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AS: NEWS: OLF,OFC URGE GOV’T TO TAKE REPORT BY AMNESTY SERIOUSLY; HEED RECOMMENDATIONS TO REVERSE TROUBLING HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE RECORD May 29, 2020

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Addis Standard (Addis Abeba, May 29/2020 )– In a joint statement released by opposition parties Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) on Amnesty International’s Report, the parties urged “the federal and regional authorities to take the report by Amnesty International seriously, heed the recommendations put forth and promptly reverse the government’s deeply troubling record on rights and liberty.”

“In a new report, Beyond law enforcement: human rights violations by Ethiopian security forces in Amhara and Oromia, Amnesty International documents how security forces committed grave violations between December 2018 and December 2019 despite reforms which led to the release of thousands of detainees, expansion of the civic and political space and repeal of draconian laws, such as the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which were previously used to repress human rights,” Amnesty International.

Below is the full text of the joint statement sent to Addis Standard.

In its first comprehensive report since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government came into office, Amnesty International has presented a detailed account of the gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Ethiopian security forces against dissidents and perceived political opponents particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions. The report titled “Ethiopia: Beyond Law Enforcement” and released on May 29, 2020, has precisely exposed the wanton destruction of property, rampant extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of members of the opposition, mass detentions and forced political indoctrinations, and the application of torture and gender-based violence by state actors as a means of stamping out dissent in the last two years.  The report is a further proof that the new administration has not parted ways with the practice of forcefully stifling dissent, committing egregious human rights violations and carrying out extrajudicial killings common under its predecessor-the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front- despite taking over in April 2018 off the back of a much touted promise to reform itself.

Although the report provides a very good and consolidated highlight of the continued human rights violations under the current regime, it doesn’t come close to disclosing the full extent of the horrendous abuses and gruesome atrocities committed by the security forces. The report covers mostly the period up to the end of 2019. However, the situation in Oromia region specifically has gotten progressively worse this year (2020), with a substantial rise in mass incarcerations, extrajudicial killings and destructions of property in provinces that were not previously affected. The Amnesty Report highlights abuses carried out by the federal army. Nevertheless, the regime has also been using newly trained regional militia forces named ‘Liyu Police’ (Special Police) which have unleashed a reign of terror in parts of Oromia. As we speak, these forces are carrying out gross human rights violations against political prisoners and perceived political adversaries, with some being held without due process, the whereabouts of many is still not known after their abduction and on several instances relatives are finding the human remains of some of the abductees in the bushes. Reports of systematic disappearances and gruesome killings at the hands of security forces is a daily occurrence, not only in western and Southern provinces  but also in Central and Eastern Oromia. Far worse, in what appears to be to terrorize others, killing and leaving dead bodies of the victims on the streets or throwing away to the bush where they were being eaten by hyenas  have become a disturbing reality.  We condemn with the strongest terms these wanton killings and terrorizing of citizens, and we appreciate Amnesty International  for investigating and exposing  them.

Amnesty International’s reports warn that such violations and abuses could exacerbate out of control as the election nears and advises the government to take corrective measures. Indeed, as we were the election and before it was postponed due to Covid-19, crackdown on the population, restriction of movement and assembly by opposition was worsening. Although the election has been postponed, restriction of movement of the opposition, incarceration of our  leaders and members has continued unabated. 

Therefore, we 

  • Urge the federal and regional authorities to take the report by Amnesty International seriously, heed the recommendations put forth by it and promptly reverse the government’s deeply troubling record on rights and liberty of citizens;
  • Would like to remind the government that continuing along this dangerous path of wanton disregard for human life and dignity and rampant violation of rights will have far reaching consequences for the country and its people;
  • Challenge the Ethiopian government to stop denying the blatant violations of human rights in broad daylight and create an independent Inquiry Commission to absolve itself;
  • Demand the Ethiopian government to immediately release all political prisoners held at federal and local detention centers. 
  • Call upon local and international human rights organizations to conduct further investigations and expose the worsening situation across the country, particularly in recent months;
  • Call upon the United Nations Human Rights Commission to review the ongoing human rights violations in Ethiopia.
  • Call upon the international community to hold Ethiopian authorities to account for clearly reneging on their promise to help the country’s transition towards a peaceful and democratic order, and for choosing to chart an authoritarian path in keeping with the tradition of previous regimes.  

Finally, we would like to remind all stakeholders that human rights violations, the use of extrajudicial killings, torture and intimidation is what got Ethiopia into the current multifaceted socio-economic and political crisis. We believe continuing with such abuse will only deepen the crisis, fracturing the society, paralyzing the economy and paving the way for potential disintegration of the country itself. Therefore, we urge the government to refrain from repeating mistakes by past regimes and ask internal development partners to exert maximum pressure to ensure the transition towards a democratic state so as to put it back on track before it’s too late. 

Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)

Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)

AI: Ethiopia: Rape, extrajudicial executions, homes set alight in security operations in Amhara and Oromia May 29, 2020

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Ethiopia: Rape, extrajudicial executions, homes set alight in security operations in Amhara and Oromia

29 May 2020

Ethiopian security forces committed horrendous human rights violations including burning homes to the ground, extrajudicial executions, rape, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sometimes of entire families, in response to attacks by armed groups and inter-communal violence in Amhara and Oromia, Amnesty International said today.

In a new report, Beyond law enforcement: human rights violations by Ethiopian security forces in Amhara and Oromia, Amnesty International documents how security forces committed grave violations between December 2018 and December 2019 despite reforms which led to the release of thousands of detainees, expansion of the civic and political space and repeal of draconian laws, such as the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which were previously used to repress human rights.The Ethiopian authorities have made notable progress in changing the country’s bleak human rights record. However, it is unacceptable that the security forces should be allowed to carry on committing human rights violations with impunity. Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa

“The Ethiopian authorities have made notable progress in changing the country’s bleak human rights record. However, it is unacceptable that the security forces should be allowed to carry on committing human rights violations with impunity,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa. 

“With elections on the horizon, these violations and abuses could escalate out of control unless the government takes urgent measures to ensure security forces act within the law and remain impartial in undertaking their duties.”

In 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government lifted a ban on opposition parties, some of which had been designated terrorist organisations and forced into exile, allowing them to take part in elections initially scheduled for August 2020 but postponed due to COVID-19.With elections on the horizon, these violations and abuses could escalate out of control unless the government takes urgent measures to ensure security forces act within the law and remain impartial in undertaking their duties. Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa

In trying to mobilize support, politicians have however been stirring up ethnic and religious animosities, sparking inter-communal violence and armed attacks in five of the country’s nine regional states; Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Harari, Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), and in the Dire Dawa administrative state.

In response, the government set up security Command Posts in 2018 to coordinate the operations of the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF), federal police, regular and special (Liyu) police units in regions, and local administration security officers called kebele militia.  

Complicity in the killings

Tensions have been high in Amhara after the Qimant, a minority group, voted for their own autonomous administrative unit in September 2017, resulting in clashes between the Amhara and Qimant communities. Amnesty International’s report reveals that the Liyu police, local administration militia and two Amhara youth vigilante groups joined forces to attack members of the Qimant community in January 2019, and again in September-October 2019, leaving at least 100 people dead and hundreds displaced. Qimant homes and property were also destroyed.

From 10-11 January 2019, the security forces and vigilante groups attacked a Qimant settlement in Metema with grenades and guns and set homes on fire. Fifty-eight people were killed within 24 hours as soldiers in a nearby camp failed to respond to cries for help. Flyers and leaflets telling Qimant civil servants to leave the area had been circulating since September 2018, but the authorities took no action.Armed Amhara youth came and killed three of my brothers and my cousin and wounded my other brother. They killed them at point-blank range while I watched. They died instantly. Dinqie Tekeda, 25, victim of attacks on Qimant community

Dinqie Tekeda, 25, escaped from her burning house with four of her brothers and a cousin only for Amhara guards at Bunna International Bank, where they had sought refuge, to expose them to vigilante youths. “Armed Amhara youth came and killed three of my brothers and my cousin and wounded my other brother. They killed them at point-blank range while I watched. They died instantly,” she said.

Another attack on 29 September 2019 left 43 more Qimants dead and 12 injured. At least one family was burnt alive in their home, a witness told Amnesty International. “Just 100 metres from my home, the youth burnt Endihnew Nega, his mother, his sister and her baby at around 10pm,” Tsedal Abate said.Just 100 metres from my home, the youth burnt Endihnew Nega, his mother, his sister and her baby at around 10pm on 29 September 2019. Tsedal Abate, a witness to attacks against Qimants

Businessman Abebe Tilahun, 38, sustained multiple injuries after a grenade was hurled into his house and the house set on fire forcing him out into a barrage of gunfire that hit his shoulder and hand. “I saw the Amhara Police Special Force and the local militia attacking the Qimant neighbourhood together with the Amhara vigilante youth. They were going from home to home to kill Qimant people,” he said.

Extrajudicial executions

Amnesty International documented the extrajudicial execution of at least 39 people in Oromia including 17-year old Seid Sheriff who was shot in the head outside a café in Harqelo, Goro Dola for allegedly alerting a motor-bike driver of an impending arrest.

Three other men – Debeso Megada (27), Ararso Gobena (16) and Qalicha Jarso (22), were killed while riding on a motorbike in January 2019 in Duqisa Megada kebele, Dugda Dawa. And yet another man, Aga Uddessa, was shot dead on 3 February 2019 as he rode past the Command Post in Harqelo, Goro Dola.The authorities must immediately stop these horrific killings. They must also ensure that those responsible for these callous and brutal acts face justice. Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa

In Finchawa, Dugda Dawa, two truckloads of soldiers drove into town on 28 December 2018, and indiscriminately shot at people for an hour, killing 13. Witnesses told Amnesty International the attack was in retaliation for a soldier stoned to death three weeks earlier.

“The authorities must immediately stop these horrific killings. They must also ensure that those responsible for these callous and brutal acts face justice,” said Deprose Muchena.

Brutal beatings, lifetime scars

At least 10,000 people, including entire families, were arbitrarily arrested and detained in 2019 as part of the government’s crackdown on armed attacks and inter-communal violence in Oromia Region. They were accused, but never charged, for “supporting, sharing information with and feeding” members of an armed group calling itself the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) that splintered from the Oromo Liberation Front’s (OLF) military wing.

A gunshot wound  on the arm of victim of excessive force
A bullet wound sustained on the arm of one victim we interviewed

Many people were arrested multiple times, some detained for up to five months and put through political indoctrination to compel them to support the ruling party. Most were subjected to brutal beatings. For Momina Roba, who was beaten while four months pregnant, the ordeal ended in a miscarriage.

“I was beaten on the day I was arrested and the next day. I told them I was pregnant when they were beating me. But they said it does not matter whether I am pregnant or not. They said they may even kill me,” she said.I was beaten on the day I was arrested and the next day. I told them I was pregnant when they were beating me. But they said it does not matter whether I am pregnant or not. They said they may even kill me. Momina Roba, was beaten until she miscarried

Ebise Eba was arrested in January 2019 by two local administration security officials who took her to the Duqisa Megada administration office and raped her. They said if she did not sleep with them, they would hand her over to EDF soldiers and she would be killed. “One of them, I only know his nickname ‘Qeyo’. He is from the kebele peace and security department. The other is the commander of the militia in the kebele,” she told Amnesty International.

Forced evictions, burnt homes

Since March 2019, security officers forcibly evicted at least 60 families from Oromia’s East and West Guji zones by burning down homes, often while families were inside, leaving them stranded homeless. Amnesty International further confirmed that another 300 families were forcibly relocated from their rural homes into peri-urban areas leaving being everything – household items, harvests and crops on farms.

“We are not able to come back though this is the season for harvesting coffee. We sent elders to petition the local officials to allow us to return. They told the elders we cannot return since we support (OLA),” Faysal Udo said.

“Failure to prevent inter-communal violence and the use of unlawful force by security forces against ordinary people in response to either inter-communal violence or armed attacks is tragic. Law and order measures should never harm people or deprive them of their livelihoods driving them into poverty. The authorities must ensure all evicted and relocated families can immediately and safely return to their homes and farms,” said Deprose Muchena.Failure to prevent inter-communal violence and the use of unlawful force by security forces against ordinary people in response to either inter-communal violence or armed attacks is tragic. Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa

“The authorities must also recognize that holding diverse political views and opinions is legal. Everyone has the right to choose whom to support and these rights to freedom of expression must be guaranteed, upheld and protected. The authorities must stop killing and criminalizing people for their political choices.”

Ethiopia’s security forces accused of torture, evictions and killings – The Guardian report May 29, 2020

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Ethiopia’s security forces accused of torture, evictions and killings – report

Prime minister Abiy Ahmed has been lauded for his democratic reforms. But Amnesty International are now urging him to investigate allegations of serious human rights abuses

A man waves an Oromo flag

A man waves an Oromo flag as people from the community gather in Addis Ababa in October 2019, on the eve of Irreecha, their thanksgiving festival. Photograph: Yonas Tadesse/AFP Tom Gardner in Addis Ababa Published on Fri 29 May 2020 06.15 BST

Ethiopia’s Nobel peace prize-winning prime minister Abiy Ahmed has been urged to investigate allegations that state security forces have committed a raft of serious human rights abuses including torture and unlawful killings since he came to power in 2018.

According to a report by Amnesty International, published on Friday, Ethiopia’s military and police in its two most populous regions arbitrarily detained more than 10,000 people, summarily evicted whole families from their homes – some of which were burnt and destroyed – and in some cases were complicit in inter-communal violence targeting minorities.

Federal authorities have not responded to the report, which focuses on the period between January and December 2019 in the regions of Amhara and Oromia.

“Given the gravity and the duration [of the period in which abuses were reported] I cannot believe top officials are not aware of what was happening,” the report’s author, Fisseha Tekle, told the Guardian. “And if they are not then it is a dereliction of duty.”

In Oromia, security forces are waging a counter-insurgency campaign against rebels from the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed guerrilla movement demanding more autonomy for Oromos, which returned from exile in 2018 after Abiy removed it from Ethiopia’s list of terrorist organisations.

The move was part of a package of democratic reforms which won the prime minister widespread acclaim and, along with making peace with neighbouring Eritrea, secured him the Nobel peace prize last year. Shortly after becoming prime minister Abiy also confessed that security officials had in the past committed torture, and promised to ensure the sector was fully accountable in the future. 

But the OLA has since returned to armed conflict, and accuses the government of failing to deliver its promises of more democracy and self-rule for Oromos. 

Fighting in western and southern parts of Oromia has involved targeted killings of local officials and community leaders and what the UN has described as “serious human rights violations”. In Oromia’s Guji district the unrest had driven 80,000 people from their homes by the start of this year.

Amnesty said it had a list of 39 people suspected of supporting the OLA who had been unlawfully executed in two parts of Guji since January 2019. It also said that on a single day in December 2018, soldiers from the federal military killed 13 people in the town of Finchawa in West Guji. One of those killed was an old woman selling milk on the street, according to an eyewitness who spoke to Amnesty.

Security forces are estimated to have detained more than 10,000 men and women suspected of supporting or working for the OLA, among other abuses documented by the organisation.

Many were detained for several months without being charged, in violation of both national and international human rights laws, under conditions which at times amounted to torture, the report found. Detainees were made to undergo two months of “training” in subjects such as constitutionalism, the rule of law and the history of the Oromo people’s struggle. 

In Amhara, according to the report, regional police, militia and local vigilante groups engaged in targeted attacks on ethnic Qemant, a minority group demanding more autonomy, in inter-communal violence which resulted in at least 130 deaths last year. In January 2019, at least 58 people were reportedly killed in less than 24 hours and buried in mass graves. 

Nobody has yet been held accountable for the atrocity.

Amnesty said it had sought responses to its findings from nine government offices including the defence ministry and the attorney-general’s office but had only received a response from Amhara’s regional security bureau, which denied that state security forces had been involved in any atrocities. Suspicion and fear linger as Ethiopia’s campus wars go quietRead more

The rights group called on the government to carry out full investigations into human rights violations and to order security forces to stop carrying out unlawful executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, as well as forced evictions and destruction of property belonging to people suspected of supporting opposition political parties or armed groups.

In February last year the former head of the Ethiopian army said it had embarked on “deep institutional reform” as part of the democratic changes sweeping the nation.

The head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, told the Guardian: “While the Amnesty findings and ongoing reports of killings and arrests in parts of Oromia region should be taken seriously and fully investigated, it is also important to understand the complex nature of the security operations where armed groups are seriously destabilising the affected areas.”

The prime minister’s office said it would put the Guardian’s request for official comment to the peace ministry, which did not respond in time for publication.

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