UN experts call on Ethiopia to allow peaceful protests, welcome partial restoration of Internet

GENEVA, 21 July 2020 (OHCHR) – UN experts* today welcomed the restoration of broadband and Wi-Fi Internet in Ethiopia and called on the Government to respect the right of people to demonstrate peacefully.

“Access to the Internet is closely related to the right of peaceful assembly,” said Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association. “We have time and again asked the government to refrain from imposing Internet disruptions, including at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in July 2020, and I hereby renew our call on the Government to fully restore mobile Internet and data services.”

On 15 July some service was restored 15 days after the Government shut down the Internet amid civil unrest sparked by the 29 June killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer and human rights defender.

“The Internet blackout has made it extremely difficult to verify the number of people killed and injured in the crackdown on protests,” said the experts. “Nor has it been possible to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the violence.”

“It is essential that the authorities hold a thorough and transparent investigation to determine exactly what happened” in a week of unrest in Ethiopia’s Oromia region and in the capital, Addis Ababa, they said. “Those responsible for deaths of civilians must be held to account.”

Protests spread rapidly across the country following the killing of Hundessa. Official reports say 166 people were killed, although unofficial reports put the number much higher. According to police, some 2,000 people were arrested, including opposition leaders. “Even the basic facts are not clear but the scale of arrests is deeply disturbing,” experts said.

Security forces must be reformed and trained to manage assemblies in a democratic society. “This will strengthen Ethiopia’s democratic transition and should prevent the type of killings and injuries we have recently witnessed.

“We also call on Ethiopian authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly, and to refrain from using force during future protests.”

ENDS

* The experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi VouleUN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and associationMs. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executionsMr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expressionMs. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Ethiopia

For more information and media requests, please contact Bardia Jebeli at bjebeli@ohchr.org

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.organd John Newland (mediaconsultant2@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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