SHRC Statement on Gross Human Rights Violations in Ethiopia
Sidama Human Rights Council (SHRC)
KMN:- August 28 | 2020
Ethiopia has witnessed a rapid deterioration in political stability, peace, and security since the change from elected government to a transitional government in April 2018. The initial promises of democratic reforms were quickly reversed and replaced with entrenched dictatorship. Violence against civilians and political actors demanding greater freedom escalated.
In Sidama State, the recently formed 10th regional state, government security forces massacred over 153 civilians on 18 July 2019 and subsequent days to silence the demand for self-rule. Nearly 500 pro-democracy Sidama activists and prominent public figures – including former mayor of Hawassa City Tewdros Gabiba – are still languishing in Hawassa prison for simply demanding regional self-rule although this was achieved through a referendum conducted on 20 November 2019. Many of the prisoners have been infected by COVID-19 with some hospitalized for care and one person confirmed dead.
More recently, following the assassination of the iconic Oromo artist and human rights activist, Haacaaluu Hundeessa, on 29 June 2020, violence against civilians intensified in Oromia State. Over 239 civilians lost their lives in the region in the week after Haacaalu’s assassination mostly due to excessive use of force by the police against the demonstrators protesting the targeted killing of the artist. This month dozens of civilians are reportedly killed in various parts of Oromia following the campaign of defiance and economic blockade by the Oromo youth movement, Qeerroo, who are demanding full degree of self-rule and an end to political and economic marginalization.
In its May 2020 Report, Amnesty International documented extrajudicial killings of dozens of civilians and arbitrary arrests of over 10,000 civilians in Oromia State for allegedly supporting the Oromo Liberation Army, the splinter group from the Oromo Liberation Front, a legally operating opposition party in the country.
In an unprecedented crackdown following the assassination of Haacaaluu Hundeessa, the government arressted prominent Oromo political leaders Jawar Mohamed and Bekele Gerba of the Oromo Federalist Congress – a legally operating Oromo opposition political party in the country – and their supporters. On government’s own admission, nearly 5000 civilians were arrested in Oromia State in July 2020 alone. Jawar Mohamed was credited for steering the 2014-2018 youth, Qeerroo, led revolution that brought the current government to power. Initially an ally, Jawar Mohamed became an ardent critique of the prime minister since recently as the government lacked policy directions on managing the transition and gravitated towards the restoration of an imperial Unitarian state in contravention to the federal constitution that upholds the rights of nations, nationalities and peoples to self-rule in a multinational federation.
Lemma Megarssa – the ex-president of Oromia State and architect of the 2018 reform that paved the way for Abiy Ahmed’s ascension to power – has been removed from his ministerial position at the Ethiopian Ministry of Defense for rejecting Abiy’s “Medemer” philosophy and refusing to join the ruling Prosperity Party.
Such massive gross human rights violations and crackdown on opposition political parties and marginalization of high-profile political figures such as Lemma Megerssa are indicative of a failed democratization and reform.
The recent massacre by government security forces of more than two dozens of Wolayita civilians who demanded a regional self-rule proves the depth of political crisis gripping the country. The government has also shut down the only independent media outlet in Oromia State, the Oromia Media Network (OMN), which was the voice of over 95 million people from over 80 nations and nationalities in the country. The Oromia Media Network was targeted not only because Jawar Mohamed – the critique of the prime minister and now in jail – founded it but also because it provided unbiased, free and fair coverage to the hitherto marginalized minority nations, nationalities and peoples across the country. Access to information is a fundamental human right and the Ethiopian government flagrantly violated this right by closing down the OMN.
Several journalists of OMN have also been arrested.
On top of these all, the indefinite postponement of the 2020 election, and the unilateral decision by the ruling Prosperity Party to extend the constitutionally-mandated five-year term limit of the executive and the legislative on the basis of a flimsy constitutional interpretation has severely undermined the legitimacy of the transitional government deepening the constitutional crisis and political uncertainty beyond October 2020. On the other hand, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and the Government of Tigray State have decided to conduct election in September 2020 before the expiry of the constitutional term limit of the regional executive and legislative in October 2020. This is likely to deepen the confrontation between the federal government and the Tigray Regional State. The repeated call by the opposition political parties for all-inclusive dialogue has been rejected by the government deepening the constitutional crisis.
Therefore, the Sidama Human Rights Council:
1) Calls on the Ethiopian government to immediately release 500 Sidama political prisoners jailed for demanding a regional self-rule; the natural and democratic right of a nation;
2) Calls on the government to immediately release OMN journalists and leaders of the Oromo opposition political parties including Jawar Mohamed, Bekele Gerba, Dr. Shiguxi Geleta, Hamza Borana and all other political prisoners in the country;
3) Calls on the government to stop undue restriction on access to information and allow the Oromia Media Network to operate in Ethiopia and respect freedom to access information;
4) Calls on the government to halt extrajudicial executions; rape; destruction of properties and arbitrary arrests and detentions of civilians in Oromia;
5) Calls on the government to heed calls by the opposition political parties for all-inclusive political dialogue and reconciliation;
6) Expresses its deepest condolences to the family of iconic Oromo artist, Haacaaluu Hundeessa and the entire Oromo nation and calls on the Ethiopian government to set up an independent panel to investigate his targeted assassination;
7) Calls on international human rights organizations, multilateral institutions and the international community to closely monitor the political crisis and the ongoing gross human and political rights violations in Ethiopia.
Sidama Human Rights Council – SHRC