Tag Archives: #oromoprotests

Ethiopia admits 2016 unrest death toll reached 669

The official death toll from last year’s civil unrest in Ethiopia came to 669 people, according to a report to the parliament in Addis Ababa this week.

Euractiv | Long-standing grievances over land-allocation and political marginalisation in the Oromia and Amhara regions saw spontaneous ‘illegal’ protests and the killing of some 600 civilians by security forces, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

That lead to a six-month state of emergency in one of the few stable states in Horn of Africa, and a major beneficiary of EU and NGO aid.

At first the official figure for the dead was 177, although groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were already saying the number was closer to between 400 and 500.

The EHRC report, appointed by the government and given to parliament on 18 April, gives a total of 669 deaths, with a detailed breakdown.

It finds that 495 people (465 civilians, 33 security personnel) died in Oromia, 140 people (110 civilians and 30 security personnel) in Amhara and 34 people in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNP) regional states.

However, it finds that security forces only used tear gas and “proportionate” force at the religious Irrecha festival in October 2016.

In previous interviews with EURACTIV.com, the Ethiopian ambassador the EU blamed ‘outside forces’ for the unrest and subsequent deaths.

In this week’s report, Dr Addisu Gebregziabher, Commissioner of EHRC, admitted that “problems of good governance, failure to implement the special interest of Oromia in Addis Ababa as per the Constitution and the Addis Ababa Master Plan were the main causes for unrest in Oromia regional state.”

But the Commission also stated that illegal demonstrations orchestrated by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and Oromia Media Network caused ethnic-based attacks, ruined religious equality, violated the right to life and inflicted physical injuries on people.

Whilst Ethiopia is a strategic geo-political ‘anchor’ in the troubled Horn of Africa region, and also struggles with repeated severe droughts that put up to 10 million people at the mercy of emergency food aid, NGOs and aid agencies in Brussels will privately criticise the government in Addis Ababa for its authoritarian nature.

With the help of Chinese investment, such as a new Metro line in the capital, the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile, and a new rail line to the coast, GDP has seen impressive increases – whilst the O Oromia and Amhara peoples complain they are sidelines by the Tigran political elite.

Despite the 1 to 10 ratio in civilian to security force deaths, the Commission said that “in most cases, measures taken by security officers were legal and proportionate.” it also indicated that security officers used unnecessary force in several cases.

The EHRC recommended solutions “ to ensure good governance, create employment opportunities for young people, rehabilitate those affected by the unrest, avert ethnic-based attacks, bring responsible security forces to justice, respect and promote people’s rights and prevent movement of illegal weapons.”

Yesterday (20 April) the Oromia and Somali state leaders within Ethiopia signed a conflict-resolution agreement.

The unrest hit headlines around the world after Ethiopian long-distance runner Feyisa Lilesa made the ‘cross arms’ symbol of his Oromia people at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Ethiopia is an important partner in the EU’s new Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, its controversial ‘migration pacts’ and a major recipient of Official Development Aid (ODA.)

Hawaasni Oromoo Nezerlaand qabsoo Oromoo hanga bilisummaatti dinagdeen utubuudhaaf waadaa seene

Onkoloolessa 15, 2016 Hawaasni Oromoo Nezerlaand qabsoo bilisummaa Oromoon Oromiyaa keessatti geggeeffamaa jiru irratti marii badhaa taasise. Mariin kuni kan taasifame magaalaa Amsterdam itti.

Oromoonni marii kanarratti argaman kanniin qabsoo irratti wareegaman yaadatani; akkasumas ajjeechaa fi gidiraa mootummaa Woyyaaneetiin lammii isaanii irratti raawwatamaa jiru balaaleffataniiru. ‘Labsii yeroo muddamaa’ jechuudhaan sochii bal’aa ukkaamsaa fi saamichaa Woyyaaneedhaan Oromoo irratti geggeeffamaa jirus kan hedduu isaan yaachise ta’uu dubbataniiru.

Qabsoon Oromoo sadarkaa ol’aanaa irra gayuun hubannoo hirmattota hundaati. Erga dhiigaan sadarkaa  kanarra gayamee qabsicha gatii kamiinuu xumuraan gayuun alatti Oromoon fala biraa kan hin qabne ta’uu hundi jala sararaniiru.

Qabsoon Oromoon geggeesaa jiru qabsoo haqaa fi guutummatti kan deeggaraniidha, akka yaada hirmaattotaatti.  Hanga bilisummaatti diinagdeen, beekumsaa fi karaa danda’amu hundaan qabsoo Oromoo deeggaruudhaaf murannoo isaanii  ifa godhaniiru. Battalumattis qabsoo bilisummaaf kan oolu maallaqa wolitti qabaniiru. Ammas, hanga xumura gabrummaatti baatii baatiidhaan guumaacha diinagdee wolirraa hin cinne godhuudhaaf waadaa seenaniiru.

Hirmaattonni marii kanaa Oromoon bakka jiru hundaa diinagdee fi beekumsaa qabuun qabsoo bilisummaa akka deeggaran waamicha Oromummaa dhiyeessaniiru.

Qabsoon kallattii hundaan itti fufa!

Deaths of at least 52 people blamed on police action against protesters during Oromia religious festival in Bishoftu

Dozens of people have been reportedly crushed to death in Ethiopia in a stampede after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse an anti-government protest that grew out of a religious festival.

There were conflicting reports of the number killed in Sunday’s stampede in Bishoftu, a town40km southeast of the capital Addis Ababa.

The Oromia regional government, however, confirmed the death of at least 52 people.

An Associated Press news agency report said “several dozens” have died.

“As a result of the chaos, lives were lost and several of the injured were taken to hospital,” the government communications office said in a statement, without giving exact figures.

“Those responsible will face justice.”

An estimated two million people were attending the annual Irrecha event in Bishoftu.

The event took place in one of the country’s most sensitive regions, Oromia, which has seen several months of sometimes deadly protests demanding wider freedoms.

Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, told Reuters news agency that the deaths occurred when people fled after police fired tear gas and shots in the air to disperse anti-government protesters at the religious festival.

Crowds chanted “We need freedom” and “We need justice” and prevented community elders, deemed close to the government, from delivering their speeches at a religious festival, prompting police to fire tear gas that caused the stampede.

Protesters chanted slogans against the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, one of four regional political parties that make up the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has ruled the nation for quarter of a century.

Sporadic protests have erupted in Oromia region in the past two years, initially sparked by a land row and increasingly turning more broadly against the government.

Ethnic tensions

According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, at least 500 people have been killed by security forces since the demonstrations began in November.

Though protests started among the Oromo – Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group – they later spread to the Amhara, the second-most largest in the country.

Both groups say the ruling coalition is dominated by the Tigray ethnic group, which makes up only about six percent of the population.

What is triggering Ethiopia’s unrest?

Small protests in Oromia province initially flared in 2014 over a development plan for the capital that would have expanded its boundaries, a move seen as threatening the seizure of farmland.

The government has blamed rebel groups and dissidents abroad for stirring up the protests and provoking violence.

The government has denied that violence from the security forces is systemic, though a spokesman has previously told Al Jazeera that police officers “sometimes take the law into their own hands”, pledging an independent investigation.

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front last month rejected a United Nations request to send in observers, saying it alone was responsible for the security of its citizens. Al Jazeera

15 CSO’s Joint letter to UN Human Rights Council on Ethiopia

To Permanent Representatives of

Members and Observer States of the
UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, 8 September 2016

RE: Addressing the escalating human rights crisis in Ethiopia

Your Excellency,

The undersigned civil society organisations write to draw your attention to grave violations of human rights in Ethiopia, including the recent crackdown on largely peaceful protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions.

As the UN Human Rights Council prepares to convene for its 33rd session between 13 – 30 September 2016, we urge your delegation to prioritise and address through joint and individual statements the escalating human rights crisis in Ethiopia.

An escalating human rights crisis in Oromia and Amhara Regions

The situation in Ethiopia has become increasingly unstable since security forces repeatedly fired upon protests in the Amhara and Oromia regions in August 2016. On 6 and 7 August alone, Amnesty International reported at least 100 killings and scores of arrests during protests that took place across multiple towns in both regions. Protesters had taken to the streets throughout the Amhara and Oromia regions to express discontent over the ruling party’s dominance in government affairs, the lack of rule of law, and grave human rights violations for which there has been no accountability.

Protests in the Amhara region began peacefully in Gondar a month ago and spread to other towns in the region. A protest in Bahir Dar, the region’s capital, on 7 August turned violent when security forces shot and killed at least 30 people. Recently, on 30 August, stay-at-home strikers took to the streets of Bahir Dar again and were violently dispersed by security forces. According to the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), in the week of 29 August alone, security forces killed more than 70 protesters and injured many more in cities and towns across Northern Amhara region.

Since November 2015, Ethiopian security forces have routinely used excessive and unnecessary lethal force to disperse and suppress the largely peaceful protests in the Oromia region. The protesters, who originally advocated against the dispossession of land without adequate compensation under the government’s Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan, have been subjected to widespread rights violations. According to international and national human rights groups, at least 500 demonstrators have been killed and hundreds have suffered bullet wounds and beatings by police and military during the protests.

Authorities have also arbitrarily arrested thousands of people throughout Oromia and Amhara during and after protests, including journalists and human rights defenders. Many of those detained are being held without charge and without access to family members or legal representation. Many of those who have been released report torture in detention. The continued use of unlawful force to repress the movement has broadened the grievances of the protesters to human rights and rule of law issues.

The need for international, independent, thorough, impartial and transparent investigations

Following the attacks by security forces on protesters in Oromia earlier this year, five UN Special Procedures issued a joint statement noting that “the sheer number of people killed and arrested suggests that the Government of Ethiopia views the citizens as a hindrance, rather than a partner”, and underlining that “Impunity … only perpetuates distrust, violence and more oppression”.

In response to the recent crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”. Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call, instead indicating it would launch its own investigation. On 2 September, in a public media statement, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights reiterated the UN High Commissioner’s call to allow a prompt and impartial investigation led by regional or international human rights bodies into the crackdown.

There are no effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses given the lack of independence of the judiciary and legislative constraints. During the May 2015 general elections, the ruling EPRDF party won all 547 seats in the Ethiopian Parliament.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, has failed to make public its June report on the Oromia protests, whileconcluding in its oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Ethiopian National Human Rights Commission as B, meaning the latter has failed to meet fully the Paris Principles.

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, who met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at the margins of the European Development Days in June 2016, has called on all parties to refrain from the use of force and for a constructive dialogue and engagement to take place without delay. On 28 August, after the EPRDF party’s general assembly, Prime Minister Hailemariam reportedly ordered the country’s military to take any appropriate measures to quell the protests, which he described as illegal and aimed at destabilising the nation. Following a similar call regarding the Oromia protests, security forces intensified the use of excessive force against protesters.

A highly restrictive environment for dialogue

Numerous human rights activists, journalists, opposition political party leaders and supporters have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Since August 2016, four members of one of Ethiopia’s most prominent human rights organisations, the Human Rights Council (HRCO), were arrested and detained in the Amhara and Oromia regions. HRCO believes these arrests are related to the members’ monitoring and documentation of the crackdown of on-going protests in these regions.

Among those arrested since the protests began and still in detention are Colonel Demeke Zewdu (Member, Wolkait Identity Committee (WIC)), Getachew Ademe (Chairperson, WIC), Atalay Zafe (Member, WIC), Mebratu Getahun (Member, WIC), Alene Shama (Member, WIC), Addisu Serebe (Member, WIC), Bekele Gerba (Deputy Chair, Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)), Dejene Tufa (Deputy General Secretary, OFC), Getachew Shiferaw (Editor-in-Chief of the online newspaper Negere Ethiopia), Yonathan Teressa (human rights defender) and Fikadu Mirkana (reporter with the state-owned Oromia Radio and TV).

Prominent human rights experts and groups, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have repeatedly condemned the highly restrictive legal framework in Ethiopia. The deliberate misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation’s overbroad and vague provisions to target journalists and activists has increased as protests have intensified. The law permits up to four months of pre-trial detention and prescribes long prison sentences for a range of activities protected under international human rights law. Dozens of human rights defenders as well as journalists, bloggers, peaceful demonstrators and opposition party members have been subjected to harassment and politically motivated prosecution under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, making Ethiopia one of the leading jailers of journalists in the world.

In addition, domestic civil society organisations are severely hindered by one of the most restrictive NGO laws in the world. Specifically, under the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation, the vast majority of Ethiopian organisations have been forced to stop working on human rights and governance issues, a matter of great concern that has been repeatedly raised in international forums including at Ethiopia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

This restrictive and worsening environment underscores the limited avenues available for dialogue and accountability in the country. It is essential that the UN Human Rights Council take a strong position urging the Ethiopian government to immediately allow an international, thorough, independent, transparent and impartial investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed in the context of the government’s response to the largely peaceful protests.

As a member – and Vice-President – of the Human Rights Council, Ethiopia has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and “fully cooperate” with the Council and its mechanisms (GA Resolution 60/251, OP 9). Yet for the past ten years, it has consistently failed to accept country visit requests by numerous Special Procedures.

During the upcoming 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, we urge your delegation to make joint and individual statements reinforcing and building upon the expressions of concern by the High Commissioner, UN Special Procedures, and others.

Specifically, the undersigned organisations request your delegation to urge Ethiopia to:

  1. immediately cease the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces against protesters in Oromia and Amhara regions and elsewhere in Ethiopia;
  2. immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
  3. respond favourably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures;
  4. urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
  5. ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials and without resort to the death penalty; and
  6. fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.

Amnesty International
Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Civil Rights Defenders
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
Ethiopian Human Rights Project
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative
Freedom House
Front Line Defenders
Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect
Human Rights Watch
International Service for Human Rights
Reporters Without Borders
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Source HRW

HRW: Ethiopian Forces Kill ‘Up to 100’ Protesters

Governments Should Press Ethiopia to Allow an International Investigation

As anti-government protests spread across Ethiopia’s Amhara and Oromia regions last weekend, state security forces once again used lethal force to break them up – killing as many as 100 unarmed protesters.

More than 500 demonstrators are now estimated to have been killed by security forces in largely peaceful protests since November 2015. Demonstrators are protesting against alleged abuses and discrimination by the government.

The authorities have detained thousands during the demonstrations, and charged opposition political leaders with terrorism. The government’s heavy-handed response is likely to fuel growing anger and frustration.

On Wednesday, the United Nations’ top human rights official stressed the need for aninternational investigation into the killings. Ethiopia’s government immediately rejected this, stating to Al Jazeera that it would be responsible for the safety of its own people.

Some governments, including the United Kingdom, have decided to wait for the outcome of an investigation by Ethiopia’s national Human Rights Commission into the government’s response to protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions before deciding how to act. In its oral report to parliament in June, however, the commission concluded that the level of force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from protesters.

Days earlier, Human Rights Watch had reported that excessive use of force resulted in the killing of an estimated 400 people during the protests in Oromia – and that the response was anything but proportionate.

The Human Rights Commission has a history of close ties to the government.

That combined with the well-established absence of accountability for security forces underscores the need for an international investigation.

One now-former federal police officer involved in quelling the protests laughed when I asked him in May if he knew of any officers held to account. “We can do whatever we want to stop the protests,” he said. “It is only our families and communities who shame us and make us feel guilty for how we act against our people.”

Ethiopia has been hostile to outside scrutiny of its rights record. Despite its June election to the UN Security Council and its membership of the Human Rights Council, it has refused entry to all UN special rapporteurs since 2007 – including the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The United Nations and allied governments should press Ethiopia to stop using excessive force against protesters, and to hold those responsible to account, regardless of rank. They should press the Ethiopian government to allow international observers to investigate abuses before Ethiopia slides into an even more dangerous and irreversible political and human rights crisis. Source HRW

Waarom schiet Ethiopië vreedzame demonstranten dood?

Ethiopië moet buitenlandse waarnemers toelaten in gebieden waar ordetroepen afgelopen week tientallen demonstranten zouden hebben doodgeschoten. Dat vindt de Hoge Commissaris voor de Mensenrechten van de Verenigde Naties. De beschuldigingen aan het adres van de veiligheidstroepen moeten worden onderzocht, zei Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.

In Ethiopië zijn bij recente protesten tegen de regering bijna honderd mensen gedood door leden van de politie en het leger. Dat stelt Amnesty International. Het cijfer van de mensenrechtenorganisatie komt overeen met dat van activisten. De Ethiopische regering spreekt niet over slachtoffers.

De meeste doden vielen het afgelopen weekeinde in het leefgebied van de Oromo, het grootste volk in Ethiopië. Meer dan zestig mensen zijn daar volgens Amnesty gestorven toen leden van de veiligheidsdiensten met scherp schoten op ‘vreedzame demonstranten’. In het gebied zijn al veel vaker doden gevallen.

Ook in de regio waar leden van het op één na grootste volk, de Amhara wonen, zijn tientallen mensen om het leven gekomen. Vertegenwoordigers van beide volken klagen al geruime tijd over hun sociaal-economische achterstelling. Hun woede richt zich op de politieke leiding in de hoofdstad Addis Abeba, bij wie zij geen stem hebben.

Economie aanjagen en autoritaire politiek

Al sinds de val van dictator Haile Mengistu Mariam in 1991 wordt Ethiopië voornamelijk geregeerd door mensen van het Tigray-volk. Zij maken slechts iets meer dan zes procent van de bevolking van circa 95 miljoen mensen uit. De Oromo vormen zo’n 34 procent van de bevolking, de Amhara circa 27 procent. In het Ethiopische parlement telt de oppositie geen enkele zetel.

Het beleid van het Ethiopische bewind kent twee belangrijke pijlers. Op de eerste plaats is er het sterke accent op het verbeteren van de infrastructuur in het land, bedoeld om de economie aan te jagen. Daarbij zijn de afgelopen tien jaar veel successen geboekt. De economische groei van Ethiopië hoorde vorig jaar met ruim tien procent opnieuw tot de allerhoogste in Afrika.

Een uiterst autoritaire politiek vormt de andere pijler voor de machthebbers in Addis. Kritische activisten wordt de mond gesnoerd, persvrijheid bestaat niet en het internet wordt er soms, zoals ook de afgelopen dagen, platgelegd om proteststemmen te smoren. Ethiopië kent de nodige politieke gevangenen.

Oromo in opstand

De Oromo kwamen eerder dit jaar in opstand tegen plannen van de regering om landbouwgrond te confisceren voor de uitbreiding van de hoofdstad. Ook toen traden de veiligheidsdiensten keihard op. De plannen werden uiteindelijk opgeschort, maar sommige van de mensen die toen zijn opgepakt, zitten nog vast.

Het recente protest in het Amhara-gebied richtte zich met name tegen de vermeend illegale inlijving van het district Wolkayt bij de regio Tigray in het noorden. Hierover bestaat al langere tijd onenigheid. Opnieuw traden politie en leger hard op, vooral in de stad Bahir Dar.

Strijd tegen al-Shabaab

De Verenigde Staten, een belangrijke bondgenoot van Ethiopië, hebben in een verklaring gezegd ‘diep bezorgd’ te zijn over het optreden tegen de demonstranten. De kans is echter niet groot dat de VS zich tegen de Ethiopische regering zullen keren.

Ethiopië is een van de landen die al jaren militairen hebben gelegerd in het buurland Somalië. Zij zijn daar met name om te strijden tegen al-Shabaab, de islamistische terreurbeweging. In die strijd coördineren Ethiopië en de VS ook regelmatig acties. Dat gaat soms binnen, soms buiten het mandaat van Amisom, de vredesmacht van de Afrikaanse Unie voor Somalië.

De Hoge Commissaris voor de Mensenrechten Zeid zegt in overleg te zijn getreden met de regering in Addis Abeba over de komst van waarnemers. De VN hebben, sinds in januari de eerste betogers werden vermoord, ‘geen enkele oprechte poging tot onderzoek en verantwoording gezien’, klaagde de mensenrechtencommissaris.

Ordetroepen brachten in het weekeinde in de regio’s Oromiya en Amhara tussen de negentig en honderd betogers om, meldden mensenrechtenorganisaties en de Ethiopische oppositie. De demonstranten waren te hoop gelopen tegen de onteigeningen die nodig zouden zijn voor de uitbreiding van de hoofdstad Addis Abeba.

Betoging in Rotterdam tijdens Ethiopisch feest

ROTTERDAM – Een groep Ethiopische betogers heeft zaterdag een jubileumfeest van de Ethiopische regering in Rotterdam verstoord. De organisatie spreekt van tweehonderd demonstranten, de politie houdt het op ongeveer vijftig betogers. ,,Er zijn geen aanhoudingen verricht. We hebben op geen enkele manier hoeven optreden”, aldus de politie zaterdagavond.

De regering van het Oost-Afrikaanse land is 25 jaar aan de macht en voor de festiviteiten in een zaal in Rotterdam-Crooswijk waren de ambassadeur van Ethiopië, diplomaten en andere ambassademedewerkers uitgenodigd.

De betogers blokkeerden de ingang van de zaal omdat er volgens hen niets te vieren valt. Het afgelopen halfjaar zouden minstens vierhonderd mensen zijn vermoord tijdens grootschalige betogingen in het land. Tienduizenden anderen zouden zijn gearresteerd.

”Duizenden Oromo zijn gearresteerd en in hechtenis”, zo staat op pamfletten die de demonstranten zaterdag hebben verspreid. De Oromo is de omvangrijkste etnische groep in Ethiopië; ze wonen hoofdzakelijk in de regio Oromiya.

Het protest in Rotterdam was verder gericht tegen het gebrek aan vrijheid van oppositie en tegen landonteigeningen en andere mensenrechtenschendingen. Telegraaf

Ethiopia: Protest Crackdown Killed Hundreds

Free Wrongfully Held Detainees, Independent Inquiry Needed

(Nairobi) – Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 protesters and others, and arrested tens of thousands more during widespread protests in the Oromia region since November 2015. The Ethiopian government should urgently support a credible, independent investigation into the killings, arbitrary arrests, and other abuses.

The 61-page report. “‘Such a Brutal Crackdown’: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests,” details the Ethiopian government’s use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force and mass arrests, mistreatment in detention, and restrictions on access to information to quash the protest movement. Human Rights Watch interviews in Ethiopia and abroad with more than 125 protesters, bystanders, and victims of abuse documented serious violations of the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly by security forces against protesters and others from the beginning of the protests in November 2015 through May 2016.

ctor at Human Rights Watch. “The government should immediately free those wrongfully detained, support a credible, independent investigation, and hold security force members accountable for abuses.”

Human Rights Watch found that security forces used live ammunition for crowd control repeatedly, killing one or more protesters at many of the hundreds of protests over several months. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have identified more than 300 of those killed by name and, in some cases, with photos.

The November protests were triggered by concerns about the government’s proposed expansion of the capital’s municipal boundary through the Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan. Protesters feared that the Master Plan would displace Oromo farmers, as has increasingly occurred over the past decade, resulting in a negative impact on farm communities while benefiting a small elite.

As protests continued into December, the government deployed military forces for crowd-control throughout Oromia. Security forces repeatedly fired live ammunition into crowds with little or no warning or use of non-lethal crowd-control measures. Many of those killed have been students, including children under 18.

The federal police and military have also arrested tens of thousands of students, teachers, musicians, opposition politicians, health workers, and people who provided assistance or shelter to fleeing students. While many detainees have been released, an unknown number remain in detention without charge and without access to legal counsel or family members.

Witnesses described the scale of the arrests as unprecedented. Yoseph, 52, from the Wollega zone, said: “I’ve lived here for my whole life, and I’ve never seen such a brutal crackdown. There are regular arrests and killings of our people, but every family here has had at least one child arrested.”

Former detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were tortured or mistreated in detention, including in military camps, and several women alleged that they were raped or sexually assaulted. Some said they were hung by their ankles and beaten; others described having electric shocks applied to their feet, or weights tied to their testicles. Video footage shows students being beaten on university campuses.

Despite the large number of arrests, the authorities have charged few individuals with any offenses. Several dozen opposition party members and journalists have been charged under Ethiopia’s draconian anti-terrorism law, while 20 students who protested in front of the United States embassy in Addis Ababa in March were charged with various offenses under the criminal code.

Access to education – from primary school to university – has been disrupted in many locations because of the presence of security forces in and around schools, the arrest of teachers and students, and many students’ fear of attending class. Authorities temporarily closed schools for weeks in some locations to deter protests. Many students told Human Rights Watch that the military and other security forces were occupying campuses and monitoring and harassing ethnic Oromo students.

There have been some credible reports of violence by protesters, including the destruction of foreign-owned farms, looting of government buildings, and other destruction of government property. However, the Human Rights Watch investigations into 62 of the more than 500 protests since November found that most have been peaceful.

The Ethiopian government’s pervasive restrictions on independent human rights investigations and media have meant that very little information is coming from affected areas. The Ethiopian government has also increased its efforts to restrict media freedom. Since mid-March it has restricted access to Facebook and other social media. It has also restricted access to diaspora television stations.

In January, the government announced the cancellation of the Master Plan. By then, however, protester grievances had widened due to the brutality of the government response.

While the protests have largely subsided since April, the government crackdown has continued, Human Rights Watch found. Many of those arrested over the past seven months remain in detention, and hundreds have not been located and are feared to have been forcibly disappeared. The government has not conducted a credible investigation into alleged abuses. Soldiers still occupy some university campuses and tensions remain high. The protests echo similar though smaller protests in Oromia in 2014, and the government’s response could be a catalyst for future dissent, Human Rights Watch said.

Ethiopia’s brutal crackdown warrants a much stronger, united response from concerned governments and intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said. While the European Parliament has passed a strong resolution condemning the crackdown and a resolution has been introduced in the United States Senate, these are exceptions in an otherwise severely muted international response to the crackdown in Oromia. The UN Human Rights Council should address these serious abuses, call for the release of those arbitrarily detained and support an independent investigation.

“Ethiopia’s foreign supporters have largely remained silent during the government’s bloody crackdown in Oromia,” Lefkow said. “Countries promoting Ethiopia’s development should press for progress in all areas, notably the right to free speech, and justice for victims of abuse.”  Source HRW

HRW: Using Courts to Crush Dissent in Ethiopia

HRW– For the past six months, thousands of people have taken to the streets in Ethiopia’s largest region, Oromia, to protest alleged abuses by their government. The protests, unprecedented in recent years, have seen Ethiopia’s security forces use lethal force against largely peaceful protesters, killing hundreds and arresting tens of thousands more.

The government is inexorably closing off ways for Ethiopians to peacefully express their grievances, not just with bullets but also through the courts. In recent weeks, the Ethiopian authorities have lodged new, politically motivated charges against prominent opposition politicians and others, accusing them of crimes under Ethiopia’s draconian counterterrorism law.

Just last week, Yonatan Tesfaye Regassa, the head of public relations for the opposition Semayawi Party (the Blue Party), was charged with “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt” of a terrorist act. The authorities citied Yonatan’s Facebook posts about the protests as evidence; he faces 15 years to life in prison, if convicted.

In April, Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromia’s largest registered political party, and 21 others, including many senior OFC members, were charged under the counterterrorism law, four months after their arrest onDecember 23, 2015. Bekele is accused of having links with the banned Oromo Liberation Front, a charge frequently used by the government to target ethnic Oromo dissidents and others. Deeply committed to nonviolence, Bekele has consistently urged the OFC to participate in elections despite the ruling party’s iron grip on the polls. Bekele and the others have described horrible conditions during their detention, including at the notorious Maekalawi prison, where torture and other ill-treatment are routine.

The authorities also charged 20 university students under the criminal code for protesting in front of the United States Embassy in Addis Ababa in March, 2016. The “evidence” against them included a video of their protest and a list of demands, which included the immediate release of opposition leaders and others arrested for peaceful protests, and the establishment of an independent body to investigate and prosecute those who killed and injured peaceful protesters. They face three years in prison if convicted.

The Ethiopian government is sending a clear message when it charges peaceful protesters and opposition politicians like Bekele Gerba with terrorism. The message is that no dissent is tolerated, whether through social media, the electoral system, or peaceful assembly.

Ethiopia: Activist charged with terrorism over Facebook post

AP– A court in Ethiopia has charged a social media activist for inciting violence and other terror-related offenses citing Facebook posts as evidence.

Yonathan Tesfaye, a former spokesman for the opposition Blue Party, was charged Wednesday by Ethiopia’s Federal High Court. If convicted, he could face a death sentence.

Yonathan was detained by Ethiopian security forces in December at the height of violent protests in the Oromo community over an alleged plan by the government to grab their land.

Rights groups say the Ethiopian government is using sweeping anti-terror laws to crack down on those critical of the regime.

Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty’s regional chief, said Yonathan spoke against a possible land grab in Oromia, which is not a crime and is certainly not terrorism.