Civil society groups urge the international community to address killing of protesters in Ethiopia

ESAT News (January 14, 2016)

World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (Defend Defenders) and Amnesty International urge Ethiopia’s development and international partners to address the killing of at least 140 protesters in the Oromia region since December 2015, according to a joint statement issued today.

“Use of excessive and lethal force against protestors, coupled with mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators and human rights defenders represent a worrying escalation of the government’s on-going campaign to silence any form of dissent in the country,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “The international community must take up the issue of accountability for these grave rights violations with the Ethiopian government.”

The statement said the police and the military responded with excessive force to the peaceful protests that began on 1 December 2015, including by use of live ammunition against protesters, among them children as young as 12. Estimates confirmed by international and national watchdog groups like Human Rights Watch indicate that at least 140 protesters have already been killed in the protests.

“The government’s labelling of the mostly peaceful protesters as “terrorists” on 15 December 2015 further escalated the response of the police, and the military and resulted in more violations, including killings, beatings and mass arrests of protesters, opposition party leaders and members, and journalists” says Muthoni Wanyeki, Regional Director of Amnesty International East Africa Office.

Scores of those arrested have been denied access to lawyers and family members. They are reportedly being held under the Anti-terrorism Proclamation and remain at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Journalists and opposition leaders, including Bekele Gerba (Deputy Chairman, Oromo Federalist Congress), Getachew Shiferaw (Editor-in-Chief of the online newspaper Negere Ethiopia) and Fikadu Mirkana (Oromia Radio and TV), have also been arrested while documenting or participating in the protests, the statement recalled.

The statement called on the Ethiopian government to immediately stop mass arrests, beatings and killing of protesters, journalists and opposition party leaders and members. It also called for the government to ensure access to family members, lawyers and review of detention by a court of law for protesters, journalists and opposition party members and leaders in detention; and establish an independent inquiry into the use of excessive force during the protests. If the investigation finds that there has been excessive use of force, those responsible must be subject to criminal and disciplinary proceedings as appropriate, it said.