Hundreds of protestors shot dead in Ethiopia
Since November 2015, widespread protests have taken place in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Authorities have committed widespread violations of the rights of these protesters, who oppose the dispossession of land without adequate compensation under the government’s Integrated Development Master Plan. Security forces have violently dispersed demonstrations using lethal force including live ammunition. While the government cancelled the Master Plan in January 2016, protests continued in earnest in response to the brutality of the government’s actions. In March 2016, the Human Rights Council, a civil society group in Ethiopia, published a report documenting over 100 killings in the Oromia region since the beginning of the protest. According to a Human Rights Watch report published in June 2016, over 400 protestors have been killed, while tens of thousands arrested between November 2015 to May 2016 face arbitrary detention and torture. The authorities have also placed restrictions on media covering the protests and both domestic and international journalists have been detained in relation to their work on the protests.
On 8 June, the Ethiopian parliament passed the Computer Crime Proclamation, which includes clauses that could be used to target civil society using online platforms to disseminate their messages. Articles 13.3 and 14 state that anyone intentionally disseminating anything that is “defamatory to the honour or reputation of another person” or “that incites fear, violence, chaos or conflict among people” can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. On May 10, a court sentenced Selalem Workagenehu, co-author of the blog De Birhan, to five years and four months in prison. Nearly two weeks later on 23 May, authorities charged Getachew Shiferaw, editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Negere Ethiopia, with terrorism and moved him to Kilinto detention centre. In April and May 2016, the Ethiopian government began blocking social media and apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter. They also blocked diaspora television stations from transmitting in the country.