A human rights group says Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 people since November in a crackdown on protests in the country’s Oromia region.
In a newly-released report, Human Rights Watch said soldiers have repeatedly fired live ammunition at Oromia protesters with little or no warning, or attempts to use non-lethal crowd-control measures. It says many of those killed have been students, including children under the age of 18 years.
The rights group also said police have arrested tens of thousands of people since the protests began, and that many remain in detention without charge and without access to lawyers or family members.
The protests were triggered by concerns about the government’s proposed expansion of Addis Ababa’s boundaries. Demonstrators feared the plan would displace Oromia farmers.
The government canceled the plan in January but protests continued for several more months due to what one Oromia resident called the “brutal crackdown.”
There was no immediate response to the report from the Ethiopian government.
Human Rights Watch noted that some of the protests have turned violent, resulting in looting or destruction of government-owned property. However, the group said its investigation found that most protests were peaceful.
Human Rights Watch said its report is based on interviews with 125 protesters, bystanders and victims of abuse.
It is calling on the Ethiopian government to free detained protesters, support a credible investigation into the killings and hold security force members accountable for the alleged abuses.