HRLHA Statement on Human Rights Situation in Oromia at the 32nd Session of the UNHRC
Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA)
Human Rights Situation in Oromia Regional State
At the 32nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
February 27 – March, 2017
Speaker: Mr. Bayisa WAK-WOYA
HRLHA Representative at the United Nations
14 March, 2017
Mr. Chairman and members of the Council;
The Human Rights League of The Horn of Africa once again is addressing this Council with its highest degree of concern over the never-ending gross violation of human rights of Ethiopians in general and that of the Oromos in particular by the government of Ethiopia.
Last year we expressed our deepest concern over the deliberate attack by police and paramilitary forces on peacefully demonstrating civilians resulting in arrests, disappearances, torture and at times summary executions of school children as young as seven years of age, the elderly as old as eighty years, and pregnant women. Following the mass protests in Oromia and Amhara regions, the government detained more than 50,000 civilians, during which time, according to the information available to us from those who were released, the detainees were subjected to police brutality and inhumane and degrading treatment including torture. Reliable sources also disclose that more than 1,000 civilians were summarily executed by security forces while peacefully demonstrating. To date, the government has not charged a single official for the unlawful killings of the civilians or for subjecting detainees to inhumane and degrading treatment contrary to the Ethiopian Constitution. To the contrary, hundreds of civilian protesters were charged with the killing or harming of the security officers.
Despite requests, pleas and expressions of deep concern by the international community, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the official letter of concern by three United Nations Human Rights Special Rapporteurs as well as official communications from major Western governments, the European Union and reputable international human rights non-governmental organizations, the government of Ethiopia remains defiant, justifying its brutality by saying that it was acting as per stipulation of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of (2009) and the 8th October 2016 State of Emergency Declaration in which it not only described opposition parties as terrorists but also placed restrictions on all the non-derogable human rights of citizens.
As we speak, the Ethiopian government, notwithstanding the expressed concerns of the international community, has continued with its policy of detaining opposition party leaders and ordinary members, confiscating properties of prominent businessmen, detaining dozens of prominent journalists and bloggers, high school students and teachers, women, including many pregnant ones, for the alleged support they provided to opposition groups, which the government labeled as terrorists organizations. The government has continued with its plan to show preferential treatment for one ethnic group over another, which, according to IOM and UNHCR, has resulted in the involuntary displacement of hundreds of thousands of Oromo peasants in Oromia.
The situation in detention centers and prisons is described as one of the worst in the world. According to credible information available from former inmates and detainees, up to 30 inmates are crammed into a room of 25 sq. meter with no sanitation facility. Detainees are denied access to their respective legal counsels and family visits. Some are kept incommunicado and blindfolded for indefinite periods.
Although the national law prohibits the detention of citizens in any facility other than an official detention center, local militias and other formal and informal law enforcement entities continue using an unknown number of unofficial local detention centers like those in Didessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele and numerous military facilities. According to former inmates at these unofficial detention centers, no medical care is available and prisoners have only limited access to potable water. Many prisoners had serious health problems but they were not provided with even basic medical treatment.
The Human Rights League of The Horn of Africa would like to renew its request to the Council to:
- remind the Ethiopian government of its international obligation under human rights treaties to which it is a party and to ensure the respect for human rights of citizens to freely exercise their freedom of expression, assembly, and to enjoy freedom from torture and degrading and inhumane treatment; and;
- to request the Ethiopian government to grant unhindered access to Ethiopian prisons and makeshift detention centers by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to monitor the situation of detainees and those political prisoners who are sentenced to long-term imprisonments including life, for no other reason than demanding respect for their fundamental human rights.
A country which through its actions or omissions systematically violates its citizen’s fundamental rights including summary executions, and subjecting them to inhumane and degrading treatment should not be given a seat among those nations who value their citizens’ rights. And the international community, including this Council, is duty- bound to condemn such actions and omissions and to call upon the Ethiopian government to live up to the commitment it made when it became party to the respective Human Rights Conventions.
Thank you Mr. Chairman