Government-backed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission’s report comes after independent rights groups are denied access to conduct probe into violence.
(Al Jazeera)―Almost 700 people have been killed during violence in Ethiopia since August 2016, a government-sponsored commission has said, bringing the total death toll since the unrest began in late 2015 to more than 900.
Ethiopia declared six months of emergency rule in October after almost a year of anti-government violent protests in its Oromia, Amhara and SNNP regions. In March, the measure was extended by four months amid reports of continuing violence in some remote areas.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission – mandated by parliament to investigate the violence – presented its long-awaited findings on Tuesday.
The commission blamed a lot of the violence on opposition groups, saying that security forces in some places had no choice but to respond with lethal force.
“The violence happened because the protesters were using guns and so security forces had no other option,” Addisu Gebregziabher, the commission’s head, told members of parliament.
The report, the second by the commission, said police used “proportionate force” in most areas during the unrest, but could have provided better security during the rallies.
It said that since August the unrest claimed 495 lives – 462 civilians, 33 security personnel – in Oromia; 140 – 110 civilians and 30 security personnel – in Amhara; and 34 in the SNNP regional states.
Last year, the commission’s first investigation said that 173 people in Oromia and 95 people in Amhara had been killed between November 2015 and August 2016.
“The commission here is blaming a lot of the violence on what it describes as the opposition both in Ethiopia and abroad using social media to stoke the unrest,” Al Jazeera‘s Charles Stratford, reporting from inside Ethiopia’s parliament in the capital, Addis Ababa, said.
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