Rights group reported mass atrocities during Ethiopia protests

By Elias Meseret

Ethiopian security forces have resorted to extrajudicial killing, random shooting, rape, torture and mass detention during recent protests in the country, the Human Rights Council reported on Monday. The Council, an indigenous group established to monitor human rights vioRights group reported mass atrocities during Ethiopia protestslations and conduct advocacy, said that its investigation into the recent Oromo protests in Ethiopia’s largest federal states has revealed ‘shocking’ results.

“Our through investigations have found out that security forces have resorted to use of excessive force against protestors,” Bitsaete Terefe, Director of the group told diplomats and the media in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. “Our investigators have documented extrajudicial killings, tortures, beatings, illegal detentions, forced disappearances and arson attacks during and after the protests and the main actors behind those attacks were security forces.”

The latest round of protests in Ethiopia’s Oromia region erupted in November 2015 over the Addis Ababa city plan, which the Oromo people who live in the vicinities of the capital say will incorporate lands into the city and displace thousands of farmers. Authorities have since abandoned the plan amid massive protests but violent clashes have still continued in parts of the Oromia region.

On March 10, Ethiopia’s leader has publicly apologized for the killing of protestors. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told MPs that he is ‘apologetic for the death and destruction that ensued the protests but insisted ‘anti- peace forces’ were behind the violence.

Opposition parties have put the number of victims well over 140 but the Human Right Council said it has managed to confirm the identities of 103 people killed so far. In some incidents, it added, a mother and son were brutally killed by security forces inside their house and another 12 year old boy was killed along with another person who was pleading for his life in front of a police station in one of the Oromia towns.

According to the Council; it has managed to confirm the identities of 226 people arrested, 12 reported missing, 800 displaced and 892 houses burned down during the unrest. It went on to highlight that a massive damage has been caused to businesses, including the burning down of 10 trucks that belonged to the Nigerian businessman, Aliko Dagnote’s, cement factory.

“We were not able to conduct a thorough investigation in all localities due to people’s fear to talk openly and the difficulty to freely move in the protest sites. We were under a constant surveillance by government intelligence and security forces,” the Director said adding that the government was unwilling to provide them with more information during their investigations. “We demand the government to urgently consider our findings and investigate the violations through an independent body. Those responsible for the crimes must be held accountable and victims must be properly compensated.”

The Council said its latest report is based on investigations it carried out between November 2015 and February 2016. The Ethiopian government has not yet released the casualties’ figures citing ongoing investigations by government agencies.

Both the government and the group have reported the burning down of churches during the protests. However, the Human Rights Council’s Director said that his office was not able to substantiate government claims that armed groups have joined the protests and are carrying out an insurgency against security forces.