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HRC31: Oral statement on the joint report by Special Rapporteurs Maina Kiai and Christof Heyns

Human Rights Council 31st Session

Interactive Dialogue on the Joint compilation report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

Mr President,

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project warmly welcomes the joint compilation report by Mr Kiai and Mr Heyns. We are grateful for the detailed analysis of the conditions and requirements for the right to freedom of peaceful assembly to be respected and protected, as well as the practical recommendations to states set out in your report.

Together with 8 other NGOs, we sent a letter to all members of the Council in February to highlight the glaring violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Ethiopia, particularly since the Oromo protests began in December 2015, and ask that states raise the issue during this session.

Ethiopian security forces have routinely used excessive and unnecessary lethal force to disperse and suppress peaceful protests in the Oromia region. It is reported that at least 150 demonstrators have been killed during the protests, and many more have suffered bullet wounds and beatings by the police and military.

The authorities have also arbitrarily arrested thousands of people throughout Oromia for participating in the protests and were held without charge or access to legal representation.

Numerous human rights activists, journalists and opposition political party leaders and supporters have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in Oromia.

On December 15, 2015, the government publically described the protesters as “an organised and armed terrorist force”, without specifying or proving the nature of the threat posed, as has been recommended in Mr Kiai’s and Mr Heyns’ report.

I urge the Council to raise the grave violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Ethiopia during this session, and demand that the government of Ethiopia immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, and protesters arbitrarily detained during the protests, and urgently establish an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from excessive use of force and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests.

I urge all states to immediately seek to implement the recommendations in the Special Rapporteurs’ report, and respect the vital role peaceful assemblies play in the fulfilment of human rights.

I thank you