[JURIST] Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 citizens since November, and arrested tens of thousands more, in hopes of squashing protest in the Oromia region, according to a report [HRW report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] Friday. The report calls the killings “the latest in a series of abuses against those who express real or perceived dissent in Oromia. It also discusses the Ethiopian government’s attempts to restrict media freedom and access to information in Oromia. Most notably the government has restricted access to social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and also any “diaspora-run television stations,” as these have been the most used means for dissemination of information. HRW called for the government to drop charges and release all those individuals detained as a result of their protesting, as well as a “credible, independent and transparent investigation into the use of excessive force by its security forces.” The report also recommends the government address the violence used against protesters, eliminate restrictions to expression, remedy abuses to development programs, which have been used to displace certain families, and respectfully handle the detention of individuals. It also urges members of the international community to help coerce the Ethiopian government to take these concerns seriously and make changes.
In January several Ethiopian rights groups called on the international community to address the killing [JURIST report] of protesters. In December HRW reported that activists had witnessed security forces firing into throngs of protesters [HRW report]. That report came a day after Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn [BBC profile] warned [IBT report] of “merciless legitimate action against any force bent on destabilising the area.” Ethiopian officials have been claiming that the demonstrations are a front for those involved in the protests to insight violence and threaten the stability of the nation. Ethiopia has used its broad anti-terrorism laws to detain political opposition before. In October five Ethiopian bloggers were acquitted of terrorism charges [Zone9, in Amharic] relating to publications on their website. The publications, critical of the government, landed nine bloggers in jail [JURIST report], and one charged in absentia, in April 2014 for violation of the laws. That same month UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson [official profile] expressed concern [press release] over the rising use of counter-terrorism measures [JURIST report] around the world. Many nations have used counter-terrorism as an excuse to restrict public assembly and stop the activities of public interest groups, Emmerson said.