Arrests and harassment of journalists, opposition figures and activists in Ethiopia has risen this year, the war-torn country’s rights watchdog said, underlining “concerning” levels of violence despite a peace agreement.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on the year to June noted “an increase in the arrest and harassment of media personnel, members of opposition political parties and civil society groups, raising concerns on the shrinking of civic space”.
The public body also decried a “nationwide blockade” in force since February 9 on social media platforms including YouTube, Telegram, Facebook, and TikTok, that has “restricted the right to freedom of expression and access to information”.
But the report praised the agreement that ended in November two years of a brutal war between federal forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) as “among the most notable positive developments” of the last 12 months.
The deal “brought relative peace in most parts of Tigray, as well as parts of Amhara and Afar regions”, the EHRC said.
The commission saw “significant and encouraging progress” in government moves to launch a process of “transitional justice” to handle crimes committed during the fighting.
But “conflict, insecurity, attacks by armed groups, and security measures by government forces continued to cause civilian deaths, bodily injury and displacement in all regions of Ethiopia”.
“Conflicts and attacks in Oromia region are extremely concerning and require urgent attention,” the commission said.
“The deterioration of the security situation in Amhara region is equally concerning,” since the government announced in April the dismantling of regional paramilitary forces.
It also noted a rise in curfews, checkpoints, and other forms of restriction of movement.
The report found “significant improvement in detention facilities and treatment of detainees”.
However, “the number of reported instances of inhuman and degrading treatment in police stations and prison facilities is still not negligible”, said the commission.
It reported “several instances of arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearances, mainly in Addis Ababa, Oromia and Amhara.
“In most cases, the victims are taken from their homes, their workplaces, or from other locations without a court order or arrest warrant and placed in undisclosed locations,” for days or even months.
“Although many were later released or transferred to a regular place of detention, several others remain forcibly disappeared.”
Source : New Arab