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News: UN report exposes Ethiopia's escalating human rights crisis; state forces responsible for 70% of violations in 2023

According to a recent report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 594 incidents of human rights violations and abuses affecting 8,253 victims occurred in 2023. The report indicated that government forces were allegedly responsible for 70% of these violations, impacting 7,103 victims. (Photo: China Daily)

Addis Abeba – A recent United Nations report has highlighted the troubling human rights situation in Ethiopia throughout 2023. Despite notable improvements in the Tigray region following the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA), the report expresses grave concerns regarding the repercussions of violent clashes, particularly in the Amhara and Oromia regions.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a 24-page report today, documenting 594 incidents of human rights violations and abuses affecting 8,253 victims over the past year. This represents a significant 55.9% increase compared to the previous year.

State actors, including the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), federal and regional police forces, as well as state-affiliated militia groups, were allegedly responsible for 70% of these violations, impacting 7,103 victims.

On the other hand, non-state armed groups accounted for 22.3% of the incidents, with 25 incidents specifically attributed to the Eritrean Defense Forces operating in the Tigray region.

The situation in the Amhara region was particularly concerning, according to the report.

A total of 740 civilian deaths were recorded in the region during 2023, with the majority attributed to government security forces engaged in fighting against the Fano militia group.

The report additionally documented 366 civilian deaths in the Oromia region, where clashes between government forces and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) persisted throughout the year. Among those killed in Oromia, 46 were women.

Besides the ongoing conflict between government forces and the OLA, the report also highlighted inter-ethnic clashes between Amhara and Oromia militias, as well as between Oromia and Somali groups, which resulted in further casualties.

The report further emphasizes concerns regarding the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) use of drone strikes. Between August and December 2023 alone, 18 documented drone strikes resulted in a disproportionate number of civilian casualties: 248 deaths and 55 injuries.

The report expresses anxieties about the legality of these strikes under international law, citing the destruction of essential infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, along with private residences.

Following the declaration of a state of emergency on August 4, 2023, the report underscores a concerning rise in arbitrary arrests.

These detentions primarily targeted individuals of Amhara ethnicity in various regions of the country.

A total of 4,879 arrests were documented across 16 detention centers or sites, with many detainees enduring extended pre-trial detention periods.

Conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) also persisted as a critical issue.

The report acknowledges, however, that the underreporting of such cases remains prevalent due to a combination of socio-cultural stigma, fear of retaliation, and limited access to comprehensive support services, particularly in rural areas.

The humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia continues to be a significant source of concern.

Ongoing conflicts continue to displace civilians and impede the safe return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their original homes.

The report emphasizes the protection challenges faced by IDPs, including arbitrary arrests, a lack of essential identification documents, and limited access to basic necessities such as food, healthcare, water, and shelter.

While acknowledging positive developments in the government’s human rights policy initiatives, such as the recently approved transitional justice policy and efforts to improve justice delivery, the report underscores the necessity for concrete actions to address continuing violations and restore peace, particularly in the Amhara and Oromia regions.

The report urges the federal government and regional state authorities to undertake essential steps to cease hostilities, guarantee civilian protection, uphold commitments to implement the Pretoria Peace Agreement, and ensure the full realization of economic, social, and cultural rights for all segments of the population, encompassing conflict-affected regions.

In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk emphasized, “The ongoing violations underscore the urgent need for prioritizing political solutions and human rights to achieve peace and accountability in Ethiopia.”

The report further extends recommendations to the international community, urging them to incentivize and support the government’s implementation of the peace agreement, promote peaceful dialogue and negotiation for conflict resolution, advocate for accountability mechanisms, and contribute to resource mobilization efforts for human rights, humanitarian assistance, and recovery initiatives. AS

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