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Ethiopia: Use of lethal force against protesters must stop

Ethiopian authorities must stop the use of lethal force against protesters in the Wolaita Zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional State (SNNPR), Amnesty International said today.

Since Sunday (9 August), at least 16 people have been killed. Protests began after Ethiopian security officers arrested community leaders and activists in the SNNPR. They were arrested for allegedly for holding a meeting that was in contravention of COVID-19 measures.

According to multiple witnesses interviewed by Amnesty, security forces beat up and shot at protesters and bystanders while trying to disperse the protest.

A homeless boy was killed in Wolaita-Soddo city on Sunday (9 August) as security forces violently cleared people off the streets following the arrests. Seven more people were killed in Bodditi on Monday (10 August), including a 14-year old-boy.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said:

“There is never justification for the use of lethal force when it is not to protect lives. This unnecessary force has claimed so many lives in recent days, including protesters and bystanders.

“Among the 16 people who have been killed are a boy who was homeless and a woman with a mental disability, neither of whom were participating in the protests. No one should be killed for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, or for being around a protest.

“The authorities must urgently stop the use of lethal force in the context of protests and thoroughly, effectively and impartially investigate these killings.

“All those found responsible must be brought to justice in fair trials. Victims and their families must also have access to adequate reparations.”

Tensions in the area remain high due to the heavy deployment of security officers from the police forces, the SNNPR special Liyu police, and the Ethiopian Defence Forces.

Medical sources told Amnesty that at least 18 injured people have been admitted to Soddo Christian Hospital in Wolaita.

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