News: Conflicts, attacks in Oromia, security situation in Amhara regions “extremely concerning” says EHRC in annual report

Daniel Bekele PhD, Chief Commissioner, EHRC (Right), Rakeb Mesele, Deputy Chief Commissioner, EHRC (Left) (Photo: Addis Standard)

Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said conflict, insecurity, attacks by armed groups, and security measures by government forces continued to cause civilian deaths, bodily injuries and displacements in all regions of Ethiopia, despite positive improvements following the peace agreement that brought relative peace in Northern part of the country.

In its 2022/23 annual report released on Wednesday, the commission said conflicts and attacks in the Oromia region are “extremely concerning and require urgent attention”, adding that the security situation in the Amhara region is “equally concerning”.

Furthermore, excessive use of force by government security forces has caused several deaths, the report noted, mentioning the killing of 3 in Wolkite town on 15 February, 2023 after security forces opened fire on residents protesting against water shortages, as well as deaths and bodily injuries during protests in connection with demolition of mosques in the recently established Sheger City as an example among other incidents.

Several instances of arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearances have been committed in Addis Abeba, Oromia and Amhara regions, violating individual’s right to liberty during the report period which is from June 2022 – June 2023, according to the report.

In Amhara region “victims of enforced disappearances or people held in incommunicado detention include, social media activists, journalists, opposition political party members, members of civil society groups and other individuals accused of mobilizing the public to protest the government’s decision to demobilize and reintegrate regional special forces” the report stated, adding that “many people were detained for long periods in various locations without appearing before a court”.

In the Oromia region, victims include opposition political party members, as in the case of members of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), it outlined. “Many members were arrested by regional security forces including by the regional police force”

According to the report the EHRC has noted significant improvement in detention facilities and treatment of detainees, however, the number of reported instances of inhuman and degrading treatment in police stations and prison facilities is still not negligible.

The report raises concerns on the shrinking of civic space with an increase in the arrest and harassment of media personnel, members of opposition political parties and civil society groups during the reporting period. 

“The nationwide blockade on selected social media platforms (YouTube, Telegram, Facebook, and TikTok) from February 9, 2023, and still in effect as of the date of publication of this report, has restricted the right to freedom of expression and access to information.”

Between the period of 08 July, 2022 and 16 May, 2023, at least 27 media personnel, activists and members of opposition political parties and civic groups were detained for periods ranging from a few days to several months, the report stated, adding that among these, 6 suspects charged with various criminal offenses remain in detention as of the date of publication of the report.

In violation of citizens’ right of freedom of movement, increased curfews, checkpoints, and other forms of restriction of inter and intra regional movement as well as closure of roads due to attacks by armed groups have been observed, the report said.

Despite some positive developments, the commission highlighted persisting issues in relation to rights of persons in detention, women and children, persons with disabilities, and IDPs among others.

Concerted efforts and measures by all relevant authorities and stakeholders with regard to managing conflicts, insecurity and attacks by armed groups which the commission said are the main drivers of suffering and human rights violations over the reporting period is among the key recommendations of the report. AS 

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