Ethiopia’s government-funded human rights commission says security forces killed dozens of civilians following clashes with rebels in the country’s Gambella region in June.
According to the state-appointed rights body’s report published Thursday, the killings happened after an hourslong gun battle June 14 between regional security forces and militants from the Oromo Liberation Army and rebel groups from the Gambella Liberation Front.
After the OLA and GLF militants withdrew from the city, Gambella regional security force members searched houses and targeted civilians whom they accused of harboring weapons and fighters, the rights commission said.
The 13-page report concluded “at least 50 civilians” were killed “individually and in mass extrajudicial executions” by regional security forces between June 14 and June 16.
The bodies were then buried “en masse” with relatives denied access to them, said the commission, which also found that security force members had looted homes.
At the time, a Gambella city resident told VOA that he could hear sporadic shooting from his home in the days following the rebel groups’ assault.
Abel Adane, the Gambella office head for the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, said the killings took place in several locations across the city.
"Some people were killed at their homes, and some others were killed when they were walking on the streets of the town. For instance, one of the findings of our report is that one special force and city police of the regional government killed at least 11 civilians, all just in one house," said Adane.
Abel added that several other people were taken to the local police commission where they were subsequently killed.
The report from the human rights commission was based on interviews with 58 people, including eyewitnesses and relatives of victims.
It also concluded that the OLA and the GLF rebel groups killed seven civilians while in the city, adding that six more people died after they were caught in crossfire.
A message to a government spokesperson requesting comment went unanswered.
Gambella’s regional police commission has said the rebels were responsible for the killings in the town.