GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. human rights experts urged Ethiopia on Monday to allow an international investigation into its violent crackdown on
peaceful protests that monitors say have led to more than 500 deaths since November 2015.
“The scale of this violence and the shocking number of deaths make it clear that this is a calculated campaign to eliminate opposition movements and silence dissenting voices,” Maina Kiai, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association, said in a statement by seven U.N. experts.
“The deaths in the Oromiya region last weekend are only the latest in a long string of incidents where the authorities’ use of excessive force has led to mass deaths,” he said, referring to a stampede that killed 55 people.
The Horn of Africa state has accused “elements” in Eritrea, Egypt and elsewhere of being behind a wave of disturbances over land grabs and rights issues that spurred the government to declare a state of emergency. It says the death toll figure given by rights experts is exaggerated.
The emergency was invoked on Sunday after more than a year of protests in the Oromiya and Amhara regions, near the capital Addis Ababa, where demonstrators say the government has trampled on land and other political rights.
The U.N. statement cited allegations of “mass killings, thousands of injuries, tens of thousands of arrests and hundreds of enforced disappearances”. It also criticized the use of national security and counter-terrorism laws to target people exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
Agnes Callamard, the United Nations expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said many of the killings could constitute extrajudicial executions.
“Whenever the principles of necessity and proportionality are not respected in the context of crowd control, any death caused by law enforcement officials is considered an extrajudicial execution,” she said in the statement.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich