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EHRC sounds alarm on human rights violations: from forced disappearances to extrajudicial killings

In a statement released on 28 May, 2024, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) voiced grave concerns over human rights violations and threats perpetrated both within the framework of armed conflicts and in other areas throughout the nation (Photo: sabcnews.com)

Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has expressed serious concerns regarding human rights violations and threats occurring both within and beyond the context of armed conflicts in various regions of the country, according to its latest report, released on 28 May, 2024.

The report details extrajudicial killings, civilian deaths, physical injuries, property destruction, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and internal displacement documented by the EHRC’s monitoring and investigations.

“It is necessary to urgently stop human rights violations and threats committed within and outside the context of armed conflicts, resolve all armed conflicts through dialogue, including in the Amhara and Oromia regions, and ensure lasting peace and respect for human rights,” the report states.

The findings implicate government security forces in numerous cases of extrajudicial killings and civilian casualties.

One particularly disturbing incident occurred on 07 March, 2024, in Mecha district, North Gojjam Zone, where security forces opened fire on a group of exemplary students, killing 11 of them, despite no armed group operating in the vicinity at the time, according to witness accounts cited in the report.

Another case from 24 April, 2024, in Agona Kebele, South Gondar Zone, details how government troops killed seven civilians, including one woman, and burned over 15 residential houses and three thatched homes, displacing more than 100 residents in the process.

In connection with the Amhara region, the EHRC documented the case of Dr. Nigussu Tadesse, the President of Debre Berhan University, who was reportedly abducted from his residence on 10 March, 2024, by armed groups and later released.

The report also refers to the case where Habtamu Belayneh, a member of the Amhara Regional Council and the House of Federation, was abducted and his whereabouts remained unknown until the release of this report.

Similar reports of civilian deaths from airstrikes and armed group attacks in multiple other regions, like Oromia, Sidama, and Southern Ethiopia were also documented.

In the Oromia region, a drone attack in Guduru district on 03 January, 20243, resulted in the deaths of eight individuals and injuries to several others. In Dera district, Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) fighters took control and engaged in violent acts, such as the killing of a guard and a resident.

The report also cites instances of detention, a trend of disappearances, and unlawful detention following the State of Emergency declared in the Amhara region in August 2023.

While encouraging some detainee releases, the report expresses concern that “as of the time of the release of this report, many are still being held without access to legal professionals for months, without being brought to court, and with their rights restricted.”

The EHRC investigated 42 cases of individuals who forcibly disappeared after detention by security forces, with 11 still missing at the time of the report’s release. Instances of incommunicado detention under poor conditions are also cited.

The report sheds light on the “widespread practice of abductions by armed groups, with civilians being taken hostage and held for ransom.”

Chillingly, it provides specific examples where abductees were killed after failed ransom negotiations, such as the case of five Wenji Sugar Factory workers whose bodies were found in April 2024 after their families could not pay the demanded 75,000 birr ransom per individual.

According to a March 2024 news article by Addis Standard, the bodies of five Wenji Sugar Factory workers were discovered in a rural area called Khacha, located outside the factory’s premises. The news article indicated that the workers had been held captive for a distressing two weeks prior to their deaths.

The EHRC report reiterates previous calls for an unconditional ceasefire in the Amhara and Oromia regions, emphasizing the urgent need to address human rights violations in the area.

The EHRC’s recommendations focus on key measures, such as implementing previous declarations and monitoring reports to prevent further abuse of power and human rights violations during the implementation of the Emergency Proclamation.

Additionally, the EHRC urges all parties involved in the conflicts to engage in a dialogue that would lead to a peaceful resolution, respect human rights, and hold those responsible for any violations accountable. AS

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