Amnesty Intl accuses Ethiopia security forces of killings, mass detentions in report

A new report by Amnesty International accuses Ethiopia’s security forces of extrajudicial killings and mass detentions.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Amnesty is urging Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to investigate the allegations, which the group says have occurred since he came to power.   So far, the government has not responded.

In the 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 report also criticized armed youth and vigilante groups as well as politicians for “stirring up ethnic and religious animosities,” which have led to violence in five of the country’s nine regional states.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa says while the government has made notable progress in changing the country’s bleak human rights record, “with elections on the horizon it is unacceptable that the security forces should be allowed to carry on committing human rights violations with impunity. The authorities must ensure that those responsible for these callous and brutal acts face justice.”

Ethiopia was set to hold elections in August. Proceedings have been indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amnesty says most of the tension has been in the Oromia region, where members of the minority Qimant group have been targeted following their 2017 vote to have their own autonomous administrative unit.

Amnesty’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 last year, and again in September and October, leaving at least 100 dead and hundreds displaced. Qimant homes and property were also destroyed.

Security forces and vigilante groups also attacked a Qimant settlement in Metema, with grenades and guns and set homes on fire last year. Fifty-eight people were killed within 24 hours as soldiers in a nearby camp failed to respond to cries for help.

Nobody has yet been held accountable.

Amnesty asked nine government offices including the defense ministry and the attorney general’s office for answers but had only received a response from Amhara’s regional security bureau. The bureau denied that state security forces had been involved.