Urgent Call for Unrestricted Access to Investigate Human Rights Violations in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region
Disturbing claims of egregious human rights violations have surfaced amid intensifying violent clashes between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the neighbourhood armed Fano militia in the Amhara region. Amnesty International has demanded quick action in response to claims of civilian fatalities, mass killings, and casualties. The group maintains that independent researchers and the media must be allowed access to the area to assess the situation.
There have been civilian casualties in recent airstrikes in the Amhara region, raising questions about the behaviour of the Ethiopian government and its security services. Mass killings and casualties have been reported to Amnesty International in several places, including Finote Selam, Bahir Dar, and Shewa Robit. A thorough investigation into these claims is required to establish responsibility for human rights breaches.
The Independent Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) and other independent investigative organisations and independent media must have unrestricted access to Ethiopia, according to Tigere Chagutah, regional director for Amnesty International in East and Southern Africa. The request for such access guarantees a complete investigation of the accusations and provides information on the state of affairs in the Amhara region.
On August 4, 2023, the Ethiopian government proclaimed a six-month state of emergency in response to an uptick in violence in the Amhara region. The government is granted a wide range of authorities during this emergency, including the ability to impose curfews, restrict freedom of movement, and prohibit public gatherings. The intelligence chief heads a command post overseeing the area and reporting to the prime minister.
However, issues arise because of the vague and general phrases that permit the government to censor or limit media outlets and organisations thought to be operating contrary to the intent of the emergency proclamation. This absence of judicial control increases concerns about potential power abuses and additional constraints on free speech.
The Amhara region’s residents’ capacity to communicate and access information has been hampered by the Ethiopian government’s intention to prohibit internet access there starting on August 3, 2023. Additionally, reports of denial of the right to legal representation and a fair trial accompany the government’s incarceration of people in Addis Abeba’s informal facilities, including schools.
Ethiopia has already experienced mass arrests, protracted incarceration without charge, and restrictions on freedom of speech. The ramifications of the current emergency situation and the possibility of power abuses are raised by this past.
Both domestic and international parties must pay serious attention to the situation in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. An objective and independent investigation is required due to the seriousness of the allegations of human rights breaches. Amnesty International urges full access for independent investigators and the media to ensure accountability, defend human rights, and stop the situation from getting worse. There is an urgent need for open measures that preserve the fundamental rights of the populace and the rules of justice when the Ethiopian government uses its emergency powers.