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The Scope of Definition of a Terrorist Act under Ethiopian Law: Appraisal of its Compatibility with Regional and International Counterterrorism Instruments

WD Kassa


While regional and international human rights institutions claim that the
definition of a terrorist act under the Anti-terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009 is overly broad as a result of which citizens not involved in a
genuinely terrorist act are prosecuted and jailed, the Ethiopian government
defends the law pointing that it is borrowed from jurisdictions with advanced legal system and rule of law. This article is concerned with this debate and suggests how to deal with it. The article employs definitions under relevant regional and international counterterrorism legal instruments as standard to examine the scope of the domestic definition. With regard to some of its elements, the proclamation’s definition is broader than the standard definitions; in other aspects it is narrower. The regional and international instruments simply indicate what states should proscribe as a terrorist act without further prohibiting them from including other conduct with in  domestic definitions. As such, being broader per se does not render the definition incompatible with regional and international definitions. On areas where the definition is narrower, its strict application would mean non-prosecution or, in the event of prosecution, acquittal of persons who
would have been treated as terrorist under regional and international law.
This has a direct bearing on Ethiopia’s counterterrorism obligation.

Key words: Definition of a Terrorist act, Ethiopian anti-terrorism proclamation, OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, Security Council Resolution 1373, International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism.