News: Amnesty International urges immediate access to independent investigators, media to Amhara region

A street in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara regional state. Photo: ENA

Addis Abeba – Rights group Amnesty International has urged the Ethiopian government to “immediately grant independent investigators and media access to the Amhara region as reports of gross human rights violations emerge” during the ongoing hostilities between government forces and the non-state Fano militia.

The group said in a statement on Friday, amid several reports of an airstrike in the region this week which led to numerous civilian deaths, it received allegations of mass killings and casualties in Finote Selam, Bahir Dar and Shewa Robit cities which merit further investigation.

Thus, the government must provide unhindered access to the UN mandated Independent Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) and other independent investigative bodies, alongside independent media, to thoroughly examine these allegations, Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa said.

“The government and its security forces must respect and protect human rights of people,” said Tigere.

According to Amnesty International, the six months state of emergency declared in the Amhara region with its applicability extending to other parts of the country, “gives the Ethiopian government unchecked powers while internet blockages make it harder to monitor the situation” in the region.

The group further said individuals detained in Addis Abeba in connection to the conflict in Amhara region were being denied the right to access to court and legal counsel, and called on the international community to exert pressure on the government to allow independent investigation and unfettered media coverage.

On 14 August, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued a statement revealing that it has received multiple complaints related to human rights violations in connection with the ongoing conflict in Amhara region including numerous arrests of individuals of Amhara ethnicity, and stated that it has been denied access to monitor the conditions of detainees since the State of Emergency was declared.

According to the EHRC’s statement, there have been credible reports of strikes and shelling in various areas, including Debre Birhan, Finote Selam, and Burie, resulting in civilian casualties and damage to residential areas and public spaces. In the capital Bahir Dar, the commission said, civilians have been killed on the streets or outside their homes, and some individuals have been specifically targeted for searches, beatings, and killings.

The Command Post established to oversee the state of emergency in the region said this week normalcy is gradually being restored in most parts of the region following the second phase of its operations nearing completion. Last week the command post said it has successfully finalized the first phase of its operation which was “to liberate” the cities and towns that were held by the Fano armed group and restore peace and order in the region.

On Wednesday, the African Union (AU) formally expressed its deep concern regarding the persistent military conflict in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. In an official statement released on Wednesday, AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat urgently called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. AS

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