The suspicious murder of opposition leaders and wide-spread human rights violations against opposition party members over the past few weeks raises questions about Ethiopia’s elections, said Amnesty International as the parliamentary poll results were announced yesterday.
The organization has also expressed concerns about the failure of the Africa Union Elections Observer Mission (AUEOM) and the National Elections Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to properly monitor and report on allegations of widespread abuses before, during and after the election.
“Amnesty International has received a number of reports concerning the deaths of political opposition figures in suspicious circumstances, as well as of a pattern of human rights violations against political opposition parties throughout the election period. These reports must be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for Eastern, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes.
“It is unacceptable that these violations barely warranted a mention in reports released by official observers, including the Africa Union Elections Observer Mission and the National Elections Board of Ethiopia.”
In the run-up to the elections, more than 500 members of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (EFDUF)/ Medrek – a coalition of opposition parties, including the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) were arrested at polling stations in Oromia region. Forty-six people were beaten and injured by security officers while six people sustained gunshot injuries and two were shot and killed. Gidila Chemeda of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC/Medrek) was shot and killed by police in Western Shewa zone, Dima Kege Woreda, Gelam Gunge Kebele of the Oromia region.
On June 15, 2015, the body of 27-year-old Samuel Aweke, a candidate with the Samayawi (Blue) party was found in one of the main streets of Dembre-Markos at around 7 p.m. Blue party officials believe his murder was politically motivated. A few days before his murder, Aweke published an article in his political party’s newspaper Negere Ethiopia criticizing the behavior of local authorities, the police and other security officials. His political party claims he received threats from security officers after the article was published. Witnesses at the scene where his body was found said his body had visible stab wounds and appeared to have been beaten with a blunt object.
A member of the Arena/Medrek political opposition party reported that its leader for Western Tigrai zone, Tadesse Abraha, 48, was accosted while on his way home on June 16, 2015 by three unknown people who attempted to strangle him. Abraha managed to escape, but collapsed and died shortly after reaching his home. According to his political party, Abraha had reported being threatened by local security officials shortly before his death.
On June 19, 2015, another member of Medrek was found dead 24 hours after he was arrested at his home by two police officers. Berhanu Erabu’s battered body was found near a river in Hadiya Zone, Soro Woreda (district) of Southern Ethiopia.
Amnesty International has documented these killings and is now calling on the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice, Federal Police Commission and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to investigate these apparent targeted killings of opposition political party leaders and ensure those responsible are brought to justice
Amnesty International sent a letter with preliminary recommendations to the AUEOM on May 21, 2015.
Amnesty International expressed its concerns about the state of human rights in Ethiopia and the impact the human rights context was having on the ability of Ethiopians to participate in the electoral process. The organization urged the AUEOM to monitor and report on human rights violations throughout the election period in its assessment of the conduct of the elections.
The ruling political party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been declared the winner of the elections.