Skip to main content


Ethiopia has dedicated counterterrorism legislation first adopted in 2009 that has been used to target political opponents of the regime and human rights defenders. Amendments to the Law were made in early 2020 to respond to widespread criticisms but have not been consistently applied. Measures of intimidation or terror against civilians in a situation of armed conflict are war crimes under the Criminal Code.

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

The definition of acts of terrorism has changed significantly in recent years. Proclamation No. 652/2009 defined acts of terrorism in the following terms:

Whosoever or a group intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause by coercing the government, intimidating the public or section of the public, or destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional or, economic, or social institutions of the country: 

1/ causes a person’s death or serious bodily injury; 

2/ creates serious risk to the safety or health of the public or section of the public; 

3/ commits kidnapping or hostage taking; 

4/ causes serious damage to property;  

5/ causes damage to natural resource, environment, historical or cultural heritages; 

6/ endangers, seizes, or puts under control, causes serious interference or disruption of any public service; or 

7/ threatens to commit any of the[se] acts.Art. 3, Proclamation No. 652/2009.

In January 2020, an amended law was adopted by Parliament with the vaguely-worded provision on acts "encouraging terrorism" deleted and replaced by more specific language targeting "incitement". The new version also guarantees workers' right to strike even if they "obstruct public services" an offense the law otherwise classifies as terrorism. But the law also criminalizes the vague act of "intimidation to commit a terrorist act". 

The 2020 Law defined acts of terrorism as follows:

Whosoever, with the intention of advancing political, religious or ideological causes for terrorizing, or spreading fear among the public or section of the public or coercing or compelling the Government, Foreign Government or International Organization:

a) Causes serious bodily injury to person;

b) Endangers the life of a person;

c) Commits hostage taking or kidnapping;

d) Causes damage to property, natural resource or environment; or

e) Seriously obstructs public or social service.Art. 3(1), 2020 Proclamation on Terrorism.

The preamble to the 2020 Law acknowledged that the 2009 Proclamation had had "substantive and enforcement loopholes which produced a negative effect on the rights and freedoms of citizens". A new provision stipulated that: "obstruction of public service caused by a strike and the obstruction is related to the institution or profession of the strikers or exercising rights recognized by law such as demonstration, assembly and similar rights shall not be deemed to be a terrorist act."Art. 4, 2020 Proclamation on Terrorism. 

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties


Ethiopia is a State Party to most of the main United Nations treaties on terrorism.


Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention State not party


Ethiopia is also a State Party to the main regional treaties on terrorism.


Adherence to Regional Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1999 Algiers Convention State Party
2004 Protocol to the Algiers Convention State Party

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

The 2009 Proclamation stipulates that anyone who commits an act of terrorism "is punishable with rigorous imprisonment from 15 years to life or with death".Art. 3, Proclamation No. 652/2009.Similar penalties are prescribed for planning, preparing, conspiring, inciting, or attempting to commit a terrorist act.Art. 4, Proclamation No. 652/2009.

A report published in 2015 by the Oakland Institute describes how the Proclamation has been abused to target human rights defenders and others criticising the government in Ethiopia.

Measures of intimidation or terror against civilians in a situation of armed conflict are war crimes under the Criminal Code.Art. 270(g), Criminal Code of Ethiopia. 

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

The armed forces and the Ethiopian Federal Police are both engaged in counterterrorism operations.

Since November 2020, the Government of Ethiopia has been engaged in a protracted military conflict with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the former governing party of the Tigray Region. The government deemed a TPLF attack on Ethiopia military forces as a domestic terrorism incident and launched a military offensive in response. The TPLF asserted that its actions were in self-defence in the face of planned Ethiopian government action to remove it from provincial government.  


Ethiopia Proclamation No. 652/2009 on Terrorism

Oakland Institute Report on Application of Anti-Terrorism Law

Ethiopia Proclamation of 2020 on Terrorism

Criminal Code of Ethiopia