Ethiopia: Rape, extrajudicial executions, homes set alight in security operations in Amhara and Oromia

Ethiopia: Rape, extrajudicial executions, homes set alight in security operations in Amhara and Oromia

 

(amnesty)–Ethiopian security forces committed horrendous human rights violations including burning homes to the ground, extrajudicial executions, rape, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sometimes of entire families, in response to attacks by armed groups and inter-communal violence in Amhara and Oromia, Amnesty International said today.

In a new report, Beyond law enforcement: human rights violations by Ethiopian security forces in Amhara and Oromia, Amnesty International documents how security forces committed grave violations between December 2018 and December 2019 despite reforms which led to the release of thousands of detainees, expansion of the civic and political space and repeal of draconian laws, such as the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which were previously used to repress human rights.

The Ethiopian authorities have made notable progress in changing the country’s bleak human rights record. However, it is unacceptable that the security forces should be allowed to carry on committing human rights violations with impunity.


Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa

“The Ethiopian authorities have made notable progress in changing the country’s bleak human rights record. However, it is unacceptable that the security forces should be allowed to carry on committing human rights violations with impunity,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“With elections on the horizon, these violations and abuses could escalate out of control unless the government takes urgent measures to ensure security forces act within the law and remain impartial in undertaking their duties.”

In 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government lifted a ban on opposition parties, some of which had been designated terrorist organisations and forced into exile, allowing them to take part in elections initially scheduled for August 2020 but postponed due to COVID-19.

With elections on the horizon, these violations and abuses could escalate out of control unless the government takes urgent measures to ensure security forces act within the law and remain impartial in undertaking their duties.   


Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa

In trying to mobilize support, politicians have however been stirring up ethnic and religious animosities, sparking inter-communal violence and armed attacks in five of the country’s nine regional states; Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Harari, Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), and in the Dire Dawa administrative state.

In response, the government set up security Command Posts in 2018 to coordinate the operations of the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF), federal police, regular and special (Liyu) police units in regions, and local administration security officers called kebele militia.

Complicity in the killings

Tensions have been high in Amhara after the Qimant, a minority group, voted for their own autonomous administrative unit in September 2017, resulting in clashes between the Amhara and Qimant communities. Amnesty International’s report reveals that the Liyu police, local administration militia and two Amhara youth vigilante groups joined forces to attack members of the Qimant community in January 2019, and again in September-October 2019, leaving at least 100 people dead and hundreds displaced. Qimant homes and property were also destroyed.

From 10-11 January 2019, the security forces and vigilante groups attacked a Qimant settlement in Metema with grenades and guns and set homes on fire. Fifty-eight people were killed within 24 hours as soldiers in a nearby camp failed to respond to cries for help. Flyers and leaflets telling Qimant civil servants to leave the area had been circulating since September 2018, but the authorities took no action.

Armed Amhara youth came and killed three of my brothers and my cousin and wounded my other brother. They killed them at point-blank range while I watched. They died instantly  

Dinqie Tekeda, 25, victim of attacks on Qimant community

Dinqie Tekeda, 25, escaped from her burning house with four of her brothers and a cousin only for Amhara guards at Bunna International Bank, where they had sought refuge, to expose them to vigilante youths. “Armed Amhara youth came and killed three of my brothers and my cousin and wounded my other brother. They killed them at point-blank range while I watched. They died instantly,” she said.

Another attack on 29 September 2019 left 43 more Qimants dead and 12 injured. At least one family was burnt alive in their home, a witness told Amnesty International. “Just 100 metres from my home, the youth burnt Endihnew Nega, his mother, his sister and her baby at around 10pm,” Tsedal Abate said.

Just 100 metres from my home, the youth burnt Endihnew Nega, his mother, his sister and her baby at around 10pm on 29 September 2019.

Tsedal Abate, a witness to attacks against Qimants

Businessman Abebe Tilahun, 38, sustained multiple injuries after a grenade was hurled into his house and the house set on fire forcing him out into a barrage of gunfire that hit his shoulder and hand. “I saw the Amhara Police Special Force and the local militia attacking the Qimant neighbourhood together with the Amhara vigilante youth. They were going from home to home to kill Qimant people,” he said.

Extrajudicial executions

Amnesty International documented the extrajudicial execution of at least 39 people in Oromia including 17-year old Seid Sheriff who was shot in the head outside a café in Harqelo, Goro Dola for allegedly alerting a motor-bike driver of an impending arrest.

Three other men – Debeso Megada (27), Ararso Gobena (16) and Qalicha Jarso (22), were killed while riding on a motorbike in January 2019 in Duqisa Megada kebele, Dugda Dawa. And yet another man, Aga Uddessa, was shot dead on 3 February 2019 as he rode past the Command Post in Harqelo, Goro Dola.

The authorities must immediately stop these horrific killings. They must also ensure that those responsible for these callous and brutal acts face justice.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa

In Finchawa, Dugda Dawa, two truckloads of soldiers drove into town on 28 December 2018, and indiscriminately shot at people for an hour, killing 13. Witnesses told Amnesty International the attack was in retaliation for a soldier stoned to death three weeks earlier.

“The authorities must immediately stop these horrific killings. They must also ensure that those responsible for these callous and brutal acts face justice,” said Deprose Muchena.

Brutal beatings, lifetime scars

At least 10,000 people, including entire families, were arbitrarily arrested and detained in 2019 as part of the government’s crackdown on armed attacks and inter-communal violence in Oromia Region. They were accused, but never charged, for “supporting, sharing information with and feeding” members of an armed group calling itself the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) that splintered from the Oromo Liberation Front’s (OLF) military wing

A bullet wound sustained on the arm of one victim we interviewed

Many people were arrested multiple times, some detained for up to five months and put through political indoctrination to compel them to support the ruling party. Most were subjected to brutal beatings. For Momina Roba, who was beaten while four months pregnant, the ordeal ended in a miscarriage.

“I was beaten on the day I was arrested and the next day. I told them I was pregnant when they were beating me. But they said it does not matter whether I am pregnant or not. They said they may even kill me,” she said.

 Momina Roba, was beaten until she miscarried