The constitution requires the separation of state and religion, establishes freedom of religious choice and practice, prohibits religious discrimination, and stipulates the government shall not interfere in the practice of any religion. The government used the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) and other measures to restrict organized opposition and anti-government protests, including through the detention and prosecution of Muslims engaged in protests against what the protestors said was continued government interference in religious affairs. On July 6, the Federal High Court found a group of 18 Muslims, known as the Arbitration Committee Members who were identified with 2012 protests, guilty of terrorism under the ATP. On August 3, the Federal High Court sentenced the individuals to imprisonment ranging from seven to 22 years. On September 15, the government pardoned and released five of those convicted. The government put on trial other groups of Muslims, reportedly due to their support of the Arbitration Committee Members. In January and February, authorities arrested 20 Muslims who protested on prayer days in mosques, wrote columns in Muslim newspapers, and posted comments on social media in support of the Arbitration Committee Members. On August 17, the government charged them with “participating in a terrorist organization.” The defendants said they had only called for the release of the Arbitration Committee Members and protested government interference in Muslim affairs through writings in various media and peaceful protests in mosques. The court was hearing statements on the charges from the prosecution and the defense at year’s end. Some religious groups reported discrimination in government land allocation and registration policies.
There were no reports of religiously motivated societal violence during the year. Some religious leaders reported interreligious tensions were at a five-year low. Nevertheless, there were lingering tensions between Christians and Muslims. Some Ethiopian Orthodox and Protestant groups engaged in mutual recriminations over conversions and charges of heresy.
The Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor met with the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia (IRCE) to discuss issues related to peace and security, tolerance, and religious freedom. The U.S. Ambassador and embassy officials continued to discuss religious freedom with the government, and to engage with religious groups and faith-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to promote religious freedom. Embassy officials engaged with the Ministry of Federal and Pastoralist Affairs on religious tolerance and peace and security. Embassy officials attended some of the trials of Muslims and met with members of the Muslim community to discuss their allegations of government interference in religious affairs.