October 28, 2014, ADDIS ABABA(VOA News) — Amnesty International has issued anew report claiming that the Ethiopian government is systematically repressing the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo.
Amnesty says the Oromo are subject to arbitrary arrest, detentions without access to lawyers, repeated torture and even targeted killings as part of the state’s efforts to crush dissident.
Claire Beston, the Ethiopia researcher for Amnesty International, said the East African country is hostile to any kind of dissent but particularly fears the Oromo for a number of reasons.
“[Reasons include] the numerical size of the Oromo because they’re the largest ethnic group; a strong sense of national identity amongst the Oromo; and also kind of [a] history of perceived anti-government sentiment,” said Beston.
Oromia is the largest state within Ethiopia. About 35% of the population is considered to be ethnically Oromo.
Oromo students protested in April and May against the capital city’s restructuring plan – which they said would dilute Oromo culture through annexing traditional Oromo land surrounding Addis Ababa. The rare protests led to violence. Several dozen people were killed and hundreds arrested. Peaceful Oromo Muslim protests in 2012 and 2013 were also crushed with force and mass arrests.
Beston said Oromo students and protestors are not the only ones who are at risk in Ethiopia.
“We’re talking about hundreds of people from ordinary people from all walks of life including teachers and mid-wives, and even government employees, singers and a range of other professions who’re all arrested just on the suspicion that they don’t support the government,” said Beston.
Amnesty International has not been allowed into Ethiopia since 2011. Researchers based the report’s findings on several hundred interviews with Oromo refugees outside Ethiopia and telephone and email conversations with Oromo inside the country. Many of the respondents said they had been detained in prisons, police stations, military camps or unofficial detention centers where they were subjected to repeated torture.
Amnesty has concluded at least 5,000 Oromo have been arrested and detained since 2011, many for weeks or months without being charged. The report said they are usually accused of supporting or being members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an outlawed armed group. The OLF has been fighting for self-determination for more than 40 years. The report claims this is just a pretext for silencing dissent.
In response to Amnesty, the government – through the state-run Oromia Justice Bureau – said there is no clear evidence of violations as claimed by Amnesty and called the allegations “untrue and far from the reality.”
Beston said repression throughout the country, and particularly against the Oromo, is likely to increase as the May 2015 elections approach.
Source: VOA News
Ethiopia ‘ruthlessly targeting’ and torturing Oromo people, says AmnestyDamning report says thousands of people from country’s largest ethnic group are subjected to abuse including rape and killings
October 28, 2014 (The Guardian) — Ethiopia has “ruthlessly targeted” and tortured its largest ethnic group owing to a perceived opposition to the government, Amnesty International has said.
Thousands of people from the Oromo ethnic group have been “regularly subjected to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without charge, enforced disappearance, repeated torture and unlawful state killings,” according to a damning report based on more than 200 testimonies. “Dozens of actual or suspected dissenters have been killed.”
At least 5,000 Oromos have been arrested since 2011 often for the “most tenuous of reasons”, for their opposition – real or simply assumed – to the government, the report added.
Many are accused of supporting the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
Former detainees who have fled the country and were interviewed by Amnesty in neighbouring Kenya, Somaliland and Uganda described torture “including beatings, electric shocks, mock execution, burning with heated metal or molten plastic and rape, including gang-rape”, the report added.
One young girl said hot coals had been dropped on her stomach because her father was suspected of supporting the OLF, while a teacher described how he was stabbed in the eye with a bayonet after he refused to teach “propaganda about the ruling party” to students.
There was no immediate response from the government, which has previously dismissed such reports and denied any accusation of torture or arbitrary arrests.
“The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality,” the Amnesty researcher Claire Beston said.
“This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region,” she added, describing how those she interviewed bore the signs of torture, including scars and burns, as well as missing fingers, ears and teeth.
With nearly 27 million people, Oromia is the most populated of the country’s federal states and has its own language, Oromo, which is distinct from Ethiopia’s official Amharic language.
Some of those who spoke to Amnesty said people had been arrested for organising a student cultural group. Another said she was arrested because she delivered the baby of the wife of a suspected OLF member.
“Frequently, it’s because they refused to join the ruling party,” Beston added, warning that many were fearful attacks would increase before general elections slated for May 2015.
In April and May, security forces shot dead student protesters in Oromia. At the time, the government said eight had been killed, but groups including Human Rights Watch said the toll was believed to be far higher. Amnesty said “dozens” had been killed in the protests.
Source: The Guardian