Ethiopia: International inquiry needed into deaths at 2016 Irreecha festival: Human Rights Watch

ESAT News (September 19, 2017)

The Human Rights Watch said it found evidence that security forces of the regime “not only triggered the stampede that caused many deaths but subsequently shot and killed some members of the crowd.”

In a report released today in connection with the one year anniversary of the death of hundreds of festival goers in Bishoftu, a.k.a Debre Zeit, outside the capital Addis Ababa, the rights watchdog said it had “carried out more than 50 interviews in Ethiopia and abroad with attendees, witnesses, health workers, and others, and analyzed dozens of videos.”

“Dozens of witnesses said they believed this was an intentional planned massacre by the government,” the rights group said adding “Numerous witnesses reported seeing dead bodies with bullet wounds in the stampede’s immediate aftermath. Two witnesses reported seeing plain clothes officers with pistols shooting at people during the stampede.”



“Perception, coupled with the past two years of brutality and unaddressed grievances, makes this year’s Irreecha a potential flashpoint,” the report said.

HRW called for restraint by officials and security forces of the regime in this years Irreecha festival that is scheduled to take place on October 1, 2017. “Many people, likely hundreds, died in a stampede at last year’s festival, triggered by security forces’ use of teargas and obstruction of exits.”

“The security forces’ disastrous and disproportionate use of force should not be repeated this year,” said Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “With longstanding grievances still unanswered, this year’s Irreecha could be fraught with tensions. The government and the security forces should take all steps necessary before and during the festival to protect human life and de-escalate tensions.”

Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups, the Oromos, gather every year to celebrate Irreecha to welcome the harvest season.