At a European Parliament subcommittee meeting on human rights and development, Human Rights Watch called on the European Union and international community to take strong action against Ethiopia.
The international community has largely looked the other way when it comes to human rights abuses and limits to the freedom of expression in Ethiopia, according to international human rights groups.
HRW senior researcher Felix Horne says he believes there is an unwillingness to address hard issues with Ethiopia because it has strong relationships with its international allies on development, migration and security.
“The European Union should be taking much stronger action on Ethiopia, should be pushing for an international investigation; it should be pushing for special U.N. investigators to be allowed into the country - 11 of which have outstanding invites," Horne said. " And it should be pushing Ethiopia to release all of those arbitrarily detained during the protests.”
Protests for wider political freedoms have been ongoing and led to the Ethiopian government's recent declaration of a six-month state of emergency for the first time in more than 20 years. Ethiopia is the largest recipient of EU assistance. The European Union adopted a resolution last January condemning violence used by Ethiopian security forces.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, is welcomed by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as she arrives at the national palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Oct. 11, 2016.
Merkel visit criticized
German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Ethiopia this week. Although she refused to speak at the Ethiopian parliament for its lack of opposition members, she urged the government to open up the political space.
EU Parliament member Ana Gomes led an observer mission during Ethiopia's contested and bloody 2005 elections. She describes Merkel's decision to go to Ethiopia as regrettable.
“It was important the message she passed that indeed there must be dialogue and open space for opposition and activists and critics of the government to exist," Gomes said. " That is a weak message nevertheless, because of course Germany has tremendous responsibilities in the position of the EU toward Ethiopia.”
People in Ethiopia's Oromia region started protesting an urban expansion plan last year.
The demonstrations have spread across the country and led to more than 500 deaths, according to rights groups. Ethiopia said this week foreign groups are stoking unrest in an attempt to overthrow the government.