Ethiopian could be bound for risks that trigger a human rights catastrophe should that North African country fail or refuse to repeal or revise all elements of the six months state of emergency directive that are contrary to international law.
On October 9 2015 the Ethiopian government announced a six-month state of emergency following the destruction of some government buildings and private property by demonstrators but over the past year security forces have killed hundreds of protesters and detained tens of thousands in two regions where there have been numerous protests on criticism and free speech.
Human Rights Watch senior Africa researcher Felix Horne noted that the army has been rendered powers to shot and kill to crack down on demonstrators, and therefore limiting the space for peaceful dissent.
HRW called the elements stated under the emergency draconian restrictions that go far beyond international law to signal an increased militarized response to the situation and that directive effectively codifies many of the security forces’ abusive tactics.
In Ethiopia until the end of the six months emergency no one is allowed to freely and publically share information on social media, watch diaspora television stations, and all must close businesses to curtail opposition parties’ ability to communicate with media. No one writes or shares material via any platform that “could create misunderstanding between people or unrest.” Any person found in the command post is arrested without court order. Mobile phone access and the internet are blocked since October 5.
Exigencies of the situation can prompt immediate action including disassembling, arrests and closure.
Since the state of emergency was announced, 1,600 people have been arrested, and include about 50 business closures.
Human Rights Watch said it received unconfirmed reports of unlawful killings, mass arrests, and looting of houses and businesses by the security forces. There have also been some armed clashes between security forces and unidentified groups.
Large-scale peaceful anti-government protests have been sweeping through Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region, since November 2015, and Amhara region since July 2016 when security forces killed more than 500 people during protests over the last year.
On October 2, in Bishoftu, a town 40 kilometers southeast of, Addis Ababa, tensions ignited at the annual Irreecha festival, an important Oromo cultural event drawing millions of people each year, Security forces confronted them with tear gas, fired shots leaving scores of people succumbing to the stampede.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called for an independent and credible investigation into the security force response to the protests and to the deaths in Bishoftu.