Ethiopian Commission Blames Excessive Force for Some Casualties
April 23, 2017 - The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which has been investigating widespread protests and response to them by security forces in Oromia and Amhara regional states, has found regional and federal government security forces responsible for poor performance in responding to the crisis, which resulting in unnecessary killing of protestors, according to the Reporter.
The commissioner of EHRC, Adissu Gebregziabher (PhD), said that investigations, conducted in Oromia, Amhara as well as the Gedeo zone, focused on the causes and the scale of violence as well as the security forces’ handling of protestors particularly from July 2016 to early October 2017, when the state of emergency decree was issued.
The investigation was carried out in 15 zones and 91 woredas of Oromia, in 5 zones and 55 woredas of the Amhara Regional State as well as in 6 woredas of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State, according to the commissioner.
In his report, the commissioner noted that a total of 669 people were killed in all the three regions, including 131 killed by law enforcement through either excessive or unnecessary use of force. The commissioner further said that even though the protests taking part were illegal, security forces should have considered other options of controlling them other than firing on unarmed civilians.
According to the report, around 918 people were injured in the three regions, of which 123 injuries were caused by unnecessary and disproportionate use of force.
During the investigation period, the commission had talked to victims and their families, elders, representatives of youth, security forces, individual and group witnesses as well as prisoners. It also read various documents as sources of evidence, he said.
According to the investigation’s findings, of the total 669 killed during the violence in the three regional states, 606 were civilians while 63 were members of the security forces.
Apart from causalities and property damages, some 8,450 people were displaced in Gedeo while ethnic-based attacks were also reported in Amhara where ethnic Tigrayan residents were forced to flee from Gondar and other parts of the Amhara region. Similar attacks in Oromia targeted properties and businesses run by Amharas, Tigrayans and those from other ethnic background, the report stated.
In Oromia, the investigation revealed that around 495 people lost their lives (462 civilians and 33 security officers), including 56 pilgrims who were killed in the stampede during Irrecha (Oromo Thanksgiving celebration) on October 2, 2016 in Bishoftu town, located some 47 km south-east of Addis Ababa.
Meanwhile, the report noted that in Amhara, a total of 140 people died, of which 110 were civilians, while the remaining 30 were members of the security forces.
Similarly, the report also revealed that some 34 people, including two women, were killed and 78 injured during a two-day violence in six woredas of Gedeo zone. It also said that during violence in Dilla and its environs, 1098 businesses owned by non-Gedeons -- mainly by Amharas, Silties, Oromos, Guraghes, Wolaytas, Gammos, Gujis, Tigrayans, Sidamas and Argobas -- were attacked. Some 8,450 residents were displaced including Gedeons who had refused to take part in the attack on minorities.
Addisu told MPs that serious human rights violations had occurred, and implicated security forces in using unnecessary and disproportionate force in some parts of Oromia and Amhara regions.
The report listed land rights, corruption, unemployment and bad governance as causes for the widespread protest.
The report also blamed the Blue Party and the Oromo Federalist Congress, as well as diaspora-based Oromo Media Network and the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) channel for inciting the violence in August and October 2016, when hundreds were reportedly killed. (Reporter)