Ethiopia must provide justice for scores of protestors killed, injured & arrested in Oromia

14 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory
Amnesty International PUblic Statement

Amnesty International condemns the use of excessive force by security forces against peaceful protesters in a number of locations across the Oromia region during the last two weeks, which has resulted in the deaths and injuries of dozens of people including students and children. Many hundreds of protesters are reported to have been arbitrarily arrested, and are being detained incommunicado and without charge. Detainees are at risk of torture.

The Ethiopian government must immediately instruct the security forces to cease using deadly force against peaceful protesters, and to release any person who has been arrested solely because of their involvement in peaceful protests. These incidents must be urgently and properly investigated, and suspected perpetrators should be prosecuted in effective trial proceedings.

Since late April, protests have taken place in many universities and towns across the Oromia region over the ‘Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan’ –a plan from the central government to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into parts of Oromia – the region which surrounds the city. The government says the master plan for expansion would bring city services to remote areas. However, the protesters, and many other Oromos, the ethnic group that makes up the significant majority of the population of Oromia regional state, fear that the move will be detrimental to the interests of Oromo farmers, and will lead to large scale evictions to make way for land leasing or sale. Many Oromos also consider the move to be in violation of the Constitutionally-guaranteed protection of the ‘special interests’ of the Oromia state.

Numerous reports from witnesses, local residents and other sources indicate that the security forces have responded with excessive force against peaceful protesters. Forces comprised of the federal police and military special forces known as ‘Agazi’, have fired live ammunition at unarmed protesters in a number of locations including in Wallega and Madawalabu universities and Ambo and Guder towns, resulting in deaths in each location.

One witness told Amnesty International that on the third day of protest in Guder town, near Ambo, the security forces were waiting for the protesters and opened fire when they arrived. She said five people were killed in front of her. A source in Robe town, the location of Madawalabu University, told Amnesty International that 11 bodies had been seen in a hospital in the town. Another witness said they had seen five bodies in Ambo hospital.

There are major restrictions on independent journalism and human rights monitoring organizations in Ethiopia as well as on exchange of information. Because of these restrictions, in conjunction with the number of incidents that occurred in the last two weeks, it is not possible to establish the exact number of those who have been killed. The government acknowledged that three students had died at Madawalabu University, and five persons had died in Ambo town, but did not state the cause of death. Numbers of deaths reported by witnesses and residents within Oromia are significantly higher. Investigations into these incidents must include the establishment of comprehensive numbers of people killed and injured in all incidents.

According to eye-witness reports received by Amnesty International, of those who were killed some people, including students and children, died instantly during protests, while some died subsequently in hospitals as a result of their injuries. Children as young as 11 years old were among the dead. Students and teachers constitute the majority of those killed and injured.

Protesters were also reportedly beaten up during and after protests, resulting in scores of injuries in locations including Ambo, Jimma, Nekempte, Wallega, Dembi Dollo, Robe town, Madawalabu, and Haromaya.

Hundreds of people have been arrested across many locations. The main Oromo opposition party, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) which has been collecting information from its members throughout the region, believes those arrested may total several thousand. Witnesses told Amnesty International that in many cases the arrests took place after the protesters had dispersed. Security forces have conducted house to house searches in many locations in the region, for students and others who may have been involved. New arrests continue to be reported. A small number of people have been released, but most of those arrested remain in incommunicado detention, in many cases in unknown locations. The OFCalso reports that two of its members were arrested in Ambo because they had spoken to a Voice of America reporter about events in the town.

Read the full statement from Amnesty International
 

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