Independent UN human rights experts are urging the Ethiopian authorities to allow peaceful demonstrations, in a new appeal for investigations into the deaths of people protesting the recent killing of a popular singer and activist from the Oromo ethnic group.
Hachalu Hundessa was gunned down on 29 June, sparking a week of violent protests in the Oromia region and the capital, Addis Ababa. The Government also then shut down internet access amid the unrest.
Although officials said 166 people were killed in the protests, unofficial reports put the number much higher, the four experts said on Tuesday. Meanwhile some 2,000 people, including opposition leaders, were arrested, according to the police.
“Even the basic facts are not clear but the scale of arrests is deeply disturbing”, they stated.
“It is essential that the authorities hold a thorough and transparent investigation to determine exactly what happened”, said the UN experts. “Those responsible for deaths of civilians must be held to account.”
Training and reform needed
They recommended that security forces be reformed and trained to manage mass gatherings.
“We also call on Ethiopian authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly, and to refrain from using force during future protests”, they added.
The UN experts also welcomed the restoration of broadband and wireless internet in Ethiopia, on 15 July.
‘Extremely difficult’ to verify deaths, injuries
They said the internet blackout had made it “extremely difficult” to verify the number of people killed and injured during the protests, “nor has it been possible to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the violence.”
The human rights experts who issued the statement are Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
UN independent experts are appointed by the Human Rights Council to monitor specific country situations or thematic issues.
They are neither UN staff, nor are they paid by the Organization.