The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has released a report on Friday that the country’s security forces killed at least 75 people and wounded nearly 200 during violent unrest in June and July, following the killing of popular singer Hachalu Hundessa.
The commission’s report showed that the attacks met the elements of a crime against humanity with large numbers of people, organized in groups, having selected their victims based on their ethnicity or religion when conducting widespread and systematic violence.
“Altogether, 123 people died and more than 500 were injured in the carnage that also displaced thousands from their homes,” the report said.
The unrest came after the killing of Hundessa, who had been a prominent voice in the anti-government protests that led to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to take office in 2018 amid sweeping political reforms.
Ethnic violence is a major challenge for Nobel Peace Prize-winning Abiy Ahmed, who has urged national unity among more than 80 ethnic groups in Africa’s second most populous country.
The commission found that amid the street protests following Hundessa’s death, “civilians were attacked inside their homes by individual and grouped perpetrators and were beaten and killed in streets in a gruesome and cruel manner with sticks, knives, axes, sharp iron bars, stones and electric cables.”
More than 6,000 people were displaced and at least 900 properties looted, burned or vandalized, the report said.
The attacks often targeted ethnic Amhara or Orthodox Christians.
“While it is understandable that security forces had the challenging task of restoring order in the face of such widespread violence, the proportionality of the force employed in some contexts is highly questionable,” the report said.
The commission found that there were people killed with bullet wounds to the head, shots to the chest area or the back.
People not participating in the protests — passers-by, bystanders observing from their doorsteps, young people, elderly people trying to mediate, people with mental illnesses, and even police officers — also lost their lives.
In other cases, the commission found that “local authorities and security did not respond to victims’ repeated calls for help, being told instead ‘that higher ups gave no order to intervene’ … Survivors and witnesses also recount how sometimes police stood watching as the attacks took place.”
Some watchdogs have warned of a return to repressive measures in Ethiopia as authorities grapple with hate speech and ethnic violence.
The unrest was not related to the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region that began in early November, but it was another sign of the tensions straining the country of some 110 million people at the heart of the Horn of Africa.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy’s office did not immediately comment on the report, and the commission did not say what the government’s response had been. (Source: Independent UK)