A group of civil society organizations are calling for an independent and impartial international investigation into human rights violations in Ethiopia.

DefendDefenders (East and Horn of African Human Rights Defenders Project), the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Amnesty International, the Ethiopia Human Rights Project (EHRP), Front Line Defenders, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), are concerned about the levels of persecution and detention of civil society members in the country. Since last month, four members of one of Ethiopia’s most prominent human rights organizations, the Human Rights Council (HRCO), were arrested and detained in the Amhara and Oromia regions. HRCO believes these arrests are related to the members’ monitoring and documentation of the crackdown of on-going protests in these regions.

“The lack of independent and transparent investigation of human rights violations in Ethiopia strongly implies that the Ethiopian government’s investigation of the ongoing human rights crisis will not be independent, impartial and transparent”

-Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“New levels of violence are being reported in the crackdown on the largely peaceful protests that have taken place across Oromia and Amhara regions in recent weeks,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director of DefendDefenders. “Instead of investigating and holding accountable those responsible for rights violations, the government is jailing the few independent human rights defenders left working in the country.”

“Despite the systematic repression of peaceful protestors, political dissents, journalists and human rights defenders, the absence of efficient and effective grievance redress mechanisms risks plunging the country into further turmoil,” said Yared Hailemariam, Executive Director of AHRE.”

In response to the on-going crackdown, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called for “access for independent observers to the country to assess the human rights situation”.  Ethiopia’s government, however, has rejected the call and promised to launch its own investigation.

Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has the mandate to investigate rights violations in Ethiopia, has failed to make public its own June report on the Oromo protests, while concluding in its oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. Since November 2015, at least 500 demonstrators have been killed and thousands of others arrested in largely peaceful protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions and other locations across the country.

DefendDefenders, AHRE, Amnesty International, EHRP, Front Line Defenders, and FIDH urge the Ethiopian authorities to (i) immediately and unconditionally release civil society members targeted for their work and (ii) facilitate access for international human rights monitoring bodies including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to conduct thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into the ongoing human rights violations in the Oromia, Amhara and Addis Ababa areas.