HRW details abuses by Ethiopia security forces at festival

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released a report [text] on Monday detailing the violence carried out by the Ethiopian security forces during the Irreecha festival, the annual harvest celebration observed by the country’s ethnic Oromo people.

According to the report, possibly hundreds of people died after being shot by security forces or drowning after attempting to flee from bullets and tear gas. The security forces were allegedly responding to anti-government chants. “One year on, government has failed to meaningfully investigate the security forces’ response, and there is no independent and credible determination of the death toll,” said HRW. The organization called on Ethiopia’s allies to persuade the nation to agree to an investigation.

HRW said that the use of firearms in response to anti-government chants violates the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials [official website], which say that law enforcement officials should only use firearms to defend themselves or others against the “imminent threat of death or serious injury.” HRW is concerned that the same tactics will be used at the Irreecha festival being celebrated next month.

After the October 2016 festival, the UN urged report Ethiopia to end violence against peaceful protesters. Ethiopia declared [JURIST report] a national state of emergency the week after the protest.

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