State Terrorism and “Computer Crimes” in Ethiopia

Smoke and mirrors: The T-TPLF replacing its “anti-terrorism law” with a “computer crimes law”?

Criminal MInds 2The Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) is getting hammered left and right and upside the head on its so-called antiterrorism law (“Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009”.)

Now, T-TPLF’s strategists have come up with a new trick to fool everybody: Slowly phase out the “anti-terrorism law” and replace it with what they hope will be a less contentious and innocent sounding garden variety penal “law” dealing “computer crimes”.

The T-TPLF thinks that if they continue to chase and hound Ethiopian journalists, bloggers, dissidents and their other opponents as computer criminals instead of terrorists, their donors and loaners and the international human rights organizations will go easy on them.

Imagine how much better it sounds for the T-TPLF to say they are prosecuting journalists, bloggers, dissidents, opposition leaders, human rights advocates, civic society leaders as “computer criminals” instead of terrorists. Imagine the international public relations payoff for the T-TPLF to be accused of prosecuting individuals for computer fraud and hacking than to be condemned for using a bogus anti-terrorism law.

My suspicion is that once the “computer crimes law” is in effect, the T-TPLF plans to quietly phase out its anti-terrorism law, for which it is getting universal condemnation.

It never ceases to amaze me. The TPLF thugs think they are so smart that they can fool all of the people all of the time.

Get this T-TPLF! It is true that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But a “computer crimes law” that smells like an “anti-terrorism law” stinks to high heaven.

T-TPLF, you ain’t foolin’ nobody. We got you pegged!

The fact of the matter is that the T-TPLF has lost ALL credibility with its “anti-terrorism law”.

Every major international human rights organization and donor and loaner has condemned the T-TPLF’s “anti-terrorism law”.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry demanded the T-TPLF stop using its “anti-terrorism law” to crush democratic dissent. A State department spokesperson publicly stated, “We reiterate Secretary Kerry’s May 1 [2014] call on Ethiopia to refrain from using anti-terrorism laws as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas. The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation in previous cases against journalists, activists, and opposition political figures raises serious questions and concerns about the intent of the law, and about the sanctity of Ethiopians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”

The White House issued a statement, “urg[ing] the Ethiopian Government to release journalists and all others imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression, to refrain from using its Anti-Terrorism Proclamation as a mechanism to silence dissent, and to protect the rights of journalists, bloggers, and dissidents to write and speak freely as voices of a diverse nation.”

The European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the T-TPLF’s  “anti-terrorism law”: “The  Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (Law no. 652/2009), adopted in 2009, contains a definition of terrorism that is broad and vague and has been used to target Human rights defenders, journalists and the political opposition, encouraging self-censorship, as it foresees imprisonment for up to 20 years for the publication of statements considered to encourage acts of terrorism; whereas it also provides the government with additional power to conduct online surveillance, and imposes sharp restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”

United Nations human rights experts (U.N. Special Rapporteurs) have condemned the T-TPLF’s use of its “anti-terrorism law”. The Special Rapporteurs condemned the ongoing use of anti-terrorism laws to curb a broad range of freedoms in Ethiopia. Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights said that “the anti-terrorism provisions should not be abused and need to be clearly defined in Ethiopian criminal law to ensure that they do not go counter to internationally guaranteed human rights.”

U.N. Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue said, “Journalists play a crucial role in promoting accountability of public officials by investigating and informing the public about human rights violations. They should not face criminal proceedings for carrying out their legitimate work, let alone be severely punished.”

U.N. Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya said, “journalists, bloggers and others advocating for increased respect for human rights should not be subject to pressure for the mere fact that their views are not in alignment with those of the Government [of Ethiopia].”

U.N. Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai said “The resort to anti-terrorism legislation is one of the many obstacles faced by associations today in Ethiopia. The Government must ensure protection across all areas involving the work of associations, especially in relation to human rights issues.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the T-TPLF “anti-terrorism law” from the time it was in draft form in 2009.  HRW said the “law” “contained numerous provisions that fundamentally contravened human rights guaranteed by Ethiopia’s constitution and international law.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the T-TPLF “law” because it “criminalizes any reporting authorities deem to ‘encourage’ or ‘provide moral support’ to groups and causes the government labels as ‘terrorists.’”

Freedom House concluded, “Journalists reporting on opposition activities face serious harassment and the threat of prosecution under Ethiopia’s sweeping 2009 Antiterrorism Proclamation.”

I called the T-TPLF’s “anti-terrorism sim law” state terrorism.

Law and diktat in the TPLF thugocracy/thugtatorship

Whenever I read or hear someone talking about a T-TPLF “law”, I either laugh or shake my head in quiet disbelief at the ignorance of those who call T-TPLF’s “laws”, laws.

Thugs know as much about the law as heathen know about Scripture.

The benighted leaders and followers of the T-TPLF can only issue diktats, never law.

What are diktats?

Simply stated “diktats” are the law of the jungle; or in T-TPLF’s case, the law of the bush.

When the T-TPLF leaders in the bush (and before they put on fancy designer suits), they dealt with each other with diktats.

The few at the top would dream up stuff and tell everyone it is the “law”. (I did not say dream up stuff while they are high on khat (ch-at).)

Shakespeare’s Hamlet asked, “What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand the Scripture?”

I ask, “Thugs! How dost thugs understand the law?”

The same people who talk about T-TPLF “laws” also talk about T-TPLF “elections” and “courts”. I believe the least these people could do is spell the words correctly, “elektions” as in rigged and “kourts” as in monkey.

Everyone knows that the T-TPLF is a certified terrorist organization listed on the Global Terrorism Database.

Terrorists and thugs in a three-piece Armani suit are like the pig in lipstick. At the end of the day, both the pig and the terrorists/thugs are who they are.

I have explained in previous commentaries the differences between the rule of law, rule by law, rule by unjust law and rule of men (diktat).

The T-TPLF and their ilk all over Africa rule by diktat (decrees pulled out of the back pockets) which they try to palm off as “laws”.

Thugtators scribble down their ignorant diktats, send it over to a parliament of ignoramuses and have it  rubber stamped as “law” or “proclamation”. They use the diktat to play policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. Under rule by diktat, dictators use the “law” as a bludgeon — a sledgehammer — to vanquish their opposition. For the T-TPLF, the “law” is a sledgehammer to crush dissidents, jail journalists, harass, intimidate and persecute opposition political leaders and maintain itself in power by using the “law” as an instrument of terror.

That is what the T-TPLF does with its “laws”. That is what the T-TPLF has done in its draft “computer crimes law”.

After the late thugmaster Meles Zenawi wrote his “anti-terrorism law” (diktat), he told his rubber stamp parliament:

In drafting our anti-terrorism law, we copied word-for-word the very best anti-terrorism laws in the world. We took from America, England and the European model anti-terrorism laws. It is from these three sources that we have drafted our anti-terrorism law. From these, we have chosen the better ones.  For instance, in all of these laws, an organization is deemed to be terrorist by the executive branch. We improved it by saying it is not good for the executive to make that determination. We took the definition of terrorism word-by-word. Not one word was changed. Not even a comma. It is taken word-by-word. There is a reason why we took it word-by-word. First, these people have experience in democratic governance. Because they have experience, there is no shame  if we learn or take from them. Learning from a good teacher is useful not harmful. Nothing embarrassing about it. The [antiterrorism] proclamation in every respect is flawless. It is better than the best anti-terrorism laws [in the world] but not less than any one of them in any way…

Only a pathetic ignoramus would copy “word-by-word, without changing one word, not even a comma” and call it a “flawless law.  Thus spoke the great visionary leader of the T-TPLF!

Here is a simple question: Do the Americans, the English and the Europeans whose anti-terrorism law Meles “copied word for word” without even missing a “comma” jail journalists, bloggers and dissidents?

The T-TPLF’s “computer crimes law”

First, is a “computer crimes law” even necessary in a country where  computer ownership and internet access are so negligible? Put differently, in order for criminals to commit a “computer crime”, they need computers and internet access.

The T-TPLF owns Ethio Telecom that has a monopoly over telecommunications in the country.

According to Internet World Stats, an organization that tracks internet usage data, “Only 3.7 percent of Ethiopians have access to the internet.” In contrast, “South Sudan, [which became a country in July 2011] which lacks most basic government services, has an internet penetration rate of 15.9 percent.”

According to World Bank data, internet users per 100 people in Ethiopia between 2011-2015 was 2.9.

Second, who is really committing computer crimes in and outside Ethiopia?

The T-TPLF has converted the internet into a weapon of surveillance and intimidation against its opponents.

The T-TPLF criminals who “have been working with several European tech companies to expand its surveillance powers in the past few years, potentially with the goal of improving its capabilities to monitor its own citizens.”

The T-TPLF criminals have been using spyware to monitor U.S.-based journalists in violation of U.S. law.

In 2014, the T-TPLF was sued in U.S. federal court for illegally spying on an American citizen in the United States using FinSpy surveillance software in violation of  the Electronic Privacy Communications Act. (To read about the shocking computer crimes of the T-TPLF, click HERE.)

According to Motherboard, a leading technology online magazine, “It’s clear that the government of Ethiopia is one of the most aggressive purchasers of surveillance technology out there. They are building mass surveillance capabilities to monitor everyone in country, and using hacking tools to spy on dissidents and journalists at home and abroad.”

Third, is the T-TPLF’s “computer crimes law” another mindless cut-and-paste, copycat job?

From whom did the T-TPLF scarf its “computer crimes law” this time around?

The Chinese? The “flawless” Chinese “cyber-crimes law”?

The stench of the “Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China” (articles 285, 286 and 287)  is palpable in the T-TPLF’s “computer crimes law”. These and related articles in the Chinese criminal law deal with illegal accessing and obtaining computer data, illegal control of computer systems, illegal use of software for access, control or to damage computer systems.

I believe the T-TPLF plagiarized (cannibalized) its “computer crimes law” from  various Chinese internet laws, administrative regulations and guidelines.

(Is there a single creative policy measure the T-TPLF has initiated on its own without copycatting and cutting-and-pasting someone else?)

Here is the BIG question: Does the T-TPLF need new “laws” to combat “computer crimes” when the T-TPLF has choked off internet services and tightly controls access to online information?

The T-TPLF already has sufficient provisions in its “Criminal Code” to deal with “computer crimes”.

Article 706 of the T-TPLF “Criminal Code” prohibits “access, taking or using computer services without authorization.” Article 707 metes out punishment for “causing damage to data”. Article 708 prohibits “disruption of computer and services by an authorized user.” Article 709 punishes anyone who “facilitates the commission of computer crimes.” (Hey! That sounds just like the Chinese computer crimes law!)

The bottom line on the T-TPLF “computer crimes law”

Here is the bottom line on the T-TPLF “computer crimes law. The draft T-TPLF “law” creates:

an internet police force to troll social media and other sites to catch T-TPLF critics.

internet detectives to catch T-TPLF online critics.

a process for T-TPLF monkey courts to railroad those accused of “computer crimes”.

a system of self-censorship for internet users and those who have computers.

a climate of fear for young people using social media and reinforces the closed political space by closing access to cyberspace.

a system for the prosecution of cyber-dissidents.

a crime out of simple civil defamation causes of action.

significant restrictions on anti-T-TPLF dissidents.

criminal liability for internet café and other access providers for the alleged crimes of anyone who uses their services.

criminal liability for the use of mass emails that are against T-TPLF rule.

The elements of the T-TPLF’s “computer crimes law”

The draft T-TPLF “Computer Crime Proclamation No. —/2016” is intended to replace  Proclamation No. 761/2012. It is actually a clever cover to reinvent the 2009 “anti-terrorism law.” It is the same old vinegary wine  in a new bottle. The T-TPLF thinks by changing their tune and dressing up their barbaric “anti-terrorism law” as a kinder and gentler “computer crime law”, they could hoodwink everyone. Not a chance! As I have told the T-TPLF a thousand times before, you can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day it is still a pig. So is a thug in a designer suit. The difference between the T-TPLF’s “computer crime law” and “anti-terrorism law” is the difference between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

The “Computer Crime Proclamation No. —/2016” has two major sections.

The T-TPLF has frontloaded the “proclamation” with a whole bunch of garden variety “computer crimes” to distract the reader from its real objectives, namely use the “law” to punish, intimidate, harass and jail those who use computers and the internet to express  dissent.

Garden variety computer crimes

The first section of the draft “law” is the cover, the smoke and mirrors. But stripped of its diversionary legalese (that is to make it look like a real computer crimes law) about the “vital role of communication technology  in the economic, social and political development of the country” and other such gibberish, the aims of the T-TPLF “computer crimes law” are starkly evident.

The first part of the “law” deals with what appear to be garden variety crimes committed using the internet and computer software. These include:

Illegal access to the whole or any part of computer system, computer data or network.

Illegal interception of non-public computer data or data processing service.

Interference with computer system to interfere in the proper functioning of computer systems.

Causing damage to computer data by any means and rendering it useless.

Criminal acts related to usage of computer devices and data.

Forgery and falsification of  computer data for illegal benefits  or economic loss.

Electronic identity theft caused by illegal acquisition, possession or distribution of information using a computer.

Dissemination of obscene or indecent materials involving minors.

Crimes against liberty and reputation of persons  by online intimidation and threats.

“Crimes against Public Security”

It is in the “computer crimes” against “public security” section of the “law” that the T-TPLF bares its dingy teeth.

In that section are the following provisions:

Whosoever intentionally disseminates through a computer system any written, video, audio or any other picture that incites fear, violence, chaos or conflict among people shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment not exceeding three years. (Translation: Use of the internet and use of computers on the internet for such things as social media, etc. is a crime of inciting fear, violence, chaos and conflict among the people.)

A service provider shall be criminally liable for any illegal computer content data disseminated through its computer systems by third parties.  (Translation: If you are an internet café, hotel and other internet access provider, shut down your internet operation and find another line of work, like spying for the T-TPLF.)

The public prosecutor and police shall have joint power to investigate criminal acts provided for in this Proclamation. And the public prosecutor shall lead the investigation process. (Translation: Unlike any other crimes committed in the land, in computer crimes, the public prosecutor is required to lead the investigation. (By the way, that is exactly what the “public prosecutor” does in “terrorism” cases (I mean, of public prosecutors who can read and write instead of sign criminal charges with their  thumbprints.)

Any service provider shall retain the computer data disseminated through its computer systems or data relating to data processing or communication service for at least one year. (Translation: Internet cafes, hotels and other internet access provides shall serve as record keepers for the T-TPLF.)

*** I don’t get it! The T-TPLF owns Ethio Telecom as a monopoly.  Ethio Telecom is the only internet service provider in the country.  Ethio Telecom has all the servers for the internet service it provides. Do the T-TPLF ignoramuses know that internet cafes, hotels and other facilities providing internet access maintain no servers to retain computer data? Do the T-TPLF ignoramuses know that information accessed on Facebook and other social media is stored in proprietary servers outside Ethiopia? For crying out loud, what the hell is wrong with these people!?***

The Minister may give permission to the investigatory organ to conduct interception or surveillance without court warrant. (Translation: A T-TPLF minister can override the order of any court at any time and authorize illegal searches and seizures of computers and persons suspected of involvement in “computer crimes”.) order

Any service provider who has knowledge of the commission of the crimes or dissemination of any illegal content data by third parties through the computer system  shall immediately notify the Agency. (Translation: Internet cafes, hotels and other access providers shall serve as government informants.)

Where the investigatory organ reasonably believes that the computer data sought is stored in another computer system, the search or access may be extended to that other computer system without requesting separate search warrant. (Translation: Any computer suspected of having any connection with a suspect computer is subject to search and seizure without a court order.)

Computer crimes as state terrorism

The aim of the draft T-TPLF “computer crimes law” is the same as the T-TPLF’s “anti-terrorism law”: hunt down and jail journalists, bloggers, political activists and others by cracking down on their use of the internet to express dissent.

The aim of the draft T-TPLF “computer crimes law” is to criminalize the expression of dissent by shutting down both the political space and cyberspace.

The aim of the draft T-TPLF “computer crimes law” is to terrorize  those who use social media to express themselves.

The aim of the draft T-TPLF “computer crimes law” is to criminalize human rights, human rights advocacy and human rights defense.

Today, there are thousands of Ethiopians in T-TPLF secret and official prisons who have been jailed for expressing their dissent online and off.  Eskinder Nega, the Zone Nine bloggers and other journalists have been jailed for using their computer keyboards to express themselves.

Yonatan Tesfaye,  the spokesperson for Blue Party,  has been in detention for posting on Facebook

As the T-TPLF points its legal index finger on journalists, bloggers and dissidents as “computer” and “cyber-criminals”, it should be mindful that three fingers are pointing firmly at it.

T-TPLF’s desperate efforts to close the political space and cyberspace

I have been following the T-TPLF’s efforts to use the internet as a weapon of dissent suppression.

In June 2012, I wrote a commentary on the T-TPLF’s efforts to choke off Skype.

In that commentary, I also reviewed the T-TPLF’s “Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offences” (PTFO) 2012.

I have wasted way too many hours studying and analyzing T-TPLF’s  mindless laws. I invite my readers to read my previous commentaries on these topics.

Suffice it to say that when it comes to con artists, scammers, swindlers, fraudsters and computer criminals, the T-TPLF is second to none!

Talking about scammers and such, do you remember that in 2008 “USD$16 million dollars” worth of gold bars  simply walked out of the bank in Addis Ababa in broad daylight never to be seen again?

Do you remember the time in 2011 when 10,000 tons of coffee earmarked for exports simply vanished from the warehouses and Meles Zenawi called a meeting of commodities traders and threatened to “cut off their hands” if they steal coffee in the future. In a videotaped statement,  Meles told the traders he will forgive them this time because “we all have our hands in the disappearance of the coffee”.

Do you remember in 2011 Global Financial Integrity documented that US$11.7 billion walked out of Ethiopia never to return?

Here is the deal: Now, do you want to talk about real criminals or make-believe computer criminals?