Front Line Defenders expresses serious concern over the Ethiopian government’s continued violent repression of the peaceful efforts of human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists, and citizens of Ethiopia to promote human rights in the country.
On 5-7 August 2016, in the Oromia and Amhara regions, it is reported that approximately 100 people were killed by state security forces during peaceful protests for land rights, indigenous rights and good governance. Many more were injured and arrested throughout the weekend.
Human rights defenders have reported to Front Line Defenders this week that journalists and activists are often the “first targets” when protests erupt.
Yared Hailemariam, an Ethiopian rights defender, told Front Line Defenders that in addition to the violent crackdown witnessed in Ethiopia’s streets, journalists, protest leaders, and rights activists have been followed and threatened via phone calls and emails for their role in mobilising civil society.
The violent repression of Ethiopia’s most recent mass movement calling on the government to respect the land rights of the Oromo and Amhara people follows nearly two years of intense repression of human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society organisations, actions the authorities often justify by invoking the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP).
In 2014, security forces repressed a series of demonstrations in Oromia that voiced concern for the «Integrated Development Master Plan». The plan was slated to remove Oromo citizens, including farmers, from their land to develop and expand the capital city, Addis Ababa.
In November 2015, another series of demonstrations again brought to the fore these issues of land dispossession. The government cracked down violently on the movement, arresting many human rights defenders, including journalists, teachers and students. Since 2014, the calls of the Oromo people have become a country-wide movement demanding good governance, land rights and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.
As a signatory to multiple international documents including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Ethiopian government must uphold their international obligations and cease repression of the peaceful work of human rights defenders in the country.
In light of these recent developments, Front Line Defenders urges the Ethiopian authorities to adhere to their international obligations, to cease the use of violence against citizens exercising their rights to assembly and association, and to guarantee that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and attacks.
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