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Ethiopia: Human rights groups condemn labelling of protesters as 'terrorists'

Ethiopia: Human rights groups condemn labelling of protesters as 'terrorists'

Ethiopia

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned Ethiopian authorities for labelling Oromia protesters as ‘terrorists’.

Dozens were killed in last week’s protest, largely dominated by students expressing disapproval of suspected government action to seize a forest land for an expansion project in Oromia, the country’s largest region made up of Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group.

The deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Leslie Lefkow, said the Ethiopian government’s response has led to scores dead and a “rising risk of greater bloodshed”, adding that the deployment of military forces “is a very dangerous escalation of this volatile situation.”

Leslie Lefkow appealed to concerned governments and institutions to “call on Ethiopia to halt its excessive use of force and stop the violence.”

For Amnesty International, the suggestion that the protesters are aligned to terrorists “will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression for rights activists.

According to Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, “instead of the authorities condemning the killing by security forces, their statement in effect authorizes excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”

He warned the government to “desist from using draconian anti-terrorism measures to quell protests and instead protect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

Ethiopian authorities say five people were killed in the clash while Amnesty International estimate about 40 deaths. Human Rights Watch however estimate 75 deaths in total. The number was higher in last year’s protest over the same land issue.

Funerals have taken place across the Oromia region after weeks of clashes.

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