Amnesty International Demands the Demobilization of Special Forces in Ethiopia

By Staff Reporter

special-forces-oromiaAugust 18, 2020 ( -- Amnesty International has asked the government of Ethiopia to demobilize the Liyu (Special) force which is accused of violating human rights of citizens in violent hit areas of the country. Amnesty International

The first Liyu police unity was established in 2004 by the Ethiopian Somali government in a counter-attack to the then insurgent of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

Amnesty International's demand comes following the killing of at least 16 people in the Wolaita Zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional State (SNNPR) by the Liyu force.

“There is never a justification for the use of lethal force when it is not to protect lives. This unnecessary force has claimed so many lives in recent days, including protesters and bystanders. Among the 16 people who have been killed are a boy who was homeless and a woman with a mental disability, neither of whom were participating in the protests. No one should be killed for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly or for being around a protest,” it said.

According to multiple witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International, security forces beat up and shot at protesters and bystanders while trying to disperse the protest. A homeless boy was killed in Wolaita-Soddo city on August 9, 2020, as the security forces violently cleared people off the streets following the arrests. Seven more people were killed in Bodditi on 10 August, including a 14-year old boy, footballer Getahun Ashenafi and a woman with a mental disability.

The rationale behind establishing the special force was the national defense force faced difficulties to communicate in the local language and locate members of the insurgents in the Somali region. The regional government then established to fight ONLF. Then, other regions followed suit and established their own special force.

But as early as 2008, human rights groups accused the unit of committing executions, torture, rape, and forced displacement in the Somali Region.

In a recent interview with the state-run EBC, Chief of staff of the Ethiopian defense forces Adem Mohammed rejected the legitimacy of the Liyu (special) forces in regions of Ethiopia.

Amnesty said the unit must be disbanded and perpetrators of human rights violations brought to book to dispel the belief that the Somali regional state sanctions the violence meted out.

“The authorities must put an end to what appears to be state-sanctioned violence. The first step is to ensure all policing in Oromia is respectful of human rights. The next is to hold those accountable for the killings to account through thorough, impartial and independent investigation,” Amnesty International said

Meanwhile, the Tigray region election commission has set to conduct polls on September 9, 2020. Voters’ registration is underway amid complaints of political parties over budget issues.

Tsehaye Meressa, public relations head of the election commission told local media that the election campaign will end on September 4, 2020.

The total budget for the planned election has not been disclosed yet. The ruling Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), Salsawi Weyane Tigray and Tigray Liberation Party and Asimba Democratic Party are expected to participate in the regional voting.

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