News: Rights Commission calls for prompt, impartial investigation into Bate Urgessa's killing

Bate Urgessa spent years in and out of detentions on several occasions (Photo:Screenshot)

Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has called for prompt, impartial and full investigation into the killing of Bate Urgessa, political officer with the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) who was killed on Tuesday night in his hometown Meki, East Shoa zone of the Oromia region.

Sources confirmed to Addis Standard that Bate was shot dead on Tuesday night and his body was found dumped early on Wednesday.

A family member who spoke to Addis Standard said Bate was taken out of his hotel room around mid-night on Tuesday, and his body was found dumped by the road the next morning. The family member added that those who took him “looked like government security forces.”

Bate was in Meki, where he was born and raised and had owned a farm, since Friday last week, according to the family member.

The Opposition Oromo Liberation front (OLF) has condemned “the brutal murder” of its political officer Bate Urgessa saying that it learned of the killing “with agony and grave sadness”, describing the late politician as “eloquent, selfless, and brave Oromo soul”.

“The unwarranted and extrajudicial killing of conscious and active Oromo political and cultural figures has been a systematic and irresponsible act of silencing the Oromo throughout years and decades,” the party said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

The statement failed short of details into the circumstances of the killing, but said the party is conducting further investigations into the killing. “We appeal to all human rights organizations and peace-loving people to undertake an immediate neutral and impartial investigation,” it added.

EHRC said the investigation should be conducted by both the Oromia region and federal authorities to hold perpetrators to account.

An outspoken politician, Bate Urgessa was recently released from prison on 100,000 birr bail after he was detained for two weeks accused of “conspiring with two armed groups, the OLA-Shene and the Fano militia, to incite unrest in the capital”. He was apprehended by security forces alongside French journalist Antoine Galindo while conducting an interview at the Skylight hotel in Addis Abeba on 22 February 2024.

Previously, he spent years in and out of detentions on several occasions. During one of his latest imprisonments he had encountered a serious health issue while in police custody leading to his release.

Bate spoke of a harrowing experience during his detention in several informal detention centers in towns like Mojo, near his hometown, Awash Melkasa, Gelan, Sebeta and Burayu, all in Oromia region. “Some of our members were detained in solitary confinement in Oromia Special Forces camp called Sololia in Gelan town. Most of them are held in terrible conditions and denied family visitation,” OLF said at the time. AS

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)

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