Urging Ethiopian authorities to end their violent crackdown on peaceful protests, which has reportedly led to the death of over 600 people since November 2015, two United Nations human rights experts today further called on the Government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and the violence used against peaceful demonstrators.
In a joint news release, the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamardsaid: “We are outraged at the alarming allegations of mass killings, thousands of injuries, tens of thousands of arrests and hundreds of enforced disappearances.”
The experts added that they are concerned about the alleged torture and ill-treatment of arrestees in military detention centres. “In light of the lack of progress in investigating the systematic violence against protesters, we urge the Ethiopian Government to allow an international independent commission to assist in shedding light on these allegations,” they stated.
Particular concerns were voiced regarding the usage of national security provisions and counterterrorism legislation – the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 – to target the right of individuals for peaceful assembly.
“Whenever the principles of necessity and proportionality are not respected in the context of crowd control, any death caused by law enforcement officials is considered an extrajudicial execution,” stated Ms. Callamard. She also urged the authorities to disclose the location of those disappeared, adding that it is important to hold perpetrators accountable.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCR), which issued the news release, the wave of protests began a year ago in Oromia, Ethiopia, as a response to the Government’s plan to expand Addis Ababa’s boundaries, resulting in a displacement of Oromo farmers. The annexation of Konso Wereda into the Segen Arae Peoples Zone marked another wave of protests in the country in mid-December 2015, right before the revolts spread to other parts of the country.
“Suffocating dissent only makes things worse, and is likely to lead to further social and political unrest,” Ms. Kiai said. “Curtailing assembly and association rights is never the answer when there are disagreements in a society; rather, it is a sign of the State’s inability to deal with such disagreements.”
In January 2016, a group of UN experts have called for an investigation to hold those responsible for the violence accountable, but the request went unnoticed. This time, they are hoping for a better outcome.