Amnesty International says Ethiopian security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters across Oromia region and in parts of Amhara over the weekend, according to credible sources who spoke to Amnesty International.
The rights group says the most deadly incident happened in Bahir Dar, where at least 30 people died on Sunday. Thousands of protesters turned out in Oromia and Amhara calling for political reform, justice and the rule of law. During this gathering, the worst bloodshed – which may amount to extrajudicial killings – took place over 30 people were killed in one day.
Amnesty says that 67 people died when “security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters” in different towns and cities in the Oromo region over the weekend. People in the Oromo and Amhara regions have been complaining about political and economic marginalisation. New York-based Human Rights Watch says that more than 400 people have been killed in clashes with the security forces since protests began. The government has disputed this figure
The government has blamed “nearby and distant foreign enemies and social media activists” for defying warnings about holding unauthorised protests, the government-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) reports.
The authorities have said that the demonstrators were destroying government and private property and “inflicting deaths on innocent citizens” and arrests were made as people were trying to spread the violence, FBC adds.
“The security forces’ response was heavy-handed, but unsurprising. Ethiopian forces have systematically used excessive force in their mistaken attempts to silence dissenting voices,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“These crimes must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated and all those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts without recourse to death penalty.”
Information obtained by Amnesty International shows that police fired live bullets at protesters in Bahir Dar on 7 August, killing at least 30. Live fire was also used in Gondar on 6 August, claiming at least seven lives.
The unrest was sparked last November by a plan to expand the capital into Oromia. This led to fears farmers from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in Ethiopia, would be displaced.
The plan was later dropped but protests continued, highlighting issues such as marginalisation and human rights.