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State actors responsible for 70 pct of nearly 600 incidents

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has published a new report on the details of conflicts that took place in Ethiopia in 2023 and saw the killings of 1,106 people in the Amhara and Oromia regions alone.

The report published this week recounts there were at least 4,879 people placed under arrest across 16 detention centers or sites as part of the state of emergency declared in August 2023. OHCHR advocacy contributed to the release of 1,132 people arbitrarily detained by the end of December 2023, according to the report.

Despite significant improvements in the human rights situation in Tigray following the cessation of hostilities agreement in late 2022, the report cites that Ethiopia continued to face a “challenging” human rights situation in 2023, with Amhara and Oromia most affected by violent clashes and conflicts.

OHCHR reports the prevalence of arbitrary deprivations of the right to life, physical integrity, arbitrary arrests and detention, sexual violence, breaches of freedoms of association, expression, of movement, as well as abductions and enforced disappearances. The report notes that arbitrary arrests and detentions were the most common violations, followed by killings of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, and attacks on civilian property.

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Overall, 594 incidents of human rights violations and abuses impacting 8,253 victims (of whom at least 343 were women) were recorded in 2023, a 55.9 percent increase from 2022. State actors were allegedly responsible for 70 percent of the violations, while non-state actors accounted for 22.3 percent (133 incidents) of which 25 incidents were specifically attributed to the Eritrean Defence Forces.

The report reveals that 740 people in the Amhara region and 366 in Oromia were killed across 160 incidents in 2023. It also highlights the use of drones by the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) resulted in disproportionate levels of civilian casualties, with 18 registered drone strikes that caused 248 civilian deaths and injured 55 between 4 August and 31 December 2023.

Following the declaration of the state of emergency, high numbers of arbitrary arrests, predominantly of ethnic Amhara people in different parts of the country, were documented. Cases of sexual violence, including conflict related (CRSV), were also recorded but remained generally underreported, according to OHCHR.

In 2023, the agency conducted a total of 600 monitoring missions, including 202 to detention facilities. Further to its monitoring and verification methodology, it observed locations where violations and abuses had allegedly occurred, spoke to victims and witnesses, and engaged with authorities and civil society with focus on the Amhara, Oromia, and Tigray regions.

OHCHR also documented nine incidents that caused the forced or arbitrary displacement of close to 43,000 victims in 2023.

The report notes the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement personnel, including police brutality, and other ill-treatment during detention remained of concern, with instances of torture or ill-treatment reported within police detention centers. Out of the 346 victims of torture or inhuman treatment documented in 2023, the highest number of cases were registered in Addis Ababa and in the Somali region, with 160 and 126 victims respectively, perpetrated by state actors.

In 2023, 28 incidents of mainly civilian properties looted and destroyed were recorded, resulting in the destruction of 2,494 private houses, with looting of five private houses, nine vehicles, 1,357 livestock, one hospital, 15 buildings and shops, and 26 private properties in Afar, Amhara, Central Ethiopia, Oromia and Tigray regions. The main perpetrators include the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), Fano militia, the EDF, ENDF and the Tigray forces. The EDF, in particular, had looted livestock in areas in Tigray region falling within its control with at least eight incidents impacting 1,190 livestock recorded.

OHCHR reports the state of emergency declared in late 2023 suspended judicial review of detentions, leading to widespread arbitrary arrests not only in Amhara but also in other parts of the country. It estimates that drone attacks carried out by ENDF resulted in at least 248 civilian deaths in the Amhara region between August and December 2023. The drone strikes also destroyed vital facilities such as schools and hospitals, as well as private homes.

The report notes that both the government and OLA are implicated in at least 188 incidents of violations and abuses including killings, destruction of property, rape, and abductions in Oromia in 2023. OHCHR highlights that the failure of negotiations between OLA and the federal government in November 2023 was followed by a spike in killings, injuries, abductions, sexual violence, movement restrictions, and destruction of property as well as heavier militarization in Oromia.

The report reveals the killing of 29 people and scores of injuries as a result of intercommunal violence between the Somali and Oromo communities over the reporting period.

OHCHR says responsibility for human rights violations and abuses in the Tigray region was largely shared by the EDF and Amhara forces (Amhara Regional Police, state affiliated militia, and Selam Askebari), and, to a lesser extent, the Fano militia. Meanwhile, the Tigray Regional Police, which was still being reconstituted, was also alleged to have perpetrated some violations.

The report urged federal and regional governments to stop hostilities including using drone strikes, ensure peaceful resolution, ensure accountability and judicial oversight, and embark on inclusive transitional justice.

OHCHR also recommended that the government of Eritrea undertake an impartial investigation into reported violations by EDF in Ethiopia and hold alleged perpetrators to account. It called for the withdrawal of all Eritrean troops from Ethiopian territory and the cessation of incursions into Ethiopia.

The report urged the Fano militia to seek to engage in a meaningful political process towards resolution of the conflict.

#Conflict #Killed #Amhara #Oromia #Human #Rights #Agency

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