Teacher stabbed in the eye with a bayonet during detention
Hot coals poured over young girl while detained in a military camp
Dozens of actual or suspected dissenters killed
Thousands of people from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group have been tortured, arrested and killed by the state because of their perceived opposition to the government, said Amnesty International in a new report published today (Tues 28 Oct).
In its comprehensive report which includes more than 200 testimonies, ‘Because I am Oromo: sweeping repression in the Oromia region of Ethiopia’,
Amnesty exposes how in the last three years, 5000 Oromos have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without charge, enforced disappearance, repeated torture and enforced disappearance and unlawful state killings as part of the government’s attempt to crush dissent. The majority of those targeted are accused of suspecting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) – the armed group in Oromia.
Amnesty’s report documents regular use of torture against actual or suspected Oromo dissenters in police stations, prisons, military camps and in their own homes.
One teacher told Amnesty how he had been stabbed in the eye with a bayonet while in detention because he refused to teach propaganda about the ruling party to his students. A young girl said she had hot coals poured on her stomach while she was detained in a military camp because her father was suspected of supporting the OLF – the armed group in Oromia. Amnesty also heard how a student was tied in contorted positions and suspended from the wall by one wrist because a business plan he prepared for a university competition was deemed to be underpinned by political motivations.
Dozens of actual or suspected dissenters have been killed.
Detainees are subjected to horrendous conditions, including severe overcrowding, underground cells, being made to sleep on the ground and minimal food. Many are never permitted to leave their cells, except for interrogation and in some cases, aside from once or twice a day, to use the toilet. Some said their hands or legs were bound in chains for months at a time. Hundreds are detained in unofficial detention in military camps. Many are denied access to lawyers and family members.
As Ethiopia prepares for general elections next year, Amnesty expects the government will increase its efforts to suppress dissent through these violations.
Amnesty International’s Ethiopia Researcher Claire Beston said:
“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. It is apparently intended to warn, control, or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region.
“People are arrested for the most tenuous of reasons: organising a student group, because their father had been suspected of supporting the OLF or because they delivered the baby of the wife of a suspected OLF member.”
“The government must end this shameful targeting of Oromos and stop employing these despicable tactics such as detention without charge, torture and unlawful killings to muzzle actual or suspected dissent.”
Amnesty believes there is an urgent need for intervention by regional and international human rights bodies to carry out independent investigations into these allegations of human rights violations in Oromia.
Notes to editors
This report is based on more than 240 testimonies collected by Amnesty, including 176 face to face interviews with Oromo refugees between July 2013 and July 2014. Since 2011, Amnesty has not been permitted into Ethiopia to conduct research.