Emergency Press Statement by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) - November 17, 2023
Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO)
Emergency Press Statement Source: EHRCO Press Statement https://t.me/ehrco/1959
Disclaimer: This is a translation of a Press Statement issued by the EHRCO in November 17, 2023 in Amharic. The translation is intended solely for information purposes.
EHRCO is greatly concerned over increasing human rights violations in Amhara Region
November 17, 2023 (Hedar 7, 2016 EC)
The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) has been closely following and issuing reports relating to the human rights situation following the start of the conflict in Amhara Region. Conflict in the region has worsened over time and due to lack of a permanent and sufficient resolution human rights violations continue to be perpetrated.
The EHRCO has repeatedly issued Press Statements calling for careful review of the causes of the fighting in Amhara Region. It has continually warned that lack of consensus could be a cause for worsening human rights violations. However the government has failed to sufficiently follow the EHRCO’s recommendations and to provide a sufficient solution for the conflict which has been a cause for worsening human rights violations in the region.
Following the onset of the conflict in Amhara Region, civilians with no involvement in the fighting have been subject to killings, bodily injury, displacement, gender-based violence, and extensive property loss. As a result of this conflict, a large number of people have lost their lives to the government security forces and allied armed groups. This conflict has involved the use of heavy weapons including drones which have victimized persons with no involvement in the fighting including women and children, and have also targeted residential homes, schools and sites of worship.
As a result of this conflict women have faced gender-based violence and victims have not received adequate medical and psychological support. In addition, as a result of conflict in the region, a large number of people have been displaced from their homes and have not received adequate support due to road closures and other reasons.
Following the outbreak of conflict in various parts of the region, the EHRCO assigned professionals to follow and investigate human rights violations and after one investigator had concluded his work on the night of November 15, 2023 (Hedar 5, 2016 EC) at around 7:00 pm he was attacked by three armed men near his residence. To elaborate further on the attack, at around 7:00 pm, the three armed men surrounded the investigator shooting their guns and when he was unable to defend himself they struck him on his head causing him to fall and lose consciousness at which time they confiscated his mobile phone, his EHRCO identification and other articles related to his investigation work. After the attack on the investigator when he was in a nearby medical institution receiving care, the perpetrators of the attack told him, “we know what kind of work you are doing” as they directed various insults and threats at him which indicates the attack was not a simple case of robbery but rather a coordinated attack intended to target the investigator after he had completed his work. In addition, as the Amhara Region is under a state of emergency, possession of firearms and gunfire are strictly prohibited in Bahir Dar city and throughout the region, yet the perpetrators of the attack were in possession of firearms for which they did not show any hesitation in using, and the attack on the perpetrator which was well thought out and involved careful preparation with full knowledge of his identity and nature of work, indicates beyond a reasonable doubt that the perpetrators were security personnel. Similar incidents and acts of persecution have been repeatedly perpetrated against the EHRCO and have increased in frequency especially recently, and these include extrajudicial arrests, beatings, break-ins at the office and property looting, searches, extrajudicial tailing, threats and harassment. This persecution has worsened over time which demonstrates the worsening state of human rights in the country, the civil environment and the concerning circumstances of human rights defenders.
In conclusion, there has been no sufficient means to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Amhara Region which has allowed for ongoing and widespread human rights violations by belligerents of the conflict. The EHRCO is undertaking investigations to gather and compile information and evidence and will make the detailed report available soon.
Related legal provisions:
The FDRE Constitution article 14 states “every person has the inviolable and inalienable right to life, the security of person and liberty.” Similarly, article 15 of the Constitution states “every person has the right to life. No person may be deprived of his life except as a punishment for a serious criminal offence determined by law.” Ethiopia as a signatory country to these international and continental human rights documents has an obligation to respect, uphold and fulfill these human rights.
The International Declaration of Human Rights Section 3 states “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Ethiopia has also signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees these rights in articles 6(1) and 9(1) and governments are obliged to ensure these rights are respected and enforced within their borders in articles 2(1) and 2(2). The African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights article 4 states, “human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.”
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) in article 1 defines gender-based attacks on women and in article 4, sub-section 2(e) calls on state parties to punish perpetrators of violence against women and implement programmes for the rehabilitation of women victims.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in article 17 the right to own property and possessions states everyone has the right to own property, and no one has the right to take this away. The African Commission for Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) in section 14 assures the right to ownership of property and that ownership shall only be relinquished for the needs of the people or for the general benefit of society and due laws. Section 1 of this charter states signatory states are obliged to comprehend and enforce the rights, actions and freedoms included in the charter through laws and other measures. The FDRE Constitution in article 40 ensures any Ethiopian the right to property.
In accordance with article 3 subsection 1 of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention) state parties are obliged to respect and ensure respect for the convention. In addition, in accordance with section 3 subsection 1(j) state parties shall ensure assistance to internally displaced persons by meeting their basic needs as well as allowing and facilitating rapid and unimpeded access by humanitarian organizations and personnel.
EHRCO calls for:
the Amhara Regional State Government to work to resolve the conflict (in the region) through peaceful means in a manner that is inclusive to all parties in the conflict
the belligerents in the conflict to refrain from targeting of people and property with no involvement in the conflict
due investigations into attacks perpetrated on persons with no involvement in the conflict by government security forces and other armed groups in the context of the conflict in the region
victims of gender based violence in the context of the conflict in the region to receive due medical and psychological support immediately
EHRCO professional investigators have received pressure to prevent them from carrying out their duties and responsibilities to the organization, and these pressures at the federal and regional levels have expanded over time, so the government should refrain from enforcing such pressure and hold those who enforce them accountable.