The United States Tuesday urged a speedy investigation into the killing of an opposition politician in Ethiopia, where disputed parliamentary elections have triggered widespread political violence.
More than 30 people have been killed in the post-election unrest including Tesfaye Adane Jara, an opposition politician elected to parliament but shot to death Sunday, allegedly by security forces, in a town south of the capital Addis Ababa.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States has expressed concern to Ethiopian authorities about the death, which has become a rallying point for opposition supporters who allege that May 15th parliamentary elections were rigged to favor the government:
"We've been informed that an investigation has begun into that incident and that we believe that that investigation should be done quickly, should be done in a transparent manner and those who are responsible for this act should be held accountable," Mr. McCormack said. "We also have talked about the fact that any violence or threat of violence is unacceptable. All sides need to step back from violence. The way to resolve questions and issues with respect to the election is to let the political process unfold.
The State Department late Monday issued a written statement condemning what it said had been the unnecessary use of excessive force in post-election clashes in Ethiopia, and extending deepest sympathies to the families of those killed.
In follow-up comments Tuesday, Mr. McCormack said the United States is urging restraint on the part of all elements of Ethiopian society, including police and federal security forces who he said should conduct themselves in accordance with international principles of human rights.
He also said arrested individuals should be granted due process according to Ethiopian law.
Ethiopian human rights groups say more than three thousand people have been rounded up by police in a crackdown that followed last week's violence centered in Addis Ababa.
The unrest erupted June 6 as students defied a government ban on demonstrations to protest alleged irregularities in the parliamentary election.
Final returns are not due until July 8 but provisional results released by the country's electoral commission showed the ruling coalition winning comfortably.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the situation in a call to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi late last week.
Spokesman McCormack said she underscored in private the public calls the United States is making for restraint.
He said the Bush administration is examining its policies toward Ethiopia but gave no indication that stronger action beyond its public statements is being considered.
Several hundred Ethiopian students and other U.S. residents demonstrated peacefully outside the State Department Tuesday, urging the Bush administration to do more to promote democracy and the rule of law in their homeland.
In its statement Monday, the State Department commended political truce efforts between the government and opposition in Ethiopia brokered by the European Union.
A new deal committing the sides to resolving election disputes peacefully was concluded Tuesday in Addis Ababa after an initial pact collapsed in the wake of last week's violence.