UN rights chief urges investigation into Ethiopia atrocities

AFP

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Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, attends a press conference at the Spanish Cultural Center, in Mexico City, on April 9, 2019.
AP/Marco Ugarte 2019 ©Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, attends a press conference at the Spanish Cultural Center, in Mexico City, on April 9, 2019.

'I am horrified by the senseless killing as well as the forced displacement of the local population'

The UN rights chief said Thursday she was "horrified" at accounts of attacks in western Ethiopia that left hundreds dead at the weekend, urging authorities to hold "prompt, impartial and thorough investigations."

"I am horrified by the senseless killing as well as the forced displacement of the local population in the attack on Tole village," Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. 

She said her staff had spoken with witnesses to the June 18 attack in the western Oromia region of Ethiopia, who said armed individuals descended on Tole and began shooting randomly, leaving hundreds dead.

Most of the dead were women and children, the statement said, adding that at least 2,000 other people had been forced to flee their homes.

"The armed individuals also reportedly burned down several houses during the four-hour assault," said the statement.

Survivors of the attack told AFP that hundreds of people belonging to the Amhara ethnic group were killed by rebels, with bodies still lying on the streets after hours of violence.

The Oromia regional authorities said the attack was carried out by the Oromo Liberation Army, which is branded as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government.

But a spokesman for the rebel group blamed the region's own pro-government militia for the killings and called for an independent investigation.

"I call on the Ethiopian authorities to ensure that investigations are promptly launched into the attack and to ensure that victims and their families have a right to truth, justice and reparations, including by holding those responsible to account," Bachelet said.

She also highlighted that an unspecified number of people were reported to have been abducted during the attack and their whereabouts remained unknown.

"I call on the authorities to take all necessary and lawful measures to ensure those abducted regain their freedom," Bachelet said.

Ethiopia has been plagued by war since November 2020 when a conflict between the government and Tigrayan forces from the country's norths erupted. 

The government also recently cracked down on militia groups in the Amhara region

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