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UN calls on Ethiopia to allow peaceful protest and fully restore internet connections

The UN today called on the government of Ethiopia to respect the right of people to demonstrate peacefully, after the government temporary shut off internet in the country to control protests. The internet is still partially down in the country. 

“Access to the Internet is closely related to the right of peaceful assembly,” said Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association. “We have time and again asked the government to refrain from imposing Internet disruptions, including at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in July 2020, and I hereby renew our call on the Government to fully restore mobile Internet and data services.”

On 15 July some service was restored 15 days after the Government shut down the Internet amid civil unrest sparked by the 29 June killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer and human rights defender.

“The Internet blackout has made it extremely difficult to verify the number of people killed and injured in the crackdown on protests,” said the experts. “Nor has it been possible to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the violence.”

“It is essential that the authorities hold a thorough and transparent investigation to determine exactly what happened” in a week of unrest in Ethiopia's Oromia region and in the capital, Addis Ababa, they said. “Those responsible for deaths of civilians must be held to account.”

Protests spread rapidly across the country following the killing of Hundessa. Official reports say 166 people were killed, although unofficial reports put the number much higher. According to police, some 2,000 people were arrested, including opposition leaders. “Even the basic facts are not clear but the scale of arrests is deeply disturbing,” experts said.

Security forces must be reformed and trained to manage assemblies in a democratic society. “This will strengthen Ethiopia's democratic transition and should prevent the type of killings and injuries we have recently witnessed.

“We also call on Ethiopian authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly, and to refrain from using force during future protests.”

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