August 2023 | Human rights situation in Amhara deteriorates as heavy fighting breaks out
The human rights situation in Ethiopia’s Amhara region deteriorated in August, as heavy fighting broke out between the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) and Amhara militias known as Fano. The fighting follows months of tension and sporadic clashes over the federal government’s plans to disband the country’s regional forces. It began in early August when Fano fighters moved into towns and cities across the region, where they attacked police stations and regional administrators. The federal government responded by moving in the ENDF, which reportedly struck urban areas with heavy weaponry. The fighting caused large-scale civilian casualties, disrupted access to basic services and confined residents to their homes. Reports also indicate that the government shut down the internet and used broad powers acquired under a state of emergency declared on 4 August to carry out mass arrests, with journalists and an opposition MP amongst those detained. The UN called for an end to the arrests and the release of those arbitrarily detained.
July 2023 | UN experts condemn Ethiopia’s mass deportation of ‘hundreds’ of Eritreans
On 13 July several UN Special Procedures (independent experts) issued a statement condemning and calling for an end to what it described as ‘Ethiopia’s summary expulsion of hundreds of Eritreans at the end of June ’. On 24 June, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had said it was monitoring the forcible return of an estimated 200 Eritreans and, according to local media, several earlier reports indicated that in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian authorities were rounding up and forcibly returning ‘tens of Eritreans.’ Collective expulsions are prohibited under international law, which requires that an individual and objective risk assessment is made of the deportee’s exposure to human rights violations upon their return. The UN experts have previously documented patterns of such violations perpetrated against Eritreans forcibly returned to the country, including torture and arbitrary detention. The fate and whereabouts of the June deportees was not known to the experts.
June 2023 | Enforced disappearances on the rise in Ethiopia, says rights commission
In a press release issued on 5 June, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called for the government to end enforced disappearances, which the Commission has observed to have increased in the aftermath of the war in the Tigray region and in connection with conflicts elsewhere, including those in the regions of Amhara and Oromia. The EHRC said it was monitoring cases across the country, but that the situation was particularly acute in the capital, Addis Ababa and in Oromia and Amhara. Victims have included members of the Ethiopian National Defence Force and opposition political parties, some of whom allege that they were tortured.
April 2023 | Head of ruling party in Ethiopia’s Amhara region shot dead
On 27 April, the head of the ruling Prosperity Party in the Amhara region, Gairma Yeshitila, was shot dead alongside four others in what the federal security agencies claim to have been an attempt by Amhara nationalists to overthrow the regional government. The security agencies responded to the shootings by arresting 47 people they allege to have been involved in the attempted overthrow. Among those arrested were several public figures, media personalities and scholars reported to have Amhara nationalist loyalties. These developments took place against a backdrop of rising tensions between Amhara nationalists and the federal government, as the latter pushed through security sector reforms disbanding Ethiopia’s regional forces (a move strongly opposed by the nationalists). Earlier in April, the reforms had triggered violent clashes between the federal forces and militant Amhara nationalists, which claimed the lives of two aid workers.