncompliance with the two Recommendations from teachers' associations. The results of these analyses and CEART's suggestions for improvements are communicated to the Governing Body of the ILO and the Executive Board of UNESCO to be conveyed to the states' parties.
254 Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, Report of the Seventh Session (2000), para. 59, CEART/7/2000/10.
255 Ibid, Appendix C, Allegation Received from Education International and the Ethiopian Teachers' Association, para. 10.
1 UNESCO, Recommendation concerning the status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, para.18, 1997.
2 ECSCR Committee, Gen. Com. No. 13, para. 40.
4 The UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education adopted the World Declaration on Higher Education in the 21st Century: Vision and Action, in Paris on October 9, 1998. Representatives of over 180 countries were present, as well as representatives of the academic community, including teachers, students, and other stakeholders in higher education.
5 See Report of the Human Rights Committee, 37 U.N. GAOR Supp. (no.40), annex V, general comment 7(16), para.1 (1982), U.N. Doc. A/37/40 (1982).
6 Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, adopted by the Economic and Social Council, May 24, 1989, reprinted in Commission on Human Rights, Economic and Social Council, "Report by the special rapporteur S. Amos Wako, pursuant to the Economic and Social Council resolution 1988/38," E/CN.4/1990/22, January 23, 1990.
7 UN General Assembly Resolution 34/169, December 17, 1979.
8 U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 144/28/Rev.1 (1990) adopted at the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana 27 August to September 27 1990, Principle 9.