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The recent killing of Bate Urgessa, a member of the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), has sparked renewed international concern over human rights violations and extrajudicial killings in Ethiopia.

Not many regions in Ethiopia have been spared from violent conflicts and extrajudicial killings in recent years. These killings, often linked to the formal government forces or non-state entities, have been cause for increased tensions and fear among the public.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Washington, and the OLF are among those calling for impartial investigations into Bate’s killing, urging “accountability” for the perpetrators.

However, with many questions unanswered and little in the way of efforts to break the cycle of impunity, on April 12, 2024, Amnesty International raised further concerns by calling for an “independent investigation” into an alleged massacre of civilians in Merawi, Amhara region.

The Amnesty International report reveals distressing accounts of civilian fatalities allegedly caused by the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) in Merawi town, “potentially constituting war crimes and extrajudicial killings” after clashes between ENDF and Fano on January 29, 2024.

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Amnesty conducted interviews with 13 witnesses, including four relatives of victims and five people who retrieved bodies from the streets, as well as community leaders and a healthcare professional.

It also analyzed video footage and satellite imagery to verify the reported deaths.

Although exact numbers could not be independently verified, eyewitnesses and family members of victims described victims with bullet wounds to their heads. According to the report, residents reported that ENDF soldiers rounded up local men and shot and killed scores of them.

The report stated that there also is a viral video on social media that showed bodies lying on the town’s main road.

Amnesty International has called on African and global human rights bodies to urgently investigate the killings of civilians in Merawi.

The organization has raised the alarm over the alarming frequency of mass killings in Ethiopia, citing previous reports of 48 ‘large-scale killings’ in the Tigray region since 2020.

“Mass killings are becoming shockingly common in Ethiopia,” reads a quote from Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa.

The lack of credible efforts by the Ethiopian government to ensure justice for the victims’ families and prevent such atrocities has raised serious concerns, according to the report.

It states the government has yet to take “concrete action to address the cycle of impunity” despite demands for justice and an end to ongoing violations.

The government’s claims of accountability for crimes committed during the war in northern Ethiopia have been criticized for lacking genuine commitment to justice, stated the report.

“The Ethiopian government’s assertion that accountability has been attained for the offenses in the northern Ethiopian conflict reflects a deficiency in genuine dedication to justice and accountability,” said Tigere.

In addition, the absence of international oversight has further emboldened the government, according to the Amnesty report. The establishment of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) by the UN Human Rights Council had played a crucial role in oversight, early warning, and prevention. However, the HRC’s scrutiny of Ethiopia ended in October 2023 when no member state proposed to extend ICHREE’s mandate.

Nevertheless, in recent years, extrajudicial killings have intensified notably within Ethiopia’s regional states, with government officials ranging from the Commander-in-Chief of the army to regional and party leaders falling victim to clandestine groups whose identities remain concealed.

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