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News: Ethiopia watchdog report chronicles harrowing account into year of killings, rape, displacements, and unlawful detentions

Ethiopia’s year of rights abuse and violations related to the civil war didn’t spare the mentally ill, the elderly and the disabled. Picture: EHRC

By Firaol Bersissa @FiraolBer

Addis Abeba: In the first ever annual report covering the period between June 2021- June 2022, and is submitted to the Ethiopian Parliament, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) chronicled a year of rampant human rights abuses in Ethiopia, including several instances of (grave) violations of human rights by both, state and non-state entities.

The violations committed by these actors include ‘’a number of grave human rights violations committed both by state and non state actors in the context of conflict that resulted in widespread deaths, psychosocial and physical injury, sexual and gender based violence, displacement and destruction of property, targeting civilians, including women, children, older persons and persons with disability and carried out in extreme brutality and cruelty.”  

The watchdog’s report has mentioned a grave trend particularity related to Ethiopia’s civil war which started in Tigray and later on spread to Afar and Amhara states, in which a “systematic and widespread sexual and gender-based violence against women and children” were reported. The lack of accountability and compensation for victims, as well as the lack of adequate health and psychological support, precautionary and emergency response systems, and the threat of such attacks continuing was also of particular concern to the watchdog.

Having also provided report into the war in Tigray, the commission said that human rights violations, which breached international legal covenants, had occurred. “[Federal] government forces, Tigray forces, and other armed groups” undertook these violations, the report said.

Additionally, during the war and other phases of strife and conflicts, acts of ethnic and religious targeting in terms of “killings, physical injuries, forced displacement, and destruction of private property” have been committed by armed groups, groups, and individuals with little to no organization.

The Commission’s monitoring and investigation work also shows that in the context of the war in Tigray, Afar and Amhara states and conflicts in other parts of the country, armed groups, non-organized groups, and individuals have carried out ethnic or religious motivated killings, physical injury, forced displacement, and destruction or looting of property against civilians. The state of emergency, which was instituted during the war, was also a scene where arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions of different types were occurring throughout. It raised the case of about 8000 ethnic Tigrayans being held in camps in the Afar regional state.

Ethiopia’s year of rights abuse and violations related to the civil war didn’t spare the mentally ill, the elderly and the disabled, according to the report, a group that is particularly vulnerable and “were more targeted than other civilians.”

Furthermore, the need for emergency humanitarian assistance supply in the war-torn regions as well as in the drought-stricken Oromia and Somali Regions has been plagued by frequent disruptions of supply and lack of a priority system for the elderly and the vulnerable.

The report documented prisoners who are “subjected to physical punishment”, and those who are “discriminated against for treatment and other services.”

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The other area of grave rights violations documented in the report is the violations of prisoners who were accused of misconduct and are arrested in several state and federal prisons are facing. The report documented those who are “subjected to physical punishment”, and those who are “discriminated against for treatment and other services.” In addition, lack of appeals process, and and time for reviewing leading to the suspects to remain in “isolation for an extended period of time”, is detailed.

With regard to media and freedom of expression, the report documented the detentions of 54 individuals working in and for media establishments, including 15 in the Tigray region. “With regards to freedom of opinion, thought, expression and the right to seek information the Commission’s monitoring work also found that at various times between the months of July 2021 and May 2022, 54 media personnel, including 15 reported to be in detention in Tigray region, have been arrested and detained for a period ranging from days to months.”

The report remains the first-ever annual report released by the human rights body since its formation, even though it has been said that the study does not maintain an all-inclusive enumeration of human rights violations, it was comprehensive in the sense of offering input for authorities to take corrective actions against perpetrators. The report was also regarded as one which offers insight into how to rectify the problematic state of human rights, Daniel Bekele, Commissioner of the EHRC, remarked, that political contentions were at the core of the problems Ethiopia was facing currently, and as such political solutions should be accorded for a sustainable solution. AS

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