Annual Report: Ethiopia 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Ethiopia 2013

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According to relatives, some people disappeared after arrest. The authorities targeted families of suspects, detaining and interrogating them. The use of unofficial places of detention was reported.

  • In January the All Ethiopian Unity Party called for the release of 112 party members who, the party reported, were arrested in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region during one week in January.

Hundreds of Oromos were arrested, accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front.

  • In September, over 100 people were reportedly arrested during the Oromo festival of Irreechaa.

Large numbers of civilians were reportedly arrested and arbitrarily detained in the Somali region on suspicion of supporting the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

  • The authorities continued to arbitrarily detain UN employee, Yusuf Mohammed, in Jijiga. His detention, since 2010, was reportedly an attempt to get his brother, who was suspected of links with the ONLF, to return from exile.

Between June and August, a large number of ethnic Sidama were arrested in the SNNP region. This was reportedly in response to further calls for separate regional statehood for the Sidama. A number of arrests took place in August around the celebration of Fichee, the Sidama New Year. Many of those arrested were detained briefly, then released. But a number of leading community figures remained in detention and were charged with crimes against the state.

There were reports of people being arrested for taking part in peaceful protests and publicly opposing certain “development projects”.

Excessive use of force

In several incidents, the police were accused of using excessive force when responding to the Muslim protest movement. Two incidents in Addis Ababa in July ended in violence, and allegations included police firing live ammunition and beating protesters in the street and in detention, resulting in many injuries. In at least two other protest-related incidents elsewhere in the country, police fired live ammunition, killing and injuring several people. None of these incidents was investigated.

  • In April, the police reportedly shot dead at least four people in Asasa, Oromia region. Reports from witnesses and the government conflicted.
  • In October, police fired on local residents in Gerba town, Amhara region, killing at least three people and injuring others. The authorities said protesters started the violence; the protesters reported that police fired live ammunition at unarmed people.

Security forces were alleged to have carried out extrajudicial executions in the Gambella, Afar and Somali regions.

Conflict in the Somali region

In September, the government and the ONLF briefly entered into peace talks with a view to ending the two-decade long conflict in the Somali region. However, the talks stalled in October.

The army, and its proxy militia, the Liyu police, faced repeated allegations of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, extrajudicial executions, and rape. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were widely reported. None of the allegations was investigated and access to the region remained severely restricted.

  • In June, UN employee Abdirahman Sheikh Hassan was found guilty of terrorism offences over alleged links to the ONLF, and sentenced to seven years and eight months’ imprisonment. He was arrested in July 2011 after negotiating with the ONLF over the release of two abducted UN World Food Programme workers.

Forced evictions

“Villagization”, a programme involving the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people, took place in the Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali, Afar and SNNP regions. The programme, ostensibly to increase access to basic services, was meant to be voluntary. However, there were reports that many of the removals constituted forced evictions.

Large-scale population displacement, sometimes accompanied by allegations of forced evictions, was reported in relation to the leasing of huge areas of land to foreign investors and dam building projects.