Press briefing note on Ethiopia – Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 3 July 2020
(OHCHR) — We are deeply concerned at violent events in Ethiopia this week where a prominent singer and activist from Oromia Region, Hachalu Hundessa, was shot and killed in the capital, Addis Ababa on Monday.
The killing of Hundessa sparked protests across the country, including in the capital and in Oromia Region. While some of the protests were peaceful, a number were violent from the outset. According to information we have received, roads were reported to be blocked in most parts of Oromia Region and buildings vandalised and burnt, while there was gunfire and bomb explosions in Addis Ababa.
The authorities responded to the spread of the protests by shutting down the Internet in Oromia Region, as well as in Addis Ababa, making it extremely difficult to verify reports about the number of people killed and injured. According to the Government, around 50 people were killed, while media sources indicated some 80 people had died, including three members of the security forces.
We note with concern that the protests following Hundessa’s killing have increasingly taken on an ethnic undertone. We therefore call on all, including young people, to stop carrying out ethnically-motivated attacks and to stop inciting to violence, acts that only serve to exacerbate underlying tensions.
We also urge the security forces to exercise restraint when managing protests and to refrain from using unnecessary or disproportionate force.
Thirty-five people were reported to have been arrested by security forces on Tuesday evening during a protest over the location of Hundessa’s funeral. According to the police, the protesters, who wanted the singer to be buried in Addis Ababa, unsuccessfully tried to prevent his body being taken to his hometown of Ambo. His funeral went ahead in Ambo on Thursday.
The shutting down of Internet services is of particular concern as it disproportionately restricts the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and risks further exacerbating tensions. We urge the authorities to restore Internet access without further delay.
The authorities have announced that suspects in Hachalu Hundessa’s murder have been arrested. It is essential that there is a prompt, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into his death to ensure those responsible are held accountable. The victims and their families have the right to justice, the truth and reparations.
We also stand ready to provide support to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in its investigation of potential human rights violations during these violent events.