In Ethiopia, the Amhara people, who are primarily an Orthodox Christian community, have been subjected to violent and systematic persecution for decades. Now, their situation just worsened, and the government has declared a state of emergency. The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), thanks to its consultative status at the U.N., has therefore submitted a written statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) to highlight the alarming human rights violations committed against these people.
The Amhara people have been subjected to persecution and systematic massacres since as early as 1991. Various groups, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the Oromo Liberation Army, and the currently leading Prosperity Party, have been accused of these crimes. The prevailing anti-Amhara sentiment is closely tied to an aversion to the Orthodox faith, as most of the Amhara people are Orthodox Christians.
The human rights violations range from forced displacement and mass arrests to systematic massacres and ethnic cleansings. For instance, on June 18, 2022, the Amhara community in Wollega within the Oromia region of Ethiopia was brutally slaughtered in what is now called the Gimbi massacre. The victim count is between 400–500 people. The modus operandi involved extreme cruelty, including the burning alive of individuals and the mutilation of pregnant women.
Our written statement to the U.N. contains more explicit details about the violence perpetrated and shows the religious motivation of the persecution, coupled with obvious racism. Government forces abstained from intervening, citing logistical constraints, thereby raising questions about their complicity or negligence.
Sadly, the Gimbi massacre is not an isolated event; rather, it is part of a continuum of targeted killings against the Amhara people that have been occurring over the last few years. Other notable massacres that have targeted this community include the Burayu massacre in 2018, the Shashamane massacre in 2020, and multiple similar incidents spanning 2020–2022.
The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on August 4, 2023, due to the deteriorating situation in the Amhara region. However, as we detailed in our statement, the government is not helping the Amhara people:
In May 2023 alone, the government reportedly detained over 4,500 ethnic Amhara individuals. This number surged following the declaration of the state of emergency on August 4, 2023, with claims suggesting that around 14,000 Amhara individuals have since been apprehended. Many of these detainees find themselves in makeshift detention centers, with schools being repurposed for this cause. Mothers were seen sitting on the porch of the Dejazmach Wondirad secondary school in Addis Ababa, where many members of the Amhara ethnic group were detained. Anxiously hoping for the possible release of her son, one witness said: “It’s been eleven days since they took him. . . . He hasn’t done anything wrong.”
There are also reports indicating the use of drones against civilians and of extrajudicial and summary executions. On Sunday, August 13, 2023, a drone attack took place in the central town of Finote Selam in the Amhara region, killing at least 26 civilians and injuring 55 others.
The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, which was set up by the HRC, will present its report during this 54th HRC session of September in Geneva, Switzerland. The ECLJ’s written statement gave evidence to the Commission that grave human rights violations and offenses are taking place there. The Commission should conduct a thorough investigation into these abominable actions in order to establish the responsibility of the Ethiopian government and other armed actors for what happened to the Amhara community.
This statement serves as a clarion call for international action. The human rights situation in Ethiopia requires immediate and heightened international attention. Failure to act could result in further atrocities and a deepening of the crisis, with potentially far-reaching implications for regional stability and international human rights norms. The ECLJ will participate in the meeting with the Human Rights Council and the International Commission on Ethiopia to advocate for the rights of the Orthodox Amhara people.