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Amnesty Calls For Impartial Inquiry Of Political Violence In Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Government has rejected a call by a human rights group to set up an impartial investigation to look into this week’s fatal shootings and wounding of demonstrators. Amnesty International has called on the government to stop what it calls police violence and set up an independent and impartial commission of inquiry. It also says students who have been detained are at risk or torture.

Martin Hill is a researcher for Amnesty International. From London, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the current situation in Ethiopia. He says, “Amnesty International is very concerned about the human rights situation in Ethiopia at the present time and particularly the mass arrests and shootings of demonstrators. Very large numbers are still detained and in our view at risk or torture or prolonged arbitrary detention. But over 26 people have been killed by the police and security forces in what seems to be an excessive use of force.”

News reports say the Ethiopian government has rejected Amnesty’s call for an investigation. Mr. Hill says, “We still maintain that there is a need for an urgent, impartial and independent investigation into the killings of demonstrators, some of whom were peaceful, although there was stone throwing. This kind of inquiry would be the way to find out the truth and to actually make sure that the security forces are accountable for their actions.”

Ethiopia’s information minister has said opposition parties should be held responsible for the violence and that criminal charges may be filed against their leaders. He is also quoted as accusing the opposition of trying to undermine the electoral system and overthrow the government.

To that, the Amnesty researcher says, “We’re not aware that the opposition has been responsible for killings of people or police officers. The police say there have been causalities among the police and we don’t have those details yet. But the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, which had won all the (parliamentary) seats in Addis Ababa, is a legal and open and peaceful political party. And its leaders have strongly denied any accusation of instigating violence or advocating violence at all, or in fact of orchestrating these demonstrations.”